People v. Jackson, 2017 IL App (1st) 142879 (June). Episode 362 (Duration 13:26)
DOJ’s report on CPD use of force cited in an appeal for the first time in a case featuring a mentally ill defendant.
Wacked Out Defendant
After James Jackson calls 911 for an ambulance, the paramedics arrive to find him “agitated,” “nervous,” “irrational,” and “very uncooperative,” suffering from some type of psychological issue and with an “altered” mental state.
He doesn’t believe they are the paramedics.
Jackson began to yell profanities, so paramedics requested police assistance.
They thought Jackson might be suffering from some type of psychological issue: “he was not rational. We couldn’t get through to him. *** He was nervous. There was something going on.”
They thought, perhaps, his “mental status was altered;” Jackson did not follow simple directions and did not seem to be thinking clearly. They also noted that Jackson smelled of marijuana.
Then Police Get There
Jackson tried to go back inside the building but did not have his key for the second door, so he and the paramedics waited in the vestibule area for the police to arrive. During that time, Jackson kept yelling “don’t touch me” and appeared agitated. When the police get there all shit breaks loose.
The first responding officer reached for Jackson’s shoulder; Jackson pulled away and fell backwards, sliding down the vestibule wall to the floor. Jackson then began to punch and kick in a defensive manner rather than violent.
Jackson screams and flails.
They try to cuff him while defendant is trying to bit them. Then the stun gun came out. One officer uses his taser on Jackson, striking him 10 times. Normally, using the taser would make a subject less combative.
On Jackson, the taser had “no effect whatsoever.”
Another officer arrives and tries to grab and help handcuff Jackson and gets kicked in the shins. Jackson resists being placed in handcuffs. Handcuffs get on one of Jackson’s wrists, but Jackson pulled away, and began punching the glass window in the vestibule. Jackson gets tased again, which had no effect. After struggling for several minutes to subdue Jackson, the two officers succeeded in placing handcuffs on him.
Jackson was placed on a stretcher, put in the ambulance, and transported to the hospital.
Jackson is charged and convicted of battery and resisting arrest.
This, in sum, is what happened to James Jackson, and what happens all too often to individuals who may be experiencing a mental health or other crisis.
When they (or their families) call for help, they are met with some use of force by officers. See United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and United States Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Illinois, Investigation of the Chicago Police Department (Jan. 13, 2017), at 37 (listing incidents where Chicago police officers “used force against people in crisis who needed help”).
The DOJ report reveals that, as here, law enforcement officers, often “first responders” to mental health emergencies, are not necessarily trained or prepared to deal with the complex situations in which they may find themselves.
Not An Uncommon Occurrence
The lesson in these cases can be stark:
Call 911 and someone could end up charged with a crime, or worse.
Battery against a police officer is a serious charge, but being kicked in the legs by a mentally unstable person (causing no serious injury) is not the type of touching that requires either specific or general deterrence.
Sometimes, the initial decision to arrest or charge a defendant becomes a boulder rolling downhill, and no one feels strong enough to say, “stop,” regardless of the resources wasted.
The officers should have received training in how to de-escalate such a situation.
The officers didn’t tase Jackson out of malice, but because they did not know what else to do.
The restraint used on Jackson did not assist the paramedics in assessing Jackson’s health—how could they do so, after he had been zapped with 50,000 volts? All they could do was bundle Jackson into an ambulance. The lack of training turned a call for help into a contentious encounter with police.
Prosecutors too should receive training to enable them to distinguish between those responsible for their actions and those, like Jackson, whose vulnerable or abnormal mental state causes them to act in uncooperative or confused ways.
We will say it outright—this prosecution was a waste of time and money, all so that Jackson could be sentenced to 18 months of conditional discharge.
Sufficiency Of The Evidence
With Mentally Altered Defendants
Jackson challenges the sufficiency of the evidence and other things.
He contends he was having a medical emergency and lacked the mental state for either knowingly committing battery or knowingly resisting a peace officer.
Battery occurs when, without legal justification, a person knowingly “makes physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature with an individual.” 720 ILCS 5/12-3(a)(2).
A person resists a peace officer when he or she knowingly resists the performance by one known to the person as a peace officer. 720 ILCS 5/31-1(a).
A person acts knowingly when he or she is “consciously aware that that result is practically certain to be caused by his conduct.” 720 ILCS 5/4-5(b).
Intent, such as knowingness, may be proven by circumstantial evidence, and inferred from the defendant’s action and the conduct surrounding it.
Here, the evidence was insufficient to support a finding that Jackson had the requisite criminal mental state, as recognized by Illinois law, to commit these crimes.
Rather, there was an abundance of evidence—almost all of it from State witnesses—that Jackson was not “knowingly” acting during the incident. Both paramedics observed, on their arrival, that Jackson was “nervous” and “agitated.” Jackson’s verbal coherence does not indicate a “knowing” state of mind indicating that he understood what was happening to him.
Whatever the cause of Jackson’s behavior—epilepsy, drug intoxication, some undiagnosed mental illness, or being tasered 10 times—carries no consequence in as much as the State presented little-to-no evidence that Jackson behaved “knowingly.”
- When Jackson was thrashing in the vestibule in a “defending myself” manner, was he “consciously aware” that his thrashing would result in kicking an Officer?
- If Jackson did not recognize paramedics, where was the evidence that he “knew” that the other men were police officers, as the statute requires?
The court said it did not know why Jackson was behaving this way, but we don’t need to know.
Jackson’s mens rea of “knowing” was an element that the State needed to prove, and it failed to do so.
Jackson’s intent can be inferred from his conduct surrounding the battery and resistance, as well as the actions themselves. When a defendant behaves “normally,” it is simple to make this inference—we assume that a rational person who kicks a police officer, or resists arrest, knows what he or she is doing. But here, all the State witnesses testified that Jackson was not behaving “normally,” and so we cannot infer from his actions (as the dissent does) that Jackson was “consciously aware” of what he was doing and the results of his actions.
Rather, from the State’s witnesses’ testimony about his actions and conduct, we can infer that Jackson’s intent was not “knowing,” in the sense that he was not “consciously aware” of the results of his actions.
The court held that the State’s evidence establishing Jackson’s mens rea or mental state, here his knowledge, was so conflicting, so unsatisfactory, as to create reasonable doubt of Jackson’s guilt.
Accordingly, the evidence was insufficient to support Jackson’s convictions.
Convictions reversed outright.
See the strong dissent that asks what the hell does the majority think the police can do.