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Beauchene v. Harper

United States District Court, D. Maine

February 11, 2016

DONALD BEAUCHENE, Petitioner,
v.
JAY HARPER, et al., Respondents.

ORDER ON MOTION TO APPOINT COUNSEL

John C. Nivison U.S. Magistrate Judge

In this habeas action, Petitioner Donald Beauchene, [1] pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, seeks release from the Riverview Psychiatric Center and from the custody of the Commissioner of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. (Petition, ECF No. 1.) Petitioner argues that the state court’s denials of his petitions for release, filed pursuant to 15 M.R.S. § 104-A, [2] are inconsistent with or undermined by James v. State, 2015 ME 111, 121 A.3d 1290, and his continued commitment violates his due process rights. (Petition at 11-12.)

The State has moved for summary dismissal. (Response, ECF No. 9.) The State argues that the petition is untimely; that Petitioner has not exhausted available state court remedies; and that the petition lacks merit because, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1), the state court’s decision in In re Beauchene, 2008 ME 110, 951 A.2d 81, in which the Law Court addressed the issue Petitioner raises in the pending section 2241 motion, was not contrary to or an unreasonable application of Foucha v. Louisiana, 504 U.S. 71 (1992). (Id. at 6-7.)

Petitioner has not filed a reply to the State’s request for dismissal; instead, before the expiration of the time within which he was required to file a reply, Petitioner filed a request for the appointment of counsel. (Motion, ECF No. 11.) As explained below, the Court denies Petitioner’s motion to appoint counsel. The Court, however, enlarges the time for Petitioner to file a reply to the State’s request for dismissal.

I. Factual Background and Procedural History[3]

Petitioner was indicted in 1970 for a murder that occurred in 1969. Beauchene, 2008 ME 110, ¶ 2, 951 A.2d 81. He pled not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. Id. The Law Court described the trial court process as follows:

At [Petitioner’s] trial his experts testified that he had explosive personality disorder, as classified in the second edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM II). [American Psychiatric Ass'n, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders] (2nd ed. 1968). They also testified that this disorder was a mental disease or defect under the law at that time. The State's experts testified that Beauchene's traits were more consistent with an antisocial personality disorder, which was not a mental disease or defect. The jury found Beauchene not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect under Maine's then-applicable legal definition of mental disease or defect. Accordingly, pursuant to 15 M.R.S.A. § 103 (1964), Beauchene was committed to the custody of what is now the Department of Health and Human Services.

Id.

Thus, at the trial, Petitioner’s experts testified that Petitioner had “explosive personality disorder, ” which was considered to be a mental disease or defect according to the edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in effect in 1970. Id. The State’s experts testified at trial that Petitioner’s “traits were more consistent with an antisocial personality disorder, which was not a mental disease or defect.”[4] Id. Because the jury found that Petitioner was not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect, Petitioner was committed to the custody of what is now the Department of Health and Human Services. Id.

Petitioner has made several prior unsuccessful attempts, including in state court in the 1970s, in this Court in the 1990s, and again in the state court at various times from 2005 to 2014, to obtain his release from confinement on the grounds that he does not have a mental illness. Some of the procedural history of Petitioner’s prior attempts is set forth in this Court’s 1995 decision on a 28 U.S.C. § 2254 petition that Petitioner filed following the Supreme Court’s 1992 decision in Foucha. (Beauchene v. State, No. 1:94-cv-00226-MAB, D. Me. Sept. 18, 1995, Recommended Decision; D. Me. Oct. 17, 1995, Order Affirming.) This Court noted that following Petitioner’s finding of not guilty by reason of insanity on the murder charge and his subsequent commitment, the state court twice denied Petitioner’s request for release, first in 1973, and again in 1978. (Beauchene, No. 1:94-cv-00226-MAB, Recommended Decision at 1.)

Petitioner escaped from the Augusta Mental Health Institute (AMHI) in 1973. See State v. Beauchene, 382 A.2d 329, 330 & n.1 (Me. 1978) (addressing the 1973 escape and holding that Petitioner could be charged with escape from AMHI, and that the fact of Petitioner’s commitment did not give rise to a presumption that he had a mental disease or defect that rendered him legally incapable of committing the offense). In the State’s response to Petitioner’s 1994 petition, the State represented that Petitioner did not go into execution of his two-and-one-half-year prison term on the conviction for the 1973 escape, but rather remained in custody at AMHI. (Beauchene, No. 1:94-cv-00226-MAB, Response at 5.)

It appears from Petitioner’s filings, in particular an April 1978 state court decision, that Petitioner challenged his continued custody at that time on similar grounds as he now raises, i.e., that he did not have a mental disease or defect. (Beauchene, No. AUGSC-CV-1972-01166, ECF No. 1-1.) In April 1978, the state court dismissed his petition for release because it was not convinced that Petitioner “would not be a danger to the community because of his mental disease and defect.” In September 1978, Petitioner once again escaped from AMHI. State v. Beauchene, 541 A.2d 914, 915 & n.1 (Me. 1988). According to this Court’s 1994 recommended decision, the Law Court in 1979 dismissed Petitioner’s appeal of the second denial of his petition for release, because Petitioner had escaped and was at large. (Beauchene, No. 1:94-cv-00226-MAB, Recommended Decision at 1.)

In October 1978, during his escape, Petitioner, while in New York, committed rape, sodomy, and first degree assault while he was engaged in painting the victim’s apartment. Rollins v. Leonardo, 733 F.Supp. 763, 764-65 (S.D.N.Y. 1990); aff’d, 938 F.2d 380 (2d Cir. 1991) (per curiam). In 1980, Petitioner was convicted and sentenced in New York to concurrent prison terms of between eight and one-third and 25 years on the rape and sodomy counts, and four to 12 years on the assault count. 733 F.Supp. at 764-65; Beauchene, 541 A.2d at 915. The District Court for the Southern District of New York denied his 28 U.S.C. § 2254 petition, and the Second Circuit affirmed the judgment. Rollins, 733 F.Supp. at 764; Rollins, 938 F.2d at 381.[5]

In April 1988, the Law Court affirmed the judgment of conviction for the 1978 escape. Bea ...


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