People v. Bellmyer

Decision Date23 May 2002
Docket NumberNo. 92323.,92323.
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of Illinois, Appellant, v. David BELLMYER, Appellee.
CourtIllinois Supreme Court

James E. Ryan, Attorney General, Springfield, Marshall E. Douglas, State's Attorney, Rock Island (Joel D. Bertocchi, Solicitor General, William L. Browers, Jay Paul Hoffmann, Assistant Attorneys General, Chicago, Norbert J. Goetten, John X. Breslin, Gary F. Gnidovec, Office of the State's Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor, Ottawa, of counsel), for the People.

Robert J. Agostinelli, Deputy Defender, Carrie B. Marche, Assistant Defender, Office of the State Appellate Defender, Ottawa, for appellee.

Justice FREEMAN delivered the opinion of the court:

Defendant, David Bellmyer, was charged with first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a) (West 1998)) in the circuit court of Rock Island County. Defendant raised the affirmative defense of insanity. After the parties presented evidence in a stipulated bench trial, the trial court found that the stipulated evidence was insufficient to make a decision regarding defendant's insanity defense. Defendant moved to dismiss the charged offense based on double jeopardy grounds. The trial court denied the motion and subsequently set the matter for a full trial.

Defendant brought an interlocutory appeal to the appellate court. See 188 Ill.2d R. 604(f). The court held that jeopardy had attached at the stipulated bench trial and that double jeopardy barred a second prosecution. The appellate court reversed the trial court's denial of defendant's motion to dismiss the charges. 323 Ill.App.3d 269, 257 Ill.Dec. 309, 753 N.E.2d 504.

We allowed the State's petition for leave to appeal. 177 Ill.2d R. 315(a). We now reverse the appellate court and remand the cause to the trial court for further proceedings.


The charges at issue in this case arise from the January 24, 1999, shooting death of George Bellmyer (hereafter victim). Defendant, the victim's son, was arrested, taken to the Rock Island County sheriff's department and advised of his Miranda rights. He invoked his right to counsel. On January 25, 1999, defendant was charged in an information with two counts of first degree murder (720 ILCS 5/9-1(a)(1), (a)(2) (West 1998)). In his first court appearance, also on that date, the court advised defendant that he had a right to an attorney and warned him of the possibility of trial in absentia. The court also set bond and informed defendant of the date of his preliminary hearing. Because defendant appeared not to understand these actions, the State moved for a fitness hearing to determine if defendant was fit to plead or stand trial. The court granted the State's motion and appointed Dr. Eric Ritterhoff to conduct the fitness examination.

On February 22, 1999, Dr. Ritterhoff submitted a report to the trial court and, on March 5, testified at a fitness hearing. Dr. Ritterhoff concluded that defendant was not fit to plead or stand trial at that time, but that he would be fit within one year.

Defendant was remanded to the custody of the Illinois Department of Human Services, which periodically submitted written mental health evaluations of defendant. In its third report to the court, dated August 25, 1999, the Department concluded that defendant was fit to stand trial. At a fitness hearing on September 1, 1999, defendant and the State stipulated that defendant was fit to stand trial. The trial court reviewed the third written report and, based thereon, found defendant fit to stand trial.

On November 8, 1999, defendant moved for a continuance so that he could be examined to determine whether the insanity defense was available to him at trial. Defendant and the State agreed that Dr. Robert Chapman would examine defendant on the issue of sanity. On November 30, defendant filed notice that he intended to raise the affirmative defense of insanity. Attached to his notice was Dr. Chapman's written report, in which he concluded that defendant was insane at the time of the shooting.

In response, on December 6, 1999, the State sought a continuance for a second opinion on the issue of sanity from Dr. Kirk Witherspoon. In a written report dated December 24, 1999, Dr. Witherspoon also concluded that defendant was insane when he shot the victim. On January 6, 2000, defendant and the State informed the court that because both of their experts opined that defendant was insane at the time of the offense, the parties would proceed via a stipulated bench trial. Defendant waived his right to a jury trial. After questioning, the trial court found that defendant's jury waiver was knowing and voluntary.

