State ex rel. Koster v. Oxenhandler, WD 79277

CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)
Writing for the CourtCynthia L. Martin, Judge
Citation491 S.W.3d 576
Decision Date15 March 2016
Docket NumberWD 79277
Parties State of Missouri, ex rel. Chris Koster, Relator, v. The Honorable Gary Oxenhandler, Circuit Judge of Callaway County, and Judy Groner, Circuit Clerk Callaway County Circuit Court, Respondents.

491 S.W.3d 576

State of Missouri, ex rel. Chris Koster, Relator,
v.
The Honorable Gary Oxenhandler, Circuit Judge of Callaway County, and Judy Groner, Circuit Clerk Callaway County Circuit Court, Respondents.

WD 79277

Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District.

OPINION FILED: March 15, 2016
Motion for Rehearing and/or Transfer to Supreme Court Denied May 3, 2016
Application for Transfer Denied June 28, 2016


491 S.W.3d 582

Gregory M. Goodwin, Jefferson City, MO, for Relator.

Susan Kister and Robert B. Ramsey, St. Louis, MO, for respondents.

Before Writ Division: Gary D. Witt, Presiding Judge, Thomas H. Newton, Judge and Cynthia L. Martin, Judge

Cynthia L. Martin, Judge

This is an original proceeding in certiorari to review the grant of a writ of habeas corpus to habeas petitioner Shanon Swickheimer (“Swickheimer”) by the Callaway County Circuit Court (“habeas court”). Swickheimer was committed to the custody of the Department of Mental Health by an order of commitment issued on July 9, 2007 by the Polk County Circuit Court (“underlying trial court”) following a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity (“NGRI”) to the class A felony of Assault 1st Degree—Serious Physical Injury (the “underlying charge”). The writ of habeas corpus set aside Swickheimer's NGRI plea, and ordered his delivery into the custody of the Sheriff of Polk County, Missouri to be held pending further proceedings to address the underlying charge.

The habeas court's record granting the writ of habeas corpus is not quashed in part, and is quashed in part.

Factual and Procedural History

Swickheimer was charged by felony complaint on January 25, 2004 with the class A felony of Assault 1st Degree—Serious Physical Injury pursuant to section 565.050.1 The complaint alleged that on January 24, 2004, Swickheimer “knowingly caused serious physical injury to [M.J.] by shooting her in the chest with a pellet rifle.” The facts forming the basis for the complaint were set forth in an attached probable cause statement. Those facts included the allegation that Swickheimer shot himself in the mouth and chest with the same pellet rifle. M.J. survived her injuries.

Swickheimer appeared for a preliminary hearing on March 15, 2004. The docket sheet indicates that “[b]ased on [Swickheimer's] appearance and demeanor in court the court finds reasonable cause to believe that the defendant lacks mental fitness to proceed, and upon its own motion pursuant to [section] 552.020 RSMo,2 over the objection of defendant and his counsel, orders that that [sic] defendant be mentally examined as per order filed.”3

491 S.W.3d 583

As a result, no preliminary hearing was conducted, and Swickheimer was not bound over or ordered to appear and answer to the charge. See Rule 22.09.

Following evaluation, Western Missouri Mental Health Center prepared a report dated April 15, 2004, expressing the opinion that Swickheimer “suffers from mental disease or defect, in the form of Psychotic Disorder, Not otherwise Specified and that, as a result of mental disease or defect he lacks capacity to understand the proceedings against him and to assist in his own defense.” On May 3, 2004, the underlying trial court entered an order committing Swickheimer to the Department of Mental Health due to incompetency to proceed and for “competency training.”

On January 20, 2005, a 180–day evaluation report4 was submitted by Fulton State Hospital. The report concluded that Swickheimer “currently possesses the capacity to understand the charges5 and proceedings against him, and can assist his attorney in her [sic] own defense.” Notwithstanding, the underlying trial court concluded on April 29, 2005, that Swickheimer “continue[d] to lack the mental fitness to proceed,” and ordered Swickheimer's commitment to continue.

