Illinois Law Professor Stabbed In Throat At Train Station

University of Illinois Law Professor Dhammika Dharmapala was the victim of a shocking violent attack this week at a train station when Joshua Scaggs, 23, allegedly stabbed him in the neck after shouting something about this being Scaggs’ country.

Scaggs appears mentally deranged and promptly fired his attorney Baku Patel. He is charged with attempted murder and two counts of aggravated battery.

Dharmapala, 41, teaches law and economics, tax policy, public economy, and political economy. He suffered a six-inch cut to his throat.

President Michael Hogan issued a statement to the faculty and students saying “[a]s some of you may have read in the newspapers, this morning a member of our faculty was severely injured during what appears to have been a senseless act of aggression and alleged hate crime by another not affiliated with the University of Illinois. The University is deeply saddened by this event.”

Scaggs has a prior conviction in 2006 for burglary in Indiana which will likely be used as an aggravator. The threshold issue, however, is his competency to stand trial and then whether he has a viable claim for the insanity defense.

Illinois follows a more advanced rule than many other states that ripped up their insanity defenses after the Reagan assassination. For a prior column on the issue, click here. Illinois follows the A.L.I. standard that the American Law Institute (ALI) designed a new test for its Model Penal Code in 1962. Under this test, “a person is not responsible for criminal conduct if at the time of such conduct as a result of mental disease or defect he lacks substantial capacity either to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law.”

There was an interesting ruling on the meaning of this standard in People v. Ahmad, 206 Ill. App. 3d 927 (1990). The court found a violation in the testimony of State’s expert witness, Dr. Mathew Markos.

In his testimony regarding his professional education, Markos stated that he pursued specialization in forensic psychiatry, “also known as psychiatry and the law.” He then stated that as part of his training in forensic psychiatry, he attended lectures in criminal law. The State then elicited testimony from the witness regarding the standards for legal insanity. Markos stated that Illinois used the standards of the American Law Institute (ALI) for the insanity defense. He testified that to establish the insanity defense:

“[T]he evaluator or examiner has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt with a reasonable degree of medical certainty that the psychosis or the serious mental illness was directly linked to the commission of the criminal act.”

Prior to this statement, Markos had testified:

“[I]n order to prove the insanity defense with a reasonable degree of certainty — a reasonable degree is approximately 70 percent, roughly — one has to show that there was an existing mental illness, a serious mental illness, in other words, a psychosis.”

At another point in his testimony Markos stated:

“[T]he mere existence of a psychotic illness does not make somebody legally insane. It has to be shown beyond a reasonable doubt that as a result of this mental illness or psychosis he or she could not appreciate the criminality and was not able to conform his or [sic] behavior.”

It is essential that a jury be correctly informed of the burden of proof. ( People v. Lewis (1969), 112 Ill. App. 2d 1, 13, 250 N.E.2d 812.) In order to establish an insanity defense, defendant is only required to show by a preponderance of evidence [***26] that he was insane at the time of the offense. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 38, par. 6 — 2(e).) Therefore, Markos inaccurately stated the law and significantly heightened defendant’s burden of proof by making references to the reasonable doubt standard and by attaching an erroneous numerical value of 70 percent to the standard. Although the jury was properly instructed as to the standard of proof by the trial court at the conclusion of the trial, this did not cure the prejudice to defendant that may have resulted from the expert witness’ improper statements. The likelihood that the jury was misled by these statements was increased by the fact that the witness testified as to his expertise in psychiatry and the law. ( People v. Eckhardt (1984), 124 Ill. App. 3d 1041, 1043, 465 N.E.2d 107.) We also conclude that this issue was reviewable despite defendant’s failure to object under the plain error rule, and that his failure to object may have even increased the magnitude of the error by leaving the jury with the impression that the witness correctly stated the law. ( Eckhardt, 124 Ill. App. 3d at 1043.) Because we find that this error was prejudicial and that the evidence of defendant’s sanity was close, we conclude that it was reversible error. ( People v. Johnson (1981), 102 Ill. App. 3d 122, 129, 429 N.E.2d 905.) We also note that defendant has failed to address whether it was even proper for Dr. Markos to, in effect, instruct the jury on a matter of law. Because we have already determined that Dr. Markos’ testimony caused reversible error, we decline to address this issue.

