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Perkins v. Schmitt

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

September 18, 2017

DAVID SCHMITT, Respondent.



         Petitioner Kenneth Perkins is civilly committed in the custody of the Missouri Department of Mental Health, having been found by a jury to be a sexually violent predator under Missouri’s Sexually Violent Predator Act, Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 632.480, et seq. He brings this petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, arguing that his judgment and commitment under the Act was unconstitutionally obtained. I will deny the petition.

         Procedural Background

         On June 22, 2004, Perkins pled guilty to one count of child molestation first degree. He received a suspended imposition of sentence and was placed on supervised probation for three years. Perkins’ probation was revoked on April 15, 2005, and he was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.

         Prior to Perkins’ scheduled release in March 2010, the State petitioned the Circuit Court of Dent County, Missouri, to civilly commit Perkins as a sexually violent predator (SVP) under the Act. (Resp. Exh. B at 14-16.) The matter went to trial and, in November 2012, a Dent County jury found Perkins to be an SVP. The court entered judgment on November 7, 2012, and Perkins was committed to the custody of the Missouri Department of Mental Health.[1] The Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed this judgment and commitment on August 13, 2014. (Resp. Exh. E.)

         Perkins signed this federal habeas petition on August 19, 2014, and deposited it in the prison mailing system that same date. The petition was received by this Court and filed on September 2, 2014.

         Grounds for Relief

         In his original petition for writ of habeas corpus, Perkins raises two grounds for relief: 1) that there was insufficient evidence for the jury to find that he met the statutory definition of an SVP, and 2) that the State attorney’s closing argument violated his right to due process. In February 2015, Perkins raised an additional claim that the Act is overbroad in that it wrongfully permits first offenders to be adjudged an SVP without providing them an opportunity to demonstrate that intervention would deter re-offending (see ECF #14).

         In response, respondent argues that I should defer to the decision of the Missouri Court of Appeals and find the claims raised in Perkins’ original petition to be without merit. Respondent has not addressed Perkins’ additional claim.

         Standard of Review

         Federal habeas review is available to challenge a State court order of civil commitment, even though the order was not the result of a criminal conviction. Duncan v. Walker, 533 U.S. 167, 176 (2001). Courts have regularly reviewed civil commitment proceedings relating to the involuntary commitment of sex offenders under State statutes, see Poole v. Goodno, 335 F.3d 705 (8th Cir. 2003); Linehan v. Milczark, 315 F.3d 920 (8th Cir. 2003), and this Court has applied habeas corpus analysis to claims challenging civil commitments under Missouri’s Sexually Violent Predator Act. See, e.g., Fogle v. Blake, 4:06 CV 900 RWS (AGF), 2006 WL 3469613 (E.D. Mo. Nov. 29, 2006), adopted by, 2006 WL 3792627 (E.D. Mo. Dec. 20, 2006); Jones v. Blake, No. 4:06 CV 402 ERW (DDN), 2008 WL 4820788 (E.D. Mo. Nov. 5, 2008).

         In order to obtain federal habeas review of a claim raised in a § 2254 petition, the petitioner must have first raised the federal constitutional dimensions of the claim in State court in accordance with State procedural rules. Duncan v. Henry, 513 U.S. 364 (1995) (per curiam); Beaulieu v. Minnesota, 583 F.3d 570, 573 (8th Cir. 2009) (quoting Gilmore v. Armontrout, 861 F.2d 1061, 1065 (8th Cir. 1988)). If the petitioner failed to properly present the claim in State court, and no adequate non-futile remedy is currently available by which he may bring the claim in that forum, the claim is deemed procedurally defaulted and cannot be reviewed by the federal habeas court “unless the [petitioner] can demonstrate cause for the default and actual prejudice as a result of the alleged violation of federal law, or demonstrate that failure to consider the claims will result in a fundamental miscarriage of justice.” Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 750 (1991); see also Martinez v. Ryan, 566 U.S. 1, 10-11 (2012).

         Where the State court adjudicated a claim on the merits, federal habeas relief can be granted on the claim only if the State court adjudication “resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States,” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1); or “was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding,” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2). See Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 379 (2000). The federal law must be clearly established at the time petitioner’s State conviction became final, and the source of doctrine for such law is limited to the United States Supreme Court. Id. at 380-83.

         A State court’s decision is “contrary to” clearly established Supreme Court precedent when it is opposite to the Supreme Court’s conclusion on a question of law or different than the Supreme Court’s conclusion on a set of materially indistinguishable facts. Williams, 529 U.S. at 412-13; Carter v. Kemna, 255 F.3d 589, 591 (8th Cir. 2001). A State court’s decision is an “unreasonable application” of Supreme Court precedent if it “identifies the correct governing legal principle from [the Supreme Court’s] decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner’s case.” Williams, 529 U.S. at 413. Merely erroneous or incorrect application of clearly established federal law does not suffice to support a grant of habeas relief. Instead, the State court’s application of the law must be objectively unreasonable. Id. at 409-11; Jackson v. Norris, 651 F.3d 923, 925 (8th Cir. 2011). Finally, when reviewing whether a State court decision involves an “unreasonable determination of the facts” in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceedings, a federal court must presume that State court findings of basic, primary, or historical facts are correct unless the petitioner rebuts the presumption with clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Rice v. Collins, 546 U.S. 333, 338-39 (2006); Collier v. Norris, 485 F.3d 415, 423 (8th Cir. 2007). Erroneous findings of fact do not ipso facto ensure the grant of habeas relief. Instead, the determination of these facts must be unreasonable in light of the evidence of record. Collier, 485 F.3d at 423; Weaver v. Bowersox, 241 F.3d 1024, 1030 (8th Cir. 2001).

         I am “bound by the AEDPA [Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act] to exercise only limited and deferential review of underlying state court decisions.” Lomholt v. Iowa, 327 F.3d 748, 751 (8th Cir. 2003). To obtain habeas relief, Perkins must show that the challenged State court ruling “rested on ‘an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.’” Metrish v. Lancaster, 569 U.S. 351,, 133 S. Ct. 1781, ...

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