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State ex rel Kelly v. Inman

Supreme Court of Missouri

January 14, 2020

STATE ex rel. MICHAEL KELLY, Petitioner,
v.
JULIE INMAN, Respondent.

          ORIGINAL PROCEEDING IN HABEAS CORPUS

          MARY R. RUSSELL, JUDGE.

         Michael Kelly seeks a writ of habeas corpus on the ground his due process rights were violated as a result of the circuit court exceeding its authority pursuant to section 552.020. [1] The circuit court accepted his not guilty by mental disease or defect ("NGRI") plea after finding he lacked competence to continue with the criminal proceedings. Kelly argues that, pursuant to section 552.020.8, upon finding him incompetent, the circuit court was required to suspend the proceedings and commit him to the department of mental health.

         By accepting Kelly's NGRI plea despite finding him incompetent to proceed, the circuit court exceeded its authority pursuant to section 552.020.8 and violated Kelly's due process rights. Accordingly, Kelly's NGRI plea is vacated, and the criminal proceedings against him remain pending, although suspended by virtue of the circuit court's additional finding that Kelly was incompetent to proceed. Because of the improper commitment after acceptance of Kelly's NGRI plea, the department of mental health did not conduct an examination of Kelly six months after his commitment to ascertain whether he was fit to proceed, as required by section 552.020.10(1). Within 90 days from the date the mandate issues in this case, the circuit court should order such an examination to be conducted pursuant to section 552.020.11(1), RSMo Supp. 2018. After the completion of the examination, the procedure in section 552.020.11, RSMo Supp. 2018, should govern.

         Background

         The State charged Kelly with first-degree robbery and armed criminal action. The defense moved for a mental evaluation of Kelly to determine his competency to proceed to trial and whether he had a mental disease or defect excluding responsibility. The circuit court sustained the motion. A medical evaluation found Kelly suffered from chronic undifferentiated schizophrenia and polysubstance abuse or dependence. The evaluation opined Kelly lacked the capacity to understand the proceedings or assist in his own defense, and it recommended Kelly be held in a hospital facility for treatment pending determination of his competency to proceed. It further concluded that, at the time of the alleged criminal conduct, Kelly did not fully appreciate the nature, quality, or wrongfulness of his conduct and was incapable of conforming his conduct to the law.

         Kelly filed a notice of intent to rely solely on a defense of mental disease or defect. The State accepted the defense. The circuit court entered an order titled "Order Committing Defendant to Department of Mental Health (State Acceptance of Mental Defense)." The order found Kelly lacked capacity to understand the proceedings against him or assist in his own defense and, accordingly, lacked mental fitness to proceed with the charges against him. In the same order, the circuit court found Kelly not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect excluding responsibility, determining that, at the time of the alleged crime, Kelly did not appreciate the nature, quality, or wrongfulness of his conduct and was incapable of conforming his conduct to the requirements of the law. The circuit court then committed Kelly to the department of mental health, where he has remained since 1991.

         Kelly filed petitions for writs of habeas corpus in the St. Francois County Circuit Court and then the court of appeals, both of which were denied. Kelly now seeks a writ of habeas corpus from this Court.

         Jurisdiction and Standard of Review

         This Court has jurisdiction to issue original remedial writs. Mo. Const. art. V, sec. 4.1. "Any person restrained of liberty within this state may petition for a writ of habeas corpus to inquire into the cause of such restraint." Rule 91.01(b); see also section 532.010, RSMo 2016. A court can issue a writ of habeas corpus when an individual is "restrained of his or her liberty in violation of the constitution or laws of the state or federal government." State ex rel. Woodworth v. Denney, 396 S.W.3d 330, 337 (Mo. banc 2013). The petitioner bears the burden to demonstrate he or she is entitled to habeas relief. State ex rel. Clemons v. Larkins, 475 S.W.3d 60, 76 (Mo. banc 2015). "[H]abeas corpus is available as a remedy for a person confined pursuant to Chapter 552 procedures if an application therefor is properly pleaded, filed in a court having jurisdiction, and facts are proven showing entitlement to relief." State v. McKee, 39 S.W.3d 565, 569 n.6 (Mo. App. 2001).

         Analysis

         Kelly argues he is entitled to habeas relief on the ground the circuit court exceeded its authority pursuant to section 552.020 when it accepted his NGRI plea and committed him to the department of mental health after finding he lacked competence to proceed.

         I. Is Kelly's Claim Procedurally Barred?

         The State asserts Kelly's claim is procedurally barred because he did not raise it in the circuit court at the time he made his NGRI plea or on direct appeal. Habeas relief is not a substitute for direct appeal or postconviction proceedings. Denney, 396 S.W.3d at 337. Claims that were cognizable on direct appeal or in postconviction proceedings are procedurally barred. Clay v. Dormire, 37 S.W.3d 214, 217 (Mo. banc 2000).

         An appeal is proper "[i]n all cases of final judgment rendered upon any indictment or information." Section 547.070. "No right of an appeal exists without statutory authority." State v. Craig, 287 S.W.3d 676, 679 (Mo. banc 2009). There is no statutory right to appeal from an acquittal as a result of an NGRI plea. State ex rel. Koster v. Oxenhandler, 491 S.W.3d 576 (Mo. App. 2016) ("Habeas is thus the only viable means by which the lawfulness of confinement as a result of the NGRI defense can be challenged." (emphasis added)).[2] Because the trial court acquitted Kelly as a result of an NGRI plea, he could not have filed a direct appeal and habeas is the proper remedy in this case.

         Similarly, Kelly's failure to raise his claim in the circuit court does not bar him from habeas relief. The State cites State ex rel. Strong v. Griffith, 462 S.W.3d 732 (Mo. banc 2015), in support of its argument that Kelly's claim is procedurally barred for failure to raise the claim in the circuit court, but that case can be distinguished on its facts. The Court in Strong determined the claim was barred not only because it was not raised at trial, but also because it was not raised during post-conviction proceedings. 462 S.W.3d at 734. Kelly, on the other hand, could not have raised his claim at post-conviction proceedings because he was acquitted - not convicted. See Rule 24.035(a).[3]

         The procedural bar to habeas proceedings exists "[o]ut of concern over duplicative and unending challenges to the finality of a judgment." Clay, 37 S.W.3d at 217. Such a concern is inapplicable here, as Kelly could not have raised his claims on direct appeal or in a postconviction proceeding. For these reasons, ...


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