Much has to be learned about Scaggs. The fact that he could function in society before the attack militates against his use of the defense, but there remains questions as to whether he was capable to conform at that time. It remains a difficult standard to meet — refuting the misunderstanding of the defense that led to so many state laws being gutted after the Reagan shooting.

This is a terrible shock to any community, particularly an academic community like Illinois. We wish Professor Dharmapala a rapid and full recovery.

Source: News-Gazette

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21 thoughts on “Illinois Law Professor Stabbed In Throat At Train Station”

  1. commented…..And nor should anyone else forget that this is the UNITED STATES of America…..Especially its Own Citizens….maybe you….

  2. Frankly,
    Lets not forget the History of ‘your’ country. Everyone here came from somewhere else except for the Native Americans. Your country, his country, my country – who cares man. This is the “UNITED” states of America..

  3. I think there is a very simple logic to analyse your theories ” angrymanspeaks” and Gene H.- Just assume that it was your throat , that was slashed off ,and assume ,that it was your younger Sister or some body whom you love very much, who was raped and Gang Banged, Just for a moment, Picture it on a live screen and look at it attentively. I hope both of you will be laughing your Head Off. There is nothing Humorous in this story, Tomorrow it may be you or one of your loved ones.

    1. Ok. I’m sorry but I think this needs to be said. Hisika. Again I am sorry that you continue to be offended. I think though that you take yourself, me, and gene a bit too seriously. Humor is an ancient and honorable way to deal with tragedy. We live in a world that is full; just chocked full of tragedy. It’s all around us and it’s getting worse rather than better. We (the readers of this sight) come here to discuss, analyze, debate and to learn from others. We joke; we consider solutions’ sometimes we (I at least) cry over the actions of people and governments and the torture and humiliation that has become life for so many of my countryman. I take my blogging seriously. I advocate for anything that i believe will change the system and make a decent life possible for all Americans and by extension all people. I do not descriminate on the basis of skin color,eye shape, nationality, religion, gender, or sexual identity or peferences except when it comes to children. I angonize over just the right words and thoughts to publish to try to move people to action, to educate them as to the truth that they are not supposed to know. I sometimes don’t sleep for 24 hours at a time because I can’t piut this work (and it is work- though I get no pay and I love it) down and because Of the thrill of being part of a global movement like OWS in any way I can.

      Soooooo…I can’t speak for Gene or any of the other commenters but as far as i am concerned; I have explained and I have appologized. I have expressed my sincere convictions and still you continue to condemn me; because I made a tastless joke?

      Get agrip and don’t be so self righteous. You know what they say. Self-righteous people usually aren’t.

      I don’t claim righteousness. And neither should any of us. If you find my humor or my LOONEY appearence offensive; I suggest you don’t read the comments with my Looney face plastered next to them. If you do; and you want to discuss issues’ that’s Ok. But if all you want to do is critisize my language, sense of humor, physical appearence, weight, warts, hair style, or any other personal quality or personality flaw that you might perceive in me.

      Please keep it to your self.

      Sorry Prof. No disrespect intended.

  4. Oh, make no mistake, angryman. I wasn’t offended at all. I’m notoriously thick skinned and almost impossible to offend. I’m a firm believer in the Carlin Principle: anything can be funny – even rape. It all depends on the exaggeration.

    “Ohhh, some people don’t like you to talk like that. Ohh, some people like to shut you up for saying those things. You know that. Lots of people. Lots of groups in this country want to tell you how to talk. Tell you what you can’t talk about. Well, sometimes they’ll say, well you can talk about something but you can’t joke about it. Say you can’t joke about something because it’s not funny. Comedians run into that shit all the time.
    Like rape. They’ll say, “you can’t joke about rape. Rape’s not funny.”

