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Schmid v. McCauley

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

May 15, 2019




         Petitioner Anastazia Schmid was found guilty but mentally ill of murder and related charges in an Indiana state court. Ms. Schmid now seeks a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. After reviewing the record and the parties' briefs, the Court concludes that Ms. Schmid received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial in violation of her Sixth Amendment rights. Ms. Schmid's counsel failed to request a competency hearing before trial despite his inability to communicate effectively with her about her case due to her mental state.

         In denying Ms. Schmid's ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim, the Indiana Court of Appeals unreasonably determined the facts and unreasonably applied clearly established Federal law as determined by the United States Supreme Court in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), and Drope v. Missouri, 420 U.S. 162, 171 (1975). When these standards are correctly applied, they reveal that Ms. Schmid's counsel's errors “so undermined the proper functioning of the adversarial process that the trial cannot be relied on as having produced a just result.” Strickland, 466 U.S. at 686.

         A federal habeas court “will not lightly conclude that a State's criminal justice system has experienced the ‘extreme malfunctio[n]' for which federal habeas relief is the remedy.” Burt v. Titlow, 571 U.S. 12, 20 (2013) (citation omitted). But this case presents a rare instance where this has occurred. Accordingly, Ms. Schmid's petition for a writ of habeas corpus is GRANTED. A writ of habeas corpus shall issue ordering Ms. Schmid's release from custody unless the State elects to retry Ms. Schmid within 120 days of the entry of Final Judgment.



         Federal habeas review requires the Court to “presume that the state court's factual determinations are correct unless the petitioner rebuts the presumption by clear and convincing evidence.” Perez-Gonzalez v. Lashbrook, 904 F.3d 557, 562 (7th Cir. 2018); see 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). On direct appeal, the Indiana Court of Appeals summarized the relevant facts and procedural history as follows:

Schmid has an extensive history of psychological problems that began when she was a young girl. By 2001, when she was twenty-eight years of age, she had been married and divorced and was living with her boyfriend, Tony Heathcote (Heathcote), the victim. Schmid's prior marriage had produced a daughter, and, on March 2, 2001, Schmid was informed that Heathcote allegedly had molested her daughter. Upon receiving this news, Schmid became very upset. Two days later, on March 4, 2001, Schmid and Heathcote were having sexual relations at their home using restraints, a dog collar, a leash, and a blindfold when Heathcote suggested that Schmid play the part of the little girl and Heathcote would play the part of the daddy. This statement caused Schmid to think of her daughter. At that time, Schmid obtained a knife and began stabbing Heathcote who was blindfolded and restrained at the ankles. Heathcote was stabbed thirty-nine (39) times and died. Later, Schmid indicated that at the time of the stabbing she had heard a voice telling her that she was the messiah and that Heathcote was evil and needed to be eliminated. Following a jury trial, Schmid was convicted with verdicts of guilty but mentally ill.

Schmid v. State, 804 N.E.2d 174, 177 (Ind.Ct.App. 2004).

         Ms. Schmid was arrested on March 6, 2001, and charged with murder and related counts. Dkt. 66-3, p. 45. Three judges presided over the proceedings, beginning with Judge George J. Heid. Trial Tr. 1.[1] The court appointed public defenders Phillip Smith and Amy Hutchinson to represent Ms. Schmid. Id., p. 39-40. They filed a motion for a competency hearing and Ms. Schmid was evaluated by Dr. Richard Rahdart and Dr. Mukesh Desai. Id. p. 40. On June 25, 2001, the trial judge determined that she was not competent, so she was transferred to Evansville State Hospital for treatment. Id. pp. 52-53; 62. On October 16, 2001, she returned to the county jail. Id., p. 62.

         On January 16, 2002, Ms. Hutchinson filed a second motion to determine competency because Ms. Schmid was experiencing hallucinations and “going backwards again.” Id. p. 51; Trial Tr. 17. The court reappointed Dr. Rahdert and Dr. Desai, who evaluated Ms. Schmid on January 22 and 23, 2002. Id. at 18. Although both found her competent, the court did not make a competency determination. On February 6, 2002, the trial judge changed. Judge David J. Crouse took over as the pro tem judge for Judge Heid. Id. at 27.

         Eight months elapsed between Dr. Rahdert and Dr. Desai's evaluations and the start of Ms. Schmid's trial. During this time, she was transported several times to Wabash Valley Hospital to be evaluated and have her medications adjusted by a psychiatrist based on fluctuations in her mood and behavior. Dkt. 42-4, PCR Confidential Exhibit Vol. 1, pp. 17-24, 51-54, 72-78, 83-84; PCR App. 56-57. Prior to and during her trial, the county jail administered the following psychiatric medications daily to Ms. Schmid: Neurontin, Topamax, Depakote, Klonopin, Thorazine, Effexor, Zyprexa, and Risperdal. Id., pp. 51-54.

         Shortly before the trial commenced, the pro tem judge, Judge Crouse, was relieved from his temporary duties by Judge Thomas H. Busch, who became the third judge to preside over the case. Trial Tr. 54. On August 12, 2002, Ms. Schmid's family retained private counsel, David Hennessy, who became lead counsel on the case. Dkt. 66-3, p. 54; PCR Tr. 432.

