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Sheikh v. State

United States District Court, D. Maine

June 29, 2017

RAHMA SHEIKH, Petitioner,
v.
STATE OF MAINE, Respondent

          RECOMMENDED DECISION ON 28 U.S.C. § 2254 PETITION

          John C. Nivison U.S. Magistrate Judge

         In this action, Petitioner Rahma Sheikh seeks relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 from her commitment to the custody of the Commissioner of Health and Human Services, following a charge of aggravated assault and a plea of not guilty/not criminally responsible.[1] (Petition, ECF No. 1; Attachment, ECF No. 1-3.) Petitioner argues it is “impossible to know whether Petitioner entered a voluntary plea, ” because the state court did not employ certain procedural safeguards at the hearing. (Reply, ECF No. 11 at 2; Petition at 5.) More specifically, Petitioner argues that because a state psychologist, approximately one week before the plea, concluded Petitioner was only minimally competent, and because competency can fluctuate between the time of a pre-hearing evaluation and a hearing, due process requires an evaluation or assessment immediately before the plea is entered to ensure the plea is knowing and voluntary. (Reply at 2.) The State asks the Court to deny relief, and dismiss the petition. (Response, ECF No. 3.)

         Following a review of the record, the petition, and the State's response, I recommend the Court grant the State's request, and dismiss the petition.

         I. Factual Background and Procedural History

         Petitioner was indicted in October 2012 for aggravated assault (Class B), 17-A M.R.S. § 208(1)(B). (State v. Sheikh, No. CUMCD-CR-2012-06014 Unified Criminal Docket (Cumberland Cty., Oct. 5, 2012), Indictment, Docket Record at 2.) The indictment alleged that Petitioner caused bodily injury by use of a knife. (Indictment.)

         The court held a hearing on February 7, 2013, at which hearing the court found, based on an undisputed forensic report dated February 1, 2013, that there was a factual basis for a plea of not guilty/not criminally responsible by reason of insanity, and that Petitioner was competent to enter the plea. (Hearing Tr. at 1, 3-4, 8-9.) The discussion and colloquy included the following:[2]

THE COURT: It's true, you don't want a trial? You don't want a jury trial? You don't want the right to contest the State's charge?
THE DEFENDANT: Yeah.
THE COURT: All right. And so what I also have to find out - I'm assuming, does anyone think I need - we need to do the full Rule 11 under these circumstances? I'm assuming that all we need to do is make sure that [counsel] has explained those rights - since no one's contesting this, that [counsel] has explained those rights, that Ms. Shelkh understands those rights, and that she understands the implications of this plea, of the not criminally responsible plea.
[COUNSEL]: I think that's accurate.
. . .
THE COURT: Okay. So, Ms. Shelkh, here's all I have to tell you, is that, and I know [counsel] has almost certainly already told you this, that by pleading not criminally responsible and having that plea accepted without it - by the Court, and with no objection from the State, the result will be you'll go back to Riverview - THE DEFENDANT: Uh-huh.
THE COURT: -- Psychiatric Center.
THE DEFENDANT: Yes.
THE COURT: And you - they will be keeping you there and offering treatment and evaluation. And how long you will remain there is unclear; it could ...

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