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State ex rel. Hawley v. Heagney

Supreme Court of Missouri, En Banc

May 16, 2017

STATE OF MISSOURI, ex rel. JOSHUA D. HAWLEY, Relator,
v.
THE HONORABLE PHILIP HEAGNEY, and THOMAS L. KLOEPPINGER, Respondents.

         ORIGINAL PROCEEDING IN CERTIORARI

          PER CURIAM

         Introduction

         This is an original proceeding in certiorari to review the St. Louis circuit court's grant of habeas corpus relief discharging George Fisher from the custody of the Department of Mental Health ("DMH"). The St. Louis circuit court found Fisher's commitment was based on deficient pleas of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect ("NGRI")[1] in two separate cases, one originating in Audrain County and the other in Jackson County. The record granting habeas relief regarding the Audrain County case is moot and the record granting habeas relief regarding the Jackson County case is quashed.

         Audrain County

         In August 2005, Fisher was arrested in Audrain County and taken to the county jail. While in jail, Fisher was charged with one count of possession of a controlled substance in a county jail and one count of damage to jail property. Fisher's attorney filed an NGRI notice.[2] The notice contained no information about whether Fisher had any other defenses in the case and was not signed by Fisher. The notice did not appear in the Audrain County circuit court's file; however, a copy of it was located in the public defender's electronic file and the prosecutor's file. The State accepted the defense and, on May 19, 2008, the Audrain County circuit court entered an order accepting Fisher's NGRI plea and committing him to the custody of DMH.

         Jackson County

         In January 2007, Fisher pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree arson after attempting to set his girlfriend's father's porch on fire. The Jackson County circuit court sentenced him to 12 years' imprisonment in the Department of Corrections. Fisher then sought post-conviction relief pursuant to Rule 24.035, alleging his guilty plea was not knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily entered into because he was NGRI at the time of the offense. Fisher produced two mental health evaluation reports, one dated May 13, 2008, and another dated September 21, 2007, as well as certified court documents from the Audrain County case, which contained a finding that Fisher was NGRI in that case. Fisher and the State subsequently reached an agreement whereby the State agreed to concede Fisher's claim and agreed to an NGRI plea in the underlying arson case. Following this agreement, the Jackson County circuit court granted Fisher's claim for post-conviction relief and vacated his conviction. On that same day, Fisher's attorney filed an NGRI notice, which was not signed by Fisher, the State accepted the defense, and the Jackson County circuit court entered an order accepting Fisher's NGRI plea and committing him to the custody of DMH.

         Habeas Proceeding

         In March 2015, Fisher filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the St. Louis circuit court against Laurent Javois, the regional executive officer of the St. Louis Psychiatric Rehabilitation Center. Fisher challenged his commitment, alleging, among other things, that the NGRI pleas entered in both cases were deficient.

         After briefing and a hearing, on February 2, 2016, the St. Louis circuit court entered an order granting Fisher habeas relief. The St. Louis circuit court found no NGRI notice was filed in Audrain County because no notice appeared in the Audrain County circuit court's file and, alternatively, even if a notice was filed, it was deficient because it was not signed by Fisher and it did not contain the "no other defenses" language. The St. Louis circuit court also found the NGRI notice filed in Jackson County was deficient because it was not signed by Fisher. The State filed a petition for a writ of certiorari and, after opinion by the court of appeals, this Court transferred the case pursuant to article V, section 10 of the Missouri Constitution.

         Post-Oral Argument Developments

         This Court heard argument January 18, 2017. While the case was under advisement, the St. Louis circuit court entered an order directing the sheriff of Audrain County to transport Fisher from Fulton State Hospital to the Audrain County jail so the Audrain County prosecutor could make a determination about whether to retry Fisher for the Audrain County offenses.[3] During an exchange of e-mails, the prosecutor assigned to Fisher's case in Audrain County notified the bailiff in charge of Fisher's transportation that he filed a nolle prosequi[4] in the underlying criminal case, rendering the transportation order pointless. The prosecutor explained to the bailiff that Fisher's "[c]ase is too old, with too many unavailable witnesses, " and the bailiff communicated this information to the St. Louis circuit court.

         The State, however, filed an emergency motion requesting this Court stay execution of the transportation order because the case was under advisement before this Court.[5] ...


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