Craig v. Schafer
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER - IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 is DENIED. [Doc. 1 .] IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that a separate judgment will be entered this same date. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED th at, for the reasons stated herein, any motion by Brian E. Craig for a Certificate of Appealability will be DENIED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk of Court shall substitute Respondent Mark Stringer for Respondent Keith Schafer. Signed by Magistrate Judge Nannette A. Baker on 6/28/2016. (GGB)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
BRIAN E. CRAIG,
MARK STRINGER 1,
Case No. 4:13-CV-955 NAB
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This action is before the court upon Petitioner Brian E. Craig’s (Craig) Petition for Writ
of Habeas Corpus (Petition) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. [Doc. 1.] Respondent Mark Stringer
(“Respondent”) filed a response. [Doc. 13.] The parties consented to the jurisdiction of the
undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1). [Doc. 17.] For
the reasons set forth below, the Petition will be denied.
In 1994, an Iowa court convicted Craig of assault with intent to commit sexual abuse and
cause bodily injury.
In 2004, the State of Missouri charged Craig with first-degree child
molestation. Craig pleaded guilty to the charge. The trial court sentenced Craig to seven years
imprisonment, but suspended execution of the sentence and placed him on probation for five
years. The trial court subsequently revoked Craig’s probation and ordered execution of the
sentence. Shortly before Craig’s scheduled release from prison in 2010, the State of Missouri
filed a petition asserting that Craig was a sexually violent predator and requesting the trial court
Mark Stringer was appointed the new Director of the Missouri Department of Mental Health in June 2015 upon the
retirement of Keith Schafer. Pursuant to Rule 2 of the Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in the United States
District Courts, the Respondent is the state officer who has custody. Therefore, the Clerk of Court is ordered to add
Mark Stringer as the Respondent and remove Keith Schafer’s name.
to commit him to the custody of the Department of Mental Health. The trial court scheduled the
matter for a jury trial 2.
On January 12, 2012, a jury found Craig to be a sexually violent predator. (Resp’t Ex. B
at 102.) Upon the jury’s verdict, the state trial court entered a judgment finding that Craig was a
sexually violent predator and committed him to the custody of the Department of Mental Health
for control, care, and treatment until such time as Craig’s mental abnormality has so changed he
is safe to be at large.
(Resp’t Ex. B at 104.)
Craig then filed a Motion for Judgment
Notwithstanding the Verdict or in the alternative Motion for a New Trial. (Resp’t Ex. B at 106.)
On April 9, 2012, the trial court denied the motion 3. (Resp’t Ex. B at 119.) Craig appealed the
denial to the Missouri Court of Appeals, which affirmed the denial on April 16, 2013. (Resp’t
Ex. E.) Craig filed the Petition in this court on April 29, 2013.
Standard of Review
“The writ of habeas corpus stands as a safeguard against imprisonment of those held in
violation of the law. Judges must be vigilant and independent in reviewing petitions for the writ,
a commitment that entails substantial judicial resources.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 91
(2011). “In general, if a convicted state criminal defendant can show a federal habeas court that
his conviction rests upon a violation of the Federal Constitution, he may well obtain a writ of
habeas corpus that requires a new trial, a new sentence, or release.” Trevino v. Thaler, 133 S.Ct.
1911, 1917 (2013). The Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, 28 U.S.C.
§ 2254 (AEDPA) applies to all petitions for habeas relief filed by state prisoners after this
statute’s effective date of April 24, 1996. Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 326-29 (1997). In
These facts are taken directly from the Supplemental Memorandum accompanying the Missouri Court of Appeals
decision in Craig’s direct appeal. See Resp’t Ex. E. A state court’s determination of a factual issue made by a State
court shall be presumed to be correct unless rebutted by clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254.
The order denying the Motion for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict is not included in the record. The Court
cites to Craig’s motion to perfect appeal as a poor person for this information. (Resp’t B at 119.)
conducting habeas review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, a federal court is limited to deciding
whether a claim that was adjudicated on the merits in state court proceedings (1) resulted in a
decision that is “contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established
Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court, or (2) resulted in a decision that was based on
an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented at the State court
proceedings.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). A determination of a factual issue made by a state court is
presumed to be correct unless the petitioner successfully rebuts the presumption of correctness
by clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). The United States Supreme Court
has held that habeas review is available to challenge the legality of a state court order of civil
commitment or a state court order of civil contempt. Duncan v. Walker, 533 U.S. 167, 171
Craig presents three claims for review. First, he asserts that the state court erred in the
admission, over his objection, to testimony of Dr. Steffan regarding his legal interpretation of
Murrell v. State of Missouri, 215 S.W.3d 96 (Mo. 2007), which Craig claims violates his rights
to due process, a fair trial, and a fair and impartial jury. Craig contends that Dr. Jarrod Steffan
was not qualified as an expert in providing a legal analysis of case law. In his second and third
claims, Craig contends that the trial court erred in admitting the testimony of Dr. Randy Telander
and Dr. Kimberly Weitl, because their testimony regarding a rule out diagnosis of pedophilia was
irrelevant to any material issue in the case and was designed to inflame the passions of the jury.
