This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Ricky Lee McDeid,
Commissioner of Human Services,
Aitkin County District Court
File No. P4-99-194
Supreme Court Appeal Panel
File No. AP049010
Anne M. Marcotte, P.O. Box 192, Hill City, MN 55748 (for appellant)
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Barbara Berg Windels, Assistant Attorney General, 900 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101; and
Thomas Murtha, Aitkin County Attorney, Aitkin County Courthouse, 217 Second Street Northwest, Aitkin, MN 56431 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge; Minge, Judge; and Wright, Judge.
Appellant challenges the Supreme Court Appeal Panel’s decision that he failed to make a prima facie case for a provisional or full discharge from civil commitment as a sexual psychopathic personality and a sexually dangerous person. We affirm.
On December 2, 1999, a district court ordered an indeterminate civil commitment for appellant Ricky McDeid, based on a history of more than 30 years of sexual abuse and misconduct. The district court determined that McDeid had a sexual psychopathic personality, as defined by Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 18b (1998), and was a sexually dangerous person, as defined by Minn. Stat. § 253B.02, subd. 18c (1998). McDeid appealed from this order, and we affirmed in an unpublished opinion. In re McDeid, No. C4-00-166 (Minn. App. June 20, 2000).
In early 2002, McDeid petitioned the Commissioner of Human Services (commissioner) for either a full or provisional discharge from the civil commitment. The commissioner convened a Special Review Board to hear the petition. Prior to the hearing, the Special Review Board appointed Dr. Paul Reitman to conduct a psychological evaluation. Dr. Reitman diagnosed McDeid with pedophilia, nonexclusive type, and because McDeid required intensive supervision and did not qualify for outpatient services, Dr. Reitman recommended against discharge.
The Special Review Board conducted a hearing on July 17, 2003, and issued a recommendation to the commissioner dated August 7, 2003. It substantially adopted Dr. Reitman’s conclusions, finding that McDeid had made “minimal progress” toward treatment of pedophilia and that McDeid’s release would not provide “a reasonable degree of safety [to] the public.” Thus, the Special Review Board recommended that McDeid’s petition for a full or provisional discharge be denied. The commissioner adopted this recommendation in its order dated August 11, 2003.
McDeid petitioned for reconsideration of the commissioner’s order before the Supreme Court Appeal Panel (Appeal Panel). McDeid requested that the Appeal Panel order a psychological evaluation prior to an evidentiary hearing on the petition. The Appeal Panel appointed Dr. John Austin to conduct this evaluation.
Based on several psychological tests, Dr. Austin determined that in the five to ten years following release, McDeid’s likelihood of sexually or violently reoffending ranged from six to 58 percent. Although Dr. Austin acknowledged some concerns that McDeid was targeting nonfamily members for sexual abuse, he concluded that McDeid “never was directly observed doing so” and that such action “would represent a deviation from [McDeid’s] pattern of victim choice.” Dr. Austin further found that “[McDeid’s] history contains no violent acts of harm to others,” that “[h]e has no prior history of sexual convictions,” and that “his history of violence is relatively minimal.” As a result, Dr. Austin opined that McDeid was suitable for release and unlikely to pose a threat to the public.
The Appeal Panel held evidentiary hearings on February 20 and August 6, 2004. The commissioner challenged the conclusions in Dr. Austin’s report. On cross-examination, Dr. Austin admitted that McDeid’s victims were not limited to immediate family members, that McDeid had committed violent acts against others, and that McDeid had a conviction for second-degree criminal sexual conduct.
With respect to a plan for outpatient treatment, McDeid offered testimony from Margretta Dwyer, a licensed psychologist and sex therapist. Dwyer agreed to provide outpatient treatment upon McDeid’s release. In his own testimony, McDeid admitted that he had been denied residency at two halfway houses, but that his application at a third halfway house was pending. McDeid did not otherwise propose conditions for a provisional discharge plan.
Based on McDeid’s record in treatment with the Minnesota Sex Offender Program (MSOP), the commissioner argued that McDeid remained dangerous and unlikely to adjust to open society. Since admission to the MSOP in April 1999, McDeid had not made substantial progress in his individual treatment program and entirely withdrew from treatment in November 2002. Treatment staff from the MSOP thereafter recommended that McDeid reenter and complete sex offender treatment.
The Appeal Panel rejected Dr. Austin’s report and testimony, finding that his analysis was “not supported by [McDeid’s] history and records.” It further determined that McDeid had not made any definite arrangements for a provisional discharge. Concluding that McDeid had not made a prima facie case for a provisional or full discharge, the Appeal Panel affirmed the commissioner’s order denying discharge and dismissed McDeid’s petition. This appeal followed.
McDeid challenges the Appeal Panel’s conclusion that he has not presented sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case for a provisional or full discharge from civil commitment. The existence of a prima facie case is a question of law, which we review de novo. Tousignant v. St. Louis County, 615 N.W.2d 53, 58 (Minn. 2000) (reviewing sufficiency of evidence for prima facie case).