         On August 15, 2002, Ms. Hutchinson filed a motion to withdraw. Dkt. 66-3, p. 75. On August 19, 2002, Mr. Hennessy filed a motion for continuance. Dkt. 66-3, pp. 69-70. The court denied both motions. Trial Tr. 77-78.

         Prior to the start of trial, the judge realized that a final determination of Ms. Schmid's competency to stand trial had never been made. Dkt. 66-3, p. 91; dkt. 66-4, pp. 2-5. On August 23, 2002, despite 1) his lack of personal knowledge of the proceedings before he took the bench three weeks prior; 2) the eight months that had passed since Ms. Schmid's last evaluation, during which her medications had been adjusted on several occasions; and 3) without any further evaluations or a hearing to determine Ms. Schmid's present mental state, the court entered a nunc pro tunc competency determination backdated to February 8, 2002. Dkt. 66-4, p. 5. On September 19, 2002, the court granted Mr. Smith's motion to withdraw as counsel. Dkt. 66-3, p.77. Ms. Hutchinson continued to assist Mr. Hennessy.

         Trial by jury began on September 30, 2002. Mr. Hennessy presented evidence of Ms. Schmid's mental illness, including the testimony of three psychiatrists. Dr. Desai testified to her psychiatric history, stating “she had a history of hallucinations from about age five . . . [and] a history of several psychiatric hospitalizations.” Trial Tr. 613. His diagnosis was:

she suffered from dissociative disorder not otherwise specified [and] ... bipolar disorder with psychotic features. The evidence for this is the history of auditory hallucinations, hearing voices, the visual hallucinations, seeing angels and devils, delusional belief that [Heathcote] was the devil.

Id. at 621. Dr. Desai opined that at the time of Mr. Heathcote's death, Ms. Schmid “was not able to appreciate the nature and quality of her act.” Id. at 622. Similarly, Dr. Rahdert and Dr. Coon each diagnosed Ms. Schmid with schizoaffective disorder and both found that she was legally insane at the time of the killing. Id. at 688-91, 741-42. On the other hand, Dr. Crane, the prosecution's witness, testified that he believed Ms. Schmid was able to appreciate the wrongfulness of her acts at the time of the murder. Id. at 782.

         During the trial, Schmid's attorneys had increasing concerns as to her competence. In a sidebar on October 2, 2002, Mr. Hennessy stated:

The Court's aware from previous competency and restoration of competency pretty much the mental condition of Ms. Schmid. Yesterday she was having some problems and the voices were starting and it's typical of the schizophrenic aspect of the mental disease that they start as whispers and build and to a crescendo and that's where they were. Through the day we'd get a break and that helped her and then last night [Ms. Hutchinson] went to see her and [Ms. Hutchinson] has some real concerns after that meeting.

Id. at 223-24.

         Ms. Hutchinson added that Ms. Schmid had been experiencing severe shaking, was hearing voices, and that her eyes would “just fixate on one spot.” Id. at 225. The judge responded, “I don't want to question [Ms. Schmid] because that's probably not appropriate.” He then asked Ms. Hutchinson if Ms. Schmid knew “enough to let you know when she's having a problem or does someone have to observe her and let us know?” Id. Ms. Hutchinson stated she thought Ms. Schmid could let her know when she was having a problem and that they would let the Court know if they questioned her competence. Id. at 226.

         Without further inquiry, the Court resumed the trial. The following day, the prosecutor requested a ruling from the court that Ms. Schmid was competent. Id. at 328. Judge Busch asked counsel if there was any objection and stated that from his observations, Ms. Schmid appeared aware of the proceedings and had been communicating with counsel. In response, Mr. Hennessy stated, “[w]e would stipulate to that ... she's been communicating with counsel.” Id. Ms. Hutchinson stated, “[s]he gets-she can talk to me about the trial last night as well, it's just the auditory voices and her eyes, I had some concerns.” Id. at 329. The Court found her no reason to find Ms. Schmid incompetent. Id.

         The jury returned its verdict on October 5, 2002, finding Ms. Schmid guilty, but mentally ill, of murder and other related charges. Dkt. 66-1, pp. 32-33. The court sentenced Ms. Schmid to 55 years' incarceration, with five years suspended. Dkt. 66-3, pp. 56-58. Ms. Schmid's conviction was upheld on direct appeal. Schmid, 804 N.E.2d 174. After her petition to transfer was denied by the Indiana Supreme Court, Ms. Schmid sought state post-conviction relief. On appeal from the denial of post-conviction relief, she argued that: 1) her attorneys were ineffective for failing to raise the defense of use of justifiable reasonable force; 2) “she was incompetent to stand trial, and the attorneys were ineffective for failing to bring to the court's attention her deteriorated mental condition”; 3) her attorneys were ineffective for failing to communicate a plea offer; and 4) her trial attorneys were ineffective for failing to explore the possibility that she testify. Dkt. 61-9. The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of postconviction relief on August 13, 2012. Dkt. 6-11. On transfer to the Indiana Supreme Court, Ms. Schmid reasserted her claims, and the Indiana Supreme Court denied transfer on November 8, 2012.

         Ms. Schmid filed the instant petition for a writ of habeas corpus on February 11, 2014. This Court denied her petition as untimely on June 24, 2014. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the judgment and remanded the case with instructions to consider holding an evidentiary hearing on the issue of equitable tolling. Dkt. 49. A hearing was held on February 15, 2019. Dkt. 101. The Court ...

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