Respondent contends that the Petition fails to rise to the level Congress requires for issuing a writ
of habeas corpus.
Dr. Jarrod Steffan’s Testimony
First, Craig contends that the Court erred in allowing the state’s attorney to question Dr.
Jarrod Steffan referencing specific Missouri case law. Dr. Steffan testified on Craig’s behalf
during his civil commitment trial. During cross-examination, over Craig’s counsel’s objection,
the following exchange occurred between the state’s attorney and Dr. Steffan:
State’s attorney: As part of forensic analysis in the field of
psychology, you’re responsible for being familiar with
Dr. Steffan: Yes.
Q: And Missouri statutes concerning sexually violent
A: Yes. We need to be familiar with the laws to which
we’re applying our work.
Q: And as such, you would study those laws and cases in
order to adequately – to prepare yourself for Missouri law as
applied to, for example, antisocial personality disorder?
A: You try to know as much information as you can about
Q: And you have reviewed cases in Missouri concerning
the sexually violent predator process?
A: Yes. I have.
Q: And you have reviewed cases concerning antisocial
personality disorder as a mental abnormality in Missouri
A: Yes. I’ve reviewed those cases.
Q: Okay. And you’ve reviewed Murrell v. State 4?
Murrell v. State, 215 S.W.3d 96 (Mo. banc 2007) (antisocial personality disorder qualifies as a mental abnormality
within the meaning of Missouri’s statutory law, if it is linked to past sexually violent behavior).
A. Yes. I have.
Q: And does that concern an antisocial personality disorder
as a mental abnormality?
A: Yes, it does.
Q: And that-- you’re aware then that Missouri law has
found antisocial personality disorder to be a qualifying
A: Yes. And I’m not stating that antisocial personality
disorder is not a possible mental abnormality. I’m saying
that in this particular case, given the facts of the case, it does
not qualify Mr. Craig as having a mental abnormality.
(Resp’t Ex. A at 346, 349.) Craig asserts that the civil commitment court erred in overruling his
objection to Dr. Steffan’s testimony, because the admission of the testimony deprived him of his
rights to due process, a fair trial, and a fair and impartial jury.
“In the habeas context, rules of evidence and trial procedure are usually matters of state
law.” Bucklew v. Luebbers, 436 F.3d 1010, 1018 (8th Cir. 2006). “It is not the province of a
federal habeas court to reexamine state court determinations on state law questions.” Estelle v.
McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 67 (1991). “In conducting habeas review, a federal court is limited to
deciding whether a conviction violated the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.”
Id. at 68. “A federal issue is raised only where trial errors infringe on a specific constitutional
protection or are so prejudicial as to amount to a denial of due process.” Bucklew, 436 F.3d at
A petitioner must show more than error requiring reversal on
direct appeal to obtain relief. He must show that the alleged
error rendered the trial fundamentally unfair- that there is a
reasonable probability that the error complained of affected
the outcome of the trial – i.e., that absent the alleged
impropriety, the verdict probably would have been different.
Carter v. Armontrout, 929 F.2d 1294, 1296 (8th Cir. 1991). In making this determination, the
federal habeas court “must review the totality of the facts in the case and analyze the fairness of
the particular trial under consideration.” Hobbs v. Lockhart, 791 F.2d 125, 128 (8th Cir. 1986).
“Rulings on the admission or exclusion of evidence in state trials rarely rise to the level of a
federal constitutional violation.” Nebinger v. Ault, 208 F.3d 695, 697 (8th Cir. 2000). The
Missouri Court of Appeals held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in permitting the
state to cross-examine Dr. Steffan regarding whether, under Murrell, antisocial personality
disorder qualified as a mental abnormality. (Resp’t Ex. E at 8.) The state appellate court held
that where an expert in a sexually violent predator case testifies that court cases helped form the
basis of his professional opinion as to what qualifies as a mental abnormality under Missouri
law, cross-examination of the expert regarding those cases is admissible. (Resp’t Ex. E at 7.)
See In re Care and Treatment of Spencer, 123 S.W.3d 166, 168 (Mo. banc 2003).
