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State v. Carter

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Third Division

May 29, 2018

STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent,
v.
WILLIAM (BILLY) CARTER, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Adair County, Missouri The Honorable Gary L. Dial, Judge

          Before Victor C. Howard, Presiding Judge, Cynthia L. Martin, Judge and Gary D. Witt, Judge

          OPINION

          CYNTHIA L. MARTIN, JUDGE.

         William Carter ("Carter") appeals from the judgment of the trial court denying his application for conditional release pursuant to section 552.040.10[1] as moot. Carter argues that the trial court erred because section 552.040 entitled him to a hearing and described factors the trial court was required to determine. We reverse and remand.

         Factual and Procedural Background[2]

         In January 2000, Carter was charged with forcible sodomy, kidnapping, burglary in the first degree, felonious restraint, and deviate sexual assault. Carter pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect ("NGRI") to these charges in January 2002. As a result, Carter was committed to the Department of Mental Health ("Department") in accordance with section 552.040. Forcible sodomy and kidnapping were both defined as a "dangerous felony" in section 556.061 at the time of Carter's offenses.

         Carter's case was subsequently reviewed to determine whether he met the criteria of a sexually violent predator ("SVP") under the Sexually Violent Predator Act ("SVP Act"), sections 632.480 through 632.525. Following a trial on the matter, a jury found that Carter was an SVP. Carter was ordered committed to the Department's custody pursuant to section 632.495 of the SVP Act. As a result, as the trial court found in its judgment giving rise to this appeal, Carter is "committed to the custody of the Department of Mental Health in a dual capacity" as a person who pleaded NGRI and as an SVP.

         In June 2015, Carter filed an application for conditional release pursuant to section 552.040.10.[3] Carter thus sought relief from his commitment as a person who pleaded NGRI. Carter did not file an application seeking conditional release from his commitment as an SVP as permitted by section 632.498.3.

         The trial court convened a conference call with counsel, and expressed concern that Carter's application for conditional release pursuant to section 552.040.10 was moot given Carter's dual commitment pursuant to the SVP Act. The parties submitted briefing on this issue. On June 29, 2017, the trial court entered judgment denying Carter's application for conditional release as moot. The trial court reasoned that any relief granted to Carter on his application for conditional release under section 552.040.10 would not afford him "any effectual relief because Carter would remain civilly committed under the SVP Act. Accordingly, the trial court held that "as long as [Carter] remains a[n] SVP under civil commitment pursuant to [the SVP Act], any relief granted under Section 552 is moot." The trial court expressly noted in its judgment that no findings or conclusions were reached regarding the merits of Carter's application for conditional release.

         Carter filed this timely appeal.

         Standard of Review

         "Our review of the denial of an application for conditional release from the custody of the [Department] is governed by Murphy v. Carron, 536 S.W.2d 30 (Mo. banc 1976)." Rowlings v. State, 22 S.W.3d 719, 723 (Mo. App. W.D. 1999). "We will reverse the trial court's decision only if there is no substantial evidence to support it, unless it erroneously declares or applies the law, or unless it is against the weight of the evidence." Id.

         Analysis

         Carter raises two points on appeal. In his first point, Carter argues that the trial court erred in denying his application for conditional release as moot because section 552.040 entitled him to a hearing. In his second point, Carter asserts that by denying his application as moot, the trial court failed to consider the factors set forth in section 552.040.12. We address ...


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