Chicago Tribune


By Janan Hanna
Tribune Staff Writer
December 19, 1999
Chicago Tribune

A lawyer for Marilyn Lemak on Friday argued that Illinois' insanity law is unconstitutional and makes it nearly impossible for a defendant to get acquitted on mental health grounds.

John Donahue asked DuPage County Circuit Judge George Bakalis to declare the insanity law, which has been diluted over the years, unconstitutional.

DuPage State's Atty. Joseph Birkett said the insanity law has been upheld under previous challenges. He labeled some of Donahue's arguments "ludicrous."

Bakalis said he would issue a written ruling on the defense motion on Jan. 12.

Lawyers for Lemak, who is awaiting trial on charges she murdered her three young children in the family's Naperville home, plan on waging an insanity defense. Donahue has said repeatedly during pretrial hearings that his client was depressed and possibly suffered from a brain impairment at the time of the killings.

Lemak was examined by several mental health experts and has submitted to psychiatric and physical tests since her arrest. Donahue has not disclosed the test results.

Under Illinois law, insanity means a defendant was not able to appreciate the criminality of the conduct because of a mental illness or defect.

In a hearing, Donahue argued that the law was flawed because it requires prosecutors to first prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and then shifts the burden to defense lawyers to prove the defendant was insane.

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