In this case, Dr. Steffan testified during direct examination that he was a forensic
psychologist and in that job he applied psychology to legal questions. (Resp’t Ex. A at 314-15.)
Dr. Steffan testified that as Craig’s expert, he was asked to determine whether Craig met the
criteria of a sexually violent predator under Missouri law. (Resp’t Ex. A at 319, 321-22, 324.)
Dr. Steffan testified on direct and cross-examination regarding his opinion that Craig’s antisocial
personality did not meet the definition of a mental abnormality for a sexually violent predator.
(Resp’t Ex. A at 334, 349.) Based on the foregoing, the Court finds that Craig has not shown a
constitutional violation in the admission of Dr. Steffan’s testimony. Dr. Steffan gave the same
testimony on direct and cross-examination. The specific reference to Murrell during crossexamination does not change the substance of Dr. Steffan’s opinion that he gave on direct
examination. Craig has failed to establish the violation of any constitutional right. Furthermore,
if the Court had erred in allowing the state’s attorney to reference Murrell, Craig has failed to
show that the outcome of his civil commitment trial would have been different absent the
reference. Therefore, the Court will deny relief on this claim.
Dr. Randy Telander and Dr. Kimberly Weitl’s Testimony
Craig’s second and third claims for review concern the testimony of Dr. Randy Telander
and Dr. Kimberly Weitl. Dr. Telander and Dr. Weitl testified on behalf of the state during
Craig’s civil commitment trial. Dr. Telander testified that Craig had a rule out diagnosis of
pedophilia. (Resp’t Ex. A at 203.) Dr. Weitl testified that Craig was arrested before she could
make a rule out diagnosis of pedophilia 5 and she diagnosed him with antisocial personality
disorder and paraphilia. (Tr. 265-69.) “Rule out in a medical record means that the disorder is
suspected, but not confirmed-i.e., there is evidence that the criteria for a diagnosis may be met,
but more information is needed in order to rule it out.” Byers v. Astrue, 687 F.3d 913, 916 n. 3
(8th Cir. 2012). Craig’s attorney objected to the doctors’ testimony asserting that a “rule out
diagnosis cannot be held to a reasonable degree of certainty” and the testimony would violate
Craig’s due process rights. The Missouri Court of Appeals found that Craig failed to preserve
for appellate review whether the doctors’ testimony was relevant or inflamed the passions of the
jury. The state appellate court held that Craig failed to establish that the rule out diagnoses were
unreliable. Finally, the state appellate court found that if the court erred in permitting the doctors
to testify to their rule out diagnoses, Craig did not establish prejudice.
Because the state appellate court found that Craig’s claims that the doctors’ testimony
was irrelevant and inflamed the passions of the jury were not preserved for appellate review, this
Dr. Weitl testified that a diagnosis of pedophilia requires a six month period of offending and Craig was arrested
before a six month time period had occurred. (Resp’t Ex. A at 268.)
Court cannot review those claims. Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 750 (1991). Therefore,
the Court will address Craig’s claims that the doctors’ testimony was more prejudicial than
probative and unreliable. As stated previously, rules of evidence and trial procedure are usually
matters of state law. Bucklew, 436 F.3d at 1018. Based on a careful review of the record, the
Court finds that Craig has not established a federal constitutional violation. Craig has failed to
show that absent the doctors’ testimony, the outcome of the trial would have been different. On
direct and cross-examination, the doctors provided detailed testimony regarding how they
formed their diagnoses including the methodologies used, interviews with Craig, and review of
his criminal and mental health records, among other things. As the state appellate court stated,
any weaknesses in the doctors’ opinions went to the weight that the testimony should be given
not its admissibility. In light of the totality of the facts in this case and the overall fairness of this
trial, the Court will deny relief on Craig’s second and third claims for review.
Based on the foregoing, the Court finds that Craig’s request for relief pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2254 should be denied. The Court finds that the state court’s findings and conclusions
regarding Craig’s claims were not contrary to, nor do they involve an unreasonable application
of clearly established federal law as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States, nor
did they result in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light
of the evidence presented in the state court proceedings. Further, because Craig has made no
showing of a denial of a constitutional right, the Court will not issue a certificate of appealability.
See 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2); Tiedeman v. Benson, 122 F.3d 518, 522 (8th Cir. 1997).
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 2254 is DENIED. [Doc. 1.]
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that a separate judgment will be entered this same date.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that, for the reasons stated herein, any motion by
Brian E. Craig for a Certificate of Appealability will be DENIED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk of Court shall substitute
Respondent Mark Stringer for Respondent Keith Schafer.
Dated this 28th day of June, 2016.
/s/ Nannette A. Baker
NANNETTE A. BAKER
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?