A December 7, 2005 follow up evaluation6 prepared by Dr. Jeffrey S. Kline, a different examiner at Fulton State Hospital, concluded that Swickheimer had the capacity to understand the proceedings against him and the nature of the judicial process, but was unable to assist his attorney in his own defense. The underlying trial court ordered Swickheimer's commitment to continue.

A June 8, 2006 follow up evaluation prepared by Dr. Kline concluded that Swickheimer was now competent to proceed, both because he understood the proceedings and because he could assist in his defense.

On June 15, 2007, more than a year later, the underlying trial court found Swickheimer competent to proceed and to assist in his own defense. The underlying trial court proceeded with a preliminary hearing, finding that there was probable cause to bind Swickheimer over for trial. Swickheimer was ordered to appear and answer to the charge on July 9, 2007. See Rule 22.09(b), (c).

Prior to the June 15, 2007 competency determination and preliminary hearing, Fulton State Hospital separately evaluated Swickheimer to address whether Swickheimer lacked criminal responsibility for his crime due to mental disease or defect pursuant to section 552.030.1, the NGRI defense. The criminal responsibility evaluation was also conducted by Dr. Kline.

491 S.W.3d 584

Dr. Kline's criminal responsibility report, dated April 9, 2007,7 summarized accounts of Swickheimer's conduct on the day M.J.8 was shot. The report concluded that as a result of Swickheimer's disease (Schizoaffective Disorder, Bipolar Type) Swickheimer “was incapable of knowing and appreciating the nature, quality, or wrongfulness of his conduct or [of] conforming his conduct to the requirements of the law” at the time M.J. was shot.

As had been scheduled during the June 15, 2007 preliminary hearing, Swickheimer appeared in court on July 9, 2007 to answer to the Assault 1st Degree charge. A hand written bench note indicates that on that same date, the State filed an Information9 charging Swickheimer with the class A felony of Assault 1st Degree in violation of section 565.050 by “knowingly caus [ing] serious physical injury to [M.J.] by shooting her in the chest with a pellet rifle.10 The bench note observed that the State appeared through counsel, and that Swickheimer appeared personally and with counsel. The bench note observed that Swickheimer was arraigned “per attached sheet,” in apparent reference to an “Arraignment” form which confirmed the parties' appearances, which noted Swickheimer's waiver of formal arraignment and reading of the Information, which noted Swickheimer's entry of a plea of NGRI, and which ordered Swickheimer to appear for trial on August 13, 2007.11

491 S.W.3d 585

The bench note then recited that following arraignment, Swickheimer filed a Notice of Intent to Rely on Defense of Mental Disease or Defect, and a separate Notice of Exclusivity of Defense of Mental Disease of Defect. Finally, the bench note indicated that the State accepted the NGRI plea, and that an order and judgment committing Swickheimer to the Department of Mental Health was executed and filed.

The July 9, 2007 order and judgment:12 (i) found that Swickheimer filed a written notice that he had no defense to the underlying charge other than the defense of NGRI; (ii) found that the State accepted Swickheimer's NGRI defense “pursuant to section 552.030.2”; (iii) found that a report of mental evaluation dated April 9, 2007 was received in evidence; (iv) concluded that the April 9, 2007 report found Swickheimer to “be suffering from mental disease or defect excluding responsibility;” and (v) found that Swickheimer was suffering from a mental disease or defect excluding responsibility. The order concluded that Swickheimer was not guilty under section 552.030,13 and “committed [Swickheimer] to the custody of the director of the Department of Mental Health for care and treatment for so long as the law provides, pursuant to section 552.040 RSMo.”

In October 2007, Swickheimer filed a pro se motion in the underlying trial court seeking conditional release from his commitment. The motion asked the court to “order an independent mental examination” to determine Swickheimer's right to release pursuant to section 552.040.14 The motion was denied on November 29, 2007.

On April 12, 2010, Swickheimer filed a second petition for conditional release pursuant to section 552.040.15 Following a

491 S.W.3d 586

bench trial, the underlying trial court denied Swickheimer's motion on June 2, 2011.