    I say, “fuck you, I think it’s hilarious. How do you like that?”

    I can prove to you that rape is funny.

    Picture Porky Pig raping Elmer Fudd.

    See, hey why do you think they call him “Porky,” eh? I know what you’re going to say. “Elmer was asking for it. Elmer was coming on to Porky.
    Porky couldn’t help himself, he got a hard- on, he got horney, he lost control, he went out of his mind.”

    A lot of men talk like that. A lot of men think that way. They think it’s the woman’s fault. They like to blame the rape on the woman. Say, “she had it coming, she was wearing a short skirt.” These guys think women ought to go to prison for being cock teasers.

    Don’t seem fair to me. Don’t seem right, but you can joke about it. I believe you can joke about anything. It all depends on how you construct the joke. What the exaggeration is. What the exaggeration is. Because every joke needs one exaggeration. Every joke needs one thing to be way out of proportion.

    Give you an example. Did you ever see a news story like this in the paper? Every now and then you run into a story, says, “some guy broke into a house, stole a lot of things, and while he was in there, he raped an 81 year old woman.”

    And I’m thinking to myself, “WHY??? What the fuck kind of a social life does this guy have?” I want to say, “why did you do that?” “Well she was coming on to me. We were dancing and I got horney. Hey, she was asking for it, she had on a tight bathrobe.”

    I’ll say, “Jesus Christ, be a little fucking selective next time will you?”

    Now, speaking of rape, do you know what I wonder? I wonder is there more rape at the equator or the north pole. These are the kind of things I think about when I’m sitting home alone and the power goes out.

    I wonder is there more rape at the equator or the north pole. I mean per capita, I know the populations are different. Most people think it’s the equator, I think it’s the north pole. People think it’s the equator because it’s hot down there, they don’t wear a lot of clothing, guys can see women’s tits, they get horney and there’s a lot of fucking going on.

    That’s exactly why there’s less rape at the equator. Because there’s a lot of fucking going on. You can tell there’s a lot of fucking at the equator, take a look at the population figures. Billions of people live near the equator. How many Eskimos do we have? Thirty? Thirty five? No one’s getting laid at the north pole, it’s too fucking cold. Guys say to their wives, “hey tonight honey, huh, tonight, huh?”

    “Are you crazy? The wind chill factor is three hundred below.”

    These guys are deprived. Their horney. Their pent up. Every now and then…p-pmm…they bust out, they got to rape somebody.

    Now, the biggest problem an Eskimo rapist has, trying to get wet leather leggings off a woman who is kicking. Did you ever try to get leather pants off of someone who doesn’t want to take them off? You would lose your hard-on in the process. Up at the north pole your dick would shrivel up like a stack of dimes. That’s another thing I wonder. I wonder, does a rapist have a hard-on when he leaves the house in the morning, or does he develop it during the day while he’s walking around looking for somebody.

    These are the kind of thoughts that kept me out of the really good schools.” – George Carlin

  5. angryman,

    In Hisika’s defense, I found your remark a bit unclear. I think there was reasonable room for misunderstanding.

    1. Ok Dad,
      I can see where you could have a point. I wasn’t angry (or no more than I have to be to maintain my right to the Title). I do understand that many people are very sensitive to “Graveside Humor” so to speak. Also I agree that it is possible that a person could misconstrue my intent and not follow the irony or even care about it. As i told Hisika; no offence intended. I have all the sympathy in the world for this professor and his family. Really. I like professors. And I hate senseless violence (even against cops and other Fascist types). So I hope Hisika doesn’t hold it against me for too long. I may be a bit of a pest; and I may sometimes be found to have bad taste; (no velvet Elvis paintings though in my defence) but my heart is in the right place. (Or at least i think it is. I can only assume they put it back in the right place after surgery…………not being a Doctor and all……….anyway if not; there wouldn’t be much I could do about it…….I mean……………..not being a Lawyer and all.) But if you are looking for someone to blast the conservatives or better yet. If you want someone to blast the whole political system; I just may be your man. If you want someone to write with passion, humor and emotion about the sad state of affairs we live with; then i may be your man. I can only hope that makes up a bit for my sometimes lack of sensitivity. Sometimes it’s hard to stop and pet the puppy when your running with all guns blazing. OK?