To establish a prima facie case, the petitioner must offer sufficient evidence to avoid a directed verdict or to permit a decision on the factual merits. Caprice v. Gomez, 552 N.W.2d 753, 757-58 (Minn. App. 1996), review denied (Minn. Oct. 29, 1996). Thus, the evidence is evaluated in the same manner as on a motion for directed verdict, with all reasonable inferences taken in the petitioner’s favor. Paradise v. City of Minneapolis, 297 N.W.2d 152, 155 (Minn. 1980). For an inference to be reasonable, it cannot merely be the product of speculation, but must instead be based on a reasonable conclusion from facts in evidence. Elias v. City of St. Paul, 350 N.W.2d 442, 443-44 (Minn. App. 1984), review denied (Minn. Oct. 1, 1984); see also Howie v. Thomas, 514 N.W.2d 822, 824 (Minn. App. 1994) (holding that directed verdict inappropriate where evidence presents factual question for jury).
McDeid first challenges the Appeal Panel’s conclusion that he failed to establish a prima facie case for full discharge. The elements of a petition for a full discharge from civil commitment are set forth in Minn. Stat. § 253B.18, subd. 15 (2004), which provides:
A patient who is mentally ill and dangerous shall not be discharged unless it appears to the satisfaction of the commissioner, after a hearing and a favorable recommendation by a majority of the special review board, that the patient is capable of making an acceptable adjustment to open society, is no longer dangerous to the public, and is no longer in need of inpatient treatment and supervision.
Call v. Gomez, 535 N.W.2d 312, 317 (Minn. 1995). When determining whether a patient is capable of making an acceptable adjustment to open society, relevant factors for consideration include (1) whether the patient can obtain housing and employment and (2) whether the patient will receive support from friends, family, or the community. See Minn. Stat. § 253B.18, subd. 15 (requiring commissioner to consider whether “specific conditions” exist to assist patient to adjust to community). When determining whether a patient is no longer dangerous to the public or whether a patient requires further inpatient treatment or supervision, the primary consideration is whether the patient has been sufficiently rehabilitated during the course of civil commitment. Call, 535 N.W.2d at 319; see also In re Blodgett, 510 N.W.2d 910, 916 (Minn. 1994) (noting that if patient achieves remission of sexual disorder or brings deviant sexual conduct under control, discharge is appropriate).
To establish the elements of his claim for full discharge, McDeid substantially relies on Dr. Austin’s favorable report and testimony, which indicate that McDeid poses minimal danger and is capable of adjusting to open society. McDeid also relies on two possible employment opportunities and his pending application for residency at a halfway house.
But even when viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to McDeid, we cannot resort to inferences that are based on speculation or that could not be reached by a reasonable finder of fact. See Elias, 350 N.W.2d at 443. Dr. Austin incorrectly reported that McDeid had no convictions, no history of violence, and no victims outside his family. Dr. Austin then concluded that McDeid was capable of adjusting to society and posed no substantial danger to the public. Because Dr. Austin relied on findings that were plainly inconsistent with uncontroverted facts, a reasonable fact-finder could not adopt Dr. Austin’s conclusions.
Without the benefit of Dr. Austin’s report and testimony, McDeid lacks evidence that he no longer is dangerous or that he no longer needs inpatient treatment. Accordingly, McDeid has not established a prima facie case for full discharge from civil commitment.
We further note that, to prove that McDeid is capable of adjusting to open society, McDeid provided only unconfirmed offers of employment and merely a prospect of housing. However, given McDeid’s failure to establish a prima facie case that he no longer is dangerous and no longer needs inpatient treatment, we need not address the adequacy of this evidence to establish a prima facie case for full discharge.
McDeid also challenges the Appeal Panel’s conclusion that he failed to establish a prima facie case for provisional discharge. The elements for provisional discharge from civil commitment are set forth in Minn. Stat. § 253B.18, subd. 7 (2004), which provides:
A patient who is mentally ill and dangerous shall not be provisionally discharged unless it appears to the satisfaction of the commissioner, after a hearing and a favorable recommendation by a majority of the special review board, that the patient is capable of making an acceptable adjustment to open society.
The following factors are to be considered in determining whether a provisional discharge shall be recommended: (a) whether the patient’s course of hospitalization and present mental status indicate there is no longer a need for treatment and supervision in the patient’s current treatment setting; and (b) whether the conditions of the provisional discharge plan will provide a reasonable degree of protection to the public and will enable the patient to adjust successfully to the community.
Many of the elements necessary for a provisional discharge are guided by considerations similar to those for a full discharge. The principal difference is that, when seeking a provisional discharge, the patient must present a provisional discharge plan with appropriate conditions for release. See id., subd. 7(b).
RANDALL, Judge (concurring specially).
I concur in the result.