On July 6, 2011, Swickheimer escaped from a psychiatric facility in St. Louis. He was taken back into custody 43 days later, on August 19, 2011. Swickheimer was charged with escape from a State mental hospital, a class D felony pursuant to section 575.195. He pled guilty on April 19, 2012 and was sentenced to serve four years in the Department of Corrections.

On February 20, 2013, while he was incarcerated on the escape charge, Swickheimer filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in the Circuit Court of St. Louis County. The petition claimed that Swickheimer's NGRI plea was constitutionally deficient for several enumerated reasons. The St. Louis County habeas court denied Swickheimer's claims on their merits.

In April, 2014, Swickheimer was released from the Department of Corrections, and returned to Fulton State Hospital. On April 29, 2014, Swickheimer filed a second petition for writ of habeas corpus in the Callaway County Circuit Court.16 The petition alleged that Swickheimer's NGRI plea was constitutionally defective because it was accepted: (i) in the absence of disclosure of the collateral consequences of the plea; (ii) under circumstances where Swickheimer expected to appear on July 9, 2007 to enter a criminal plea; (iii) under circumstances where Swickheimer had indicated that he had the defense of accidental shooting to the underlying charge of Assault 1st Degree; and (iv) without Swickheimer personally having verified that he had no other defense by signing the notice of exclusivity of defense, or by an on-the-record inquiry to confirm that he had no other defense and was knowingly and voluntarily entering a NGRI defense.

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10 practice notes
  • State v. Payne, No. COA16-1193
    • United States
    • North Carolina Court of Appeal of North Carolina (US)
    • November 21, 2017
    ...the judgment there had declared the defendant not guilty by reason of insanity."); see also, e.g., State ex rel. Koster v. Oxenhandler , 491 S.W.3d 576, 606 (Mo. Ct. App. 2016) ("The import of our disposition is to vacate [the petitioner's] assertion of, and the State's and the underlying t......
  • State ex rel. Kelly v. Inman, SC 97744
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • January 14, 2020
    ...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 challeng......
  • State ex rel. Schmitt v. Crane, WD 84866
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • December 28, 2021
    ...establishes that a habeas petitioner is being deprived of his liberty without due process of law." State ex rel. Koster v. Oxenhandler , 491 S.W.3d 576, 589 (Mo. App. W.D. 2016) (citations omitted)."Because there is no appeal from the trial court's grant of a habeas petition, if the State s......
  • State ex rel. Schmitt v. Crane, WD84866
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • December 28, 2021
    ...establishes that a habeas petitioner is being deprived of his liberty without due process of law." State ex rel. Koster v. Oxenhandler, 491 S.W.3d 576, 589 (Mo. App. W.D. 2016) (citations omitted). "Because there is no appeal from the trial court's grant of a habeas petition, if the State s......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
10 cases
  • State v. Payne, No. COA16-1193
    • United States
    • North Carolina Court of Appeal of North Carolina (US)
    • November 21, 2017
    ...the judgment there had declared the defendant not guilty by reason of insanity."); see also, e.g., State ex rel. Koster v. Oxenhandler , 491 S.W.3d 576, 606 (Mo. Ct. App. 2016) ("The import of our disposition is to vacate [the petitioner's] assertion of, and the State's and the underlying t......
  • State ex rel. Kelly v. Inman, SC 97744
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • January 14, 2020
    ...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 challeng......
  • State ex rel. Schmitt v. Crane, WD 84866
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • December 28, 2021
    ...establishes that a habeas petitioner is being deprived of his liberty without due process of law." State ex rel. Koster v. Oxenhandler , 491 S.W.3d 576, 589 (Mo. App. W.D. 2016) (citations omitted)."Because there is no appeal from the trial court's grant of a habeas petition, if the State s......
  • State ex rel. Schmitt v. Crane, WD84866
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • December 28, 2021
    ...establishes that a habeas petitioner is being deprived of his liberty without due process of law." State ex rel. Koster v. Oxenhandler, 491 S.W.3d 576, 589 (Mo. App. W.D. 2016) (citations omitted). "Because there is no appeal from the trial court's grant of a habeas petition, if the State s......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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