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Criminal Nuggets


Feb 22, 2017

People v. Viramontes, 2017 IL App (1st) 142085 (January).
People v.  Jones, 2017 IL App (1st) 143403  (January) Episode 299 (Duration 5:53)

Defendant has a right to in camera inspection of mental health records, but he has to ask for it.

Viramontes - Facts

Defendant and his codefendant robbed two ladies.

He swung his bat at the first victim, striking her in the head.

He then struck the other victim, also hitting her in the head.

He then struck the first victim a second time in the neck before making off with their valuables.

Both victims spent weeks in the hospital and suffered permanent injuries. One of the victim’s injuries were so extensive she will require 24-hour care for the rest of her life. He was convicted of 2 counts of attempt murder and armed robbery.

They were caught because they used the victim’s phones and credit cards.

Mental Health Record

Defendant challenges the trial court’s decision to limit the disclosure of his codefendant’s mental health records.

It had become known to the defense that she was taking psychotropic drugs and had recently been evaluated by Forensic Clinical Services.

Prior to trial, the trial court conducted an in camera review of all of Cruz’s mental health records.

The court determined several more recent records were discoverable. The court refused to tender the older mental health records.

On appeal, defendant contends he was entitled to all of Cruz’s mental health records in order to adequately test her credibility.

Rule 415(f)

It is well established under Illinois law “evidence of a witness’ mental condition is admissible to the extent it bears upon the credibility of the witness’ testimony.”

Illinois supreme court rule 415(f) provides a procedure for allowing documents reviewed in camera to be a part of the appellate record. Ill. S. Ct. R. 415(f).

Rule 415(f) provides:

“(f) In Camera Proceedings. Upon request of any person, the court may permit any showing of cause for denial or regulation of disclosures, or portion of such showing, to be made in camera. A record shall be made of such proceedings. If the court enters an order granting relief following a showing in camera, the entire record of such showing shall be sealed, impounded, and preserved in the records of the court, to be made available to the reviewing court in the event of an appeal.”

What It Means

A defendant need only file a motion pursuant to Rule 415(f) before the trial court in order to ensure the documents which were reviewed in camera are available to the appellate court.

A defendant has the responsibility to ensure compliance with Rule 415(f).

A review of the record that is before this court shows no abuse of discretion.

After receiving all of the mental health records, the trial court conducted an in camera review in the presence of a court reporter. The trial court proceeded to identify each record it was viewing, detailing the nature of the record and the reason it was or was not being tendered to the defendant.

The court found many of the older records contained irrelevant information.

Further, the court concluded relevant material in the older records was contained in the disclosed material.

The trial court’s statements on the record indicate the vast majority of the records concerned depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder, none of which would be relevant to testing Cruz’s credibility.

Not Ordering An Exam

See 725 ILCS 5/115-7.1 - Court may not order mental examination of sex victim.

"Except where explicitly authorized by this Code or by the Rules of the Supreme Court of Illinois, no court may require or order a witness who is the victim of an alleged sex offense to submit to or undergo either a psychiatric or psychological examination."

Jones - Facts

Defendant was convicted of aggravated domestic battery for stabbing his girlfriend in the chest.

He claims his constitutional right to confront her were violated when the trial court denied his request to admit her mental health records.

As a result, he was precluded from probing her history of mental illness during cross-examination.

These mental health records, however, are not part of the record on appeal.

In Camera Inspection

The trial judge did receive the records and held that were not relevant to any of the current allegations against defendant. I don't see how in any way they would be helpful to either party.

At the hearing on the motion, counsel argued that the defense at trial would be that the victim stabbed herself, and her mental health records would help us determine her mental state and to possibly lead us to any other records in preparation for confronting the victim at trial.

The trial court noted that the records were from 2009, and detail an incident that occurred four years prior to the allegations that are before me.

And although the complaining witness did in fact receive that mental health treatment for a short period of time, it ended in 2009 with respect to that particular incident. Nothing about that incident seems to me to be in any way relevant to the incident at hand here.

On Cross

On cross-examination, the victim was asked if she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She answered, Wrong.

I don't know how you;all diagnosed me with that because I'm not bipolar and they cannot make no diagnosis off of me.

The trial court sustained the State's objection and held a sidebar to hear argument on the issue.

Were They Relevant?

Defense counsel argued that the defense's theory is that the victim stabbed herself, and the medical records showing she had been treated for bipolar disorder is relevant to their theory because it would show her state of mind at the time this stabbing occurred.

This exchange followed:

THE COURT: Do you have any reason to believe by way of evidence that [she] stabbed herself.

MS. PAYETTE [defense attorney]: Other than there's two people in the room and I have strong medical evidence to show that [defendant] is physically incapable of doing it. I think that that would be sufficient, Judge.

THE COURT: So your answer is no, you don't have any evidence that you're going to be putting on?

MS. PAYETTE: Not that I'm going to be putting on, Judge.

THE COURT: Your objection will be sustained. The trial court viewed the records in camera on the State's motion.

Rule 415(f)

Illinois Supreme Court Rule 415(f) (eff. Oct. 1, 1971) states that if the court enters an order granting relief following a showing in camera, the entire record of such showing shall be sealed, impounded, and preserved in the records of the court, to be made available to the reviewing court in the event of an appeal.

It is the defendant's burden, as the complaining party, to request that the records involved are sealed, impounded, and preserved for appeal.

Absent a request for such compliance, any deficiency in the record will be attributable to that party.