On February 29, 2000, the trial court heard opening statements, received stipulated evidence, and heard closing arguments. The parties agreed to the following facts at the stipulated bench trial. In January 1999, defendant and his daughter, April, lived in the home of his parents in Coal Valley. During this time, the victim was recovering from a leg injury and was using a wheelchair. Also, defendant had begun to carry a handgun.

On January 22, defendant was arrested for disorderly conduct and spent the night in the county jail. No charges were filed against defendant with respect to the arrest, and defendant was released the next day. When defendant returned home on January 23, he became angry because he could not find his gun, and argued with his parents. The victim returned the handgun to defendant, who calmed down, went to his room, and repeatedly cleaned the gun. Also on that day, defendant complained to his brother, Gary, of having experienced a "bad trip" from illegal narcotics he had been taking.

Between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. on January 24, defendant had an argument with his girlfriend, Katherine McCollom, who lived with him at his parents' home. Defendant pointed a gun at McCollom and demanded that she mop the floors. She complied, while defendant paced back and forth.

Later that morning, defendant again cleaned his gun and placed it under the couch in the living room. He forgot where he had put it and became infuriated. At approximately 1:30 p.m., Gary, who lived across the street from the house, went to his parents' home. Defendant's mother and the victim were in the living room and appeared frightened. Defendant was looking for his gun and appeared nervous and agitated. Gary returned to his home. When defendant found the handgun, he began to point it at his mother, the victim, and McCollom. He did not point the gun at his daughter, April, who was also present. He told April to go to the basement. She complied, but returned to the living room and saw what transpired.

Defendant hit the victim with the gun on the head and the leg. Defendant's mother and April escaped through a window and fled to Gary's home. They told Gary that defendant was beating the victim with a gun. Police were called.

Defendant then kicked the victim's wheelchair out from under the victim and continued to beat him with the gun. McCollom then escaped through the window as well, leaving defendant and the victim in the house alone.

The first law enforcement officials to arrive at the scene saw McCollom run from the victim's home across the street to Gary's residence. A short time later, officials heard three shots being fired from inside the victim's residence. For approximately the next hour, police attempted, via a public address system, to persuade defendant to exit the house. During this time they heard multiple shots being fired inside the home.

At approximately 5 p.m., law officers forced their way into the house through the back door. They found the victim's body on the floor inside the back porch. Defendant was siting on a couch in his bedroom with a handgun beside him.

An autopsy disclosed that the victim had died as a result of three gunshot wounds to the head. Further, it was determined that the bullets recovered during the autopsy were fired from the gun found next to defendant.

The parties agreed that the State could prove the charged offenses beyond a reasonable doubt. However, the parties disagreed as to whether defendant was sane at the time of the shooting or should be found not guilty by reason of insanity. Accordingly, the State and defendant stipulated as to the evidence pertaining to the issue of sanity, but not to the sufficiency of the evidence to find defendant insane.

The State contended that despite the reports of Drs. Chapman and Witherspoon, the court should find defendant either guilty or guilty but mentally ill. Pointing to the facts that defendant had argued with his parents and McCollom the day before the shooting and had been cleaning his gun, the State argued that defendant had planned the incident. The State also argued that defendant, by not pointing the gun at his daughter and ordering her to go to the basement, knew that his actions were wrong.

The defense, in its closing argument, emphasized that Drs. Chapman and Witherspoon both concluded that defendant was insane at the time of the shooting. Both found that defendant suffered from "schizoaffective disorder, bi-polar type"; both agreed that, due to this mental condition, defendant could not appreciate the criminality of his conduct. The defense contended that the trial court should find defendant not guilty by reason of insanity.

After hearing closing arguments, the court noted that it had questions regarding the qualifications of Dr. Witherspoon. The court also expressed concern regarding the lack of evidence of how defendant acted prior and subsequent to the shooting. The court asked the State to submit additional information regarding these matters. Complying with this request, the parties presented additional stipulated evidence pertaining to Dr. Witherspoon's qualifications and defendant's behavior from the time of the shooting until the time of his arrest and the appointment of the public defender.

On April 7, 2000, the court held a...

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