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Beauchene v. State

Supreme Court of Maine

July 11, 2017

DONALD BEAUCHENE
v.
STATE OF MAINE

          Argued: May 9, 2017

          Rory A. McNamara, Esq. (orally), Drake Law, LLC, Berwick, for appellant Donald Beauchene.

          Janet T. Mills, Attorney General, and Laura A. Yustak, Asst. Atty. Gen. (orally), Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for appellee State of Maine

          Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          HUMPHREY, J.

         [¶l] Donald Beauchene appeals from a judgment entered in the Superior Court (Kennebec County, Mullen, J.) denying his petition for discharge or modified release from psychiatric hospitalization pursuant to 15 M.R.S. § 104-A (2016). We affirm the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] In 1970, Beauchene was acquitted of a murder charge by reason of a mental disease or defect and was committed to the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, where he remains committed pursuant to 15 M.R.S. § 103 (2016). On February 22, 2016, Beauchene filed in the Superior Court a petition seeking discharge or a modified treatment plan. The court held a hearing on the petition on September 16, 2016, at which three mental health professionals testified. The court denied the petition by written order dated October 24, 2016.

         [¶3] The court made the following findings of fact, which are supported by competent record evidence. At the 1970 trial, the State presented medical experts who opined that Beauchene did not suffer from a mental disease or defect, while Beauchene presented medical experts who opined that he committed the crime due to a mental disease or defect, which they diagnosed as "explosive personality." In June 1970, the jury found Beauchene not guilty of the murder charge by reason of mental disease or defect, and he was committed to the custody of the Department. Beauchene escaped from the psychiatric hospital in April 1973 and was returned to Department custody in 1978. In September 1978, Beauchene escaped from the hospital again and fled to New York. In 1980, he was prosecuted by the State of New York for rape, sodomy, and assault and was convicted of all three charges.

         [¶4] Beauchene exhibits mental health symptoms that are consistent with anti-social personality disorder, and those symptoms have been consistent since 1970. He demonstrates rigidness, deceitfulness, and lack of remorse for his criminal behavior, as well as a lack of insight into his criminal and mental health history. His past behavior has raised concerns about grooming and targeting vulnerable women and his risk of flight. The court concluded that Beauchene's mental condition has "changed very little, if any[, ] since" 1970, and if discharged, released, or placed in a modified treatment plan, Beauchene would pose a risk of harm or danger to himself or to others. The court accordingly denied the petition. Beauchene timely appealed pursuant to 15 M.R.S. § 2115 (2016) and M.R. App. P. 2.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Sufficiency of the Evidence

         [¶5] Beauchene first contends that the evidence compelled the trial court to conclude that he does not suffer from a mental disease or defect.

         [¶6] "When the acquittee seeks release or discharge from Department custody, it is the acquittee's burden to establish, by clear and convincing evidence, that he 'may be released or discharged without likelihood that [he] will cause injury to [himself] or to others due to mental disease or defect.'" Begin v. State,2016 ME 186, ¶ 8, 153 A.3d 93 (alteration in original) (quoting 15 M.R.S. § 104-A(1), (3)). The acquittee must establish either that (1) "the mental disease or defect by reason of which he was relieved of criminal responsibility no longer exists, " or (2) he "no longer poses a danger to himself or others if he is released" despite any continuing mental illness. Green v.Comm'r of Mental Health & Mental Retardation,2000 ME 92, ¶ 27, 750 A.2d 1265 (emphasis omitted) (quotation marks ...


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