  6. @ (angrymanspeaks)When a man is lying in the bed fighting for his life all you can do is laugh. Why don’t you go for a test as well . From your face it looks like ur a Loony too

    1. Hisika,
      Now calm down and take a deep breath. You should try not to let this online banter get your knickers in such a twist. I don’t normally explain this and in the end it may make no difference to you but here goes.

      I come online and I write my blog for the purpose of expressing and publicizing what I think are important political ideas and concepts. i comment on several different and varied blog sites. I try to use humor to get the point across when I see the opportunity. Now I have no ill will towards the injured professor and I think it’s a sich tragedy. But I also see the irony of a demented man stabbing a professor instead of a cop because he mistook a professor for a practitioner.(being demented you know). Thinking he was striking out against a policeman in protest (you know; because of the widespread brutality and corruption) and just getting locked up.

      It’s pushing the idea that people are so frustrated that they want to strike out to it’s most ridiculous end. No I don’t want to kill cops. But yes as a humorous notion of a regular guy striking out; I think it is a poignient and colorful action to use for the purpose. Also whether we like it or not; killing a cop, the Sherrif etc. is a classic American scenario for just this sort of humor and or political banter.

      Sorry if it offends.

  7. “Professor” of the Law huh? Probably just a simple misunderstanding. He probably thought he was a “Practitioner” of the Law.

    Professor / Practitioner plus dimished intellect = confusion ‘but that don’t mean he’s a baaaad person’. His heart was in the right place. Heh; heh; heh

  8. It’s nice to know that the US doesn’t have a monopoly on the violent racist/nutjob market:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/nov/29/anders-behring-breivik-declared-insane

    Interestingly, the article says that the psychiatric evaluation of Behring Breivik found him to be insane, but that evaluation will be reviewed by the Norwegian Board of Forensic Medicine, and goes on to say, “The head of that panel said earlier that it was unlikely Breivik would be declared legally insane because the attacks had been so carefully planned and executed.”

    I had heard that his insanity from a legal point of view was pretty well settled. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

    It would be interesting to know of Mr. Scaggs was a fan of the same folks Behring Breivik read: Pamela Geller and that branch of the cesspool?

  9. Martin, yup, and understood by so few.

    I am excited that my new copy of Coping with Psychiatric and Psychological Testimony came today. It is the newest revision of the late Jay Ziskin’s seminal work on the subject. Ziskin’s three volume set has been updated by Professor David Faust and condensed into a massive single volume. This is some good stuff.

  10. IMHO, Dr. Markos (whom I had never heard of before) is full of it. How does he come up with a figure of 70% and, then, how is that actually quantified? What are the baseline data from which even a single number be drawn? Methinks that was drawn from his nether region and so did the appellate court.

    To anyone statistically trained, beyond a reasonable scientific (e.g., medical or psychological) certainty, the standard for acceptance as a valid and reliable study is the .05 level of confidence on a two-tailed test. It brings the profession into disrepute when a self-proclaimed expert pontificates on things they actually know little about.

    Now, getting to the heart of the matter, I am sure his lawyer will be grasping at straws for a defense, so he might as well go with insanity. It may be more believable than claiming his client was possessed by demons.

  11. White supremacists are terrible advocates for their cause. I’ve never seen a good specimen. They always leave me thinking, “That’s superior? Superior to what?”

  12. Serves him right – who does he think he is, being less white than me in my country?

    If the attacker is insane it is a mental illness that infects a sizable minority of this country and I can provide you with a list of known carriers who are spreading the illness for fun and profit. You could stop many of them by picking them up after they finish their on-air assignments, others you could get in the Congressional or Gubernatorial offices.

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