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updated: 11/8/2012 4:02 PM

Prosecutors ready for possible insanity defense in Naperville child slayings

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  • Elzbieta Plackowska

      Elzbieta Plackowska

 

The prosecution and defense each sought their own psychiatric examinations of Naperville double-murder suspect Elzbieta Plackowska on Thursday, but her attorney said he has no doubt she's mentally fit to stand trial.

"She's still obviously very upset," Senior Assistant Public Defender Mike Mara said. "I think she understands what's happening in court. I don't have any doubts about her fitness to proceed."

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Mara declined to comment on his client's mental state on Oct. 30, when prosecutors allege she repeatedly stabbed her 7-year-old son Justin and kindergartner Olivia Dworakowski, 5.

DuPage County prosecutors anticipate a possible insanity defense and want the 40-year-old Naperville woman examined by psychiatrist Alexander Obolsky. Judge Robert Kleeman gave the defense until Tuesday to respond.

State's Attorney Bob Berlin said he wants Plackowska examined quickly to get a better idea of her mental state as soon after the murders as possible.

"Time is of the essence," he told Kleeman, who agreed.

The defense also requested an independent evaluation, which was discussed in judge's chambers. Outside of court, Mara declined to disclose whether the request was granted. Any related orders signed by the judge were sealed.

Berlin said any psychiatric examination by a defense expert would be disclosed to prosecutors only if Plackowska's attorneys decide it's relevant to her case and use it as evidence.

Obolsky, the psychiatrist tapped by prosecutors, testified last month in the high-profile Lake County trial of Daniel Baker, saying the defendant was insane when he beat his girlfriend's mother to death with a baseball bat. A judge rejected the argument and convicted Baker.

Insanity is different from mental fitness in that fitness determines whether a defendant is capable of participating in court proceedings, while insanity centers on the defendant's state of mind at the time of a criminal act.

Also Thursday, attorneys in the case indicated for the first time that they will not object to extended media coverage, including TV coverage of Plackowska's arraignment on Nov. 21.

Both sides, as well as Kleeman, expressed concern about the logistics of having two TV cameras and two camera operators in Kleeman's fourth-floor courtroom. The venue could be changed to a larger room, they said.

If granted, it would be the first case in DuPage to be televised since the Illinois Supreme Court began allowing cameras into criminal trial courts on an experimental basis this year.

"We have to figure out how this is going to work but, as far as the request, I don't have an objection," Mara said.

Berlin said he didn't have any immediate concerns as long as cameras don't interfere with the proceedings.

"We're not objecting on the face of it," he said.

Plackowska appeared to be lucid and listening intently in court Thursday. She did not speak, other than to thank her attorney after he told the judge he was trying to arrange a Polish interpreter. Mara has said Plackowska speaks English but is more comfortable with her native language.

Plackowska is accused of slaying the children as she baby-sat them in the younger victim's Naperville town home. She told police she made them get on their knees and pray before she stabbed Justin close to 100 times with a kitchen knife, then repeatedly stabbed Olivia, while both children begged for their lives. She also is accused of fatally stabbing two dogs inside the home.

Plackowska offered varying motives -- including that the children had "evil" inside them -- but eventually told authorities she just wanted to get back at her husband. Berlin said she attacked Olivia because the 5-year-old was a witness.

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