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Lynch v. State

Superior Court of Rhode Island, Kent

August 23, 2019

RAYMOND LYNCH
v.
STATE OF RHODE ISLAND

          For Plaintiff: Glenn S. Sparr, Esq.

          For Defendant: Judy Davis, Esq.

          DECISION

          K. RODGERS, J.

         Before this Court is Raymond Lynch's (Petitioner) Application for Post-Conviction Relief (Application). Petitioner asserts that his conviction should be vacated because the statutes under which he was convicted in State of Rhode Island v. Raymond W. Lynch, K1-1996-0591A (the underlying criminal case) are unconstitutional in that they fail to describe a crime and prescribe a penalty therein.

         This Court's jurisdiction is pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 10-9.1-1. Having reviewed the parties' memoranda, and for the reasons set forth below, this Court finds that Petitioner's conviction was not unconstitutional. Accordingly, Petitioner's Application is denied.

         I

         Facts and Travel

         On November 14, 1996, Petitioner was indicted on eight counts: three counts of first degree sexual assault under G.L. 1956 §§ 11-37-2 and 11-37-3 and two counts of second degree sexual assault under §§ 11-37-4 and 11-37-5, all of which were alleged to have occurred between January 1, 1991 and September 24, 1996; one count of second degree sexual assault under §§ 11-37-4 and 11-37-5 and one count of simple assault under § 11-5-3, both of which were alleged to have occurred between July 1, 1994 and February 15, 1995; and one count of simple assault under § 11-5-3, which was alleged to have occurred on September 20, 1996. On April 1, 1998, a jury found Petitioner guilty of three counts of first degree sexual assault and two counts of second degree sexual assault, all of which occurred between January 1, 1991 and September 24, 1996. The jury found Petitioner not guilty as to the remaining three counts. On June 26, 1998, as to each of the three counts of first degree sexual assault, he was sentenced to sixty years, with thirty years to serve at the Adult Correctional Institutions (ACI), the balance of thirty years suspended, with probation and various other conditions. As to both counts of second degree sexual assault, he was sentenced to ten years to serve at the ACI. The trial justice ordered all sentences to be served concurrently. Petitioner appealed his conviction to the Rhode Island Supreme Court and the Supreme Court affirmed. State v. Lynch, 854 A.2d 1022 (R.I. 2004).

         Prior to the instant Application, Petitioner filed several other applications for post-conviction relief. On October 22, 2004, Petitioner filed an application for post-conviction relief, which was denied on January 18, 2007. Lynch v. State, KM-2004-0918. On April 19, 2005, Petitioner filed another application, which was denied on May 1, 2007. Lynch v. State, KM-2005-0347. Petitioner appealed that decision and the Supreme Court affirmed. Lynch v. State, 13 A.3d 603 (R.I. 2011). On November 15, 2011, Petitioner filed another application, which was denied on August 30, 2012. Lynch v. State, KM-2011-1399. Petitioner appealed, and the Supreme Court affirmed based on res judicata. Lynch v. State, 86 A.3d 390 (R.I. 2014) (Mem.). On October 2, 2014, Petitioner filed another application, which was denied on April 27, 2015. Lynch v. State, KM-2014-1098. Petitioner filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari, which was denied on October 16, 2015. Lynch v. State, SU-15-0252. On April 28, 2016, Petitioner filed another application, which was denied on August 3, 2016. Lynch v. State, KM-2016-0405. Petitioner filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari, which was denied on November 25, 2016. Lynch v. State, SU-15-0252.

         On November 5, 2018, Petitioner filed the instant pro se Application for Post-Conviction Relief asking this Court to vacate his conviction for first and second degree sexual assault in the underlying criminal case, alleging his conviction is unconstitutional. On November 20, 2018, the State filed a Motion to Dismiss Petitioner's Application. In response, Petitioner filed a Motion to Dismiss the State's Motion to Dismiss together with a supporting memorandum.

         With the agreement of the Attorney General and by Order dated February 22, 2019, this Court limited all arguments[1] to "the constitutionality of a criminal statute which allegedly fails to state what constitutes the crime alleged and/or fails to provide for a penalty thereunder," without the State raising the affirmative defenses of res judicata and/or laches.

         On May 13, 2019, Petitioner's court-appointed counsel filed a Supplemental Memorandum in Support of Petitioner's Application for Post-Conviction Relief. On May 24, 2019, the Court provided notice to the State and Petitioner's court-appointed counsel that Petitioner's request for relief would be considered by this Court in the context of a summary disposition. The parties thereafter acknowledged that an evidentiary hearing was unnecessary to resolve the issues before this Court. The State filed an objection and supporting memorandum thereto on August 5, 2019.

         II

         Standard of Review

         Under § 10-9.1-1, any person who has been convicted of a crime may file an application for post-conviction relief to challenge the constitutionality of his or her conviction. Sec. 10-9.1-1(a)(1). Unlike the proceedings afforded to Petitioner for his underlying conviction, post-conviction relief motions are civil in nature. Brown v. State, 32 A.3d 901, 908 (R.I. 2011). Accordingly, the applicant bears "'the burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, that such [post-conviction] relief is warranted.'" Motyka v. State, 172 A.3d 1203, 1205 (R.I. 2017) (quoting Anderson v. State, 45 A.3d 594, 601 (R.I. 2012)). Additionally, because Petitioner challenges the constitutionality of his conviction, Petitioner has the heightened burden of demonstrating unconstitutionality beyond a reasonable doubt. See State v. Beck, 114 R.I. 74, 77, 329 A.2d 190, 193 (1974).

         When ruling on an application for post-conviction relief, if the court considers matters outside the pleadings, the court should "treat the [party's] motion as though it were a motion for summary disposition" as opposed to a motion to dismiss. Palmigiano v. State, 120 R.I. 402, 406, 387 A.2d 1382, 1385 (1978). As will be discussed, this Court has considered Petitioner's indictment, which is outside the pleadings in the instant civil action. Accordingly, this Court will review Petitioner's Application in the context of a summary disposition motion under § 10-9.1-6(c), which "'closely resembles' a grant of summary judgment under Rule 56 of the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure." Reyes v. State, 141 A.3d 644, 652 (R.I. 2016) (quoting Palmigiano, 120 R.I. at 405, 387 A.2d at 1384).

         Under § 10-9.1-6(c), the court may grant summary disposition when it finds, based on "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions and agreements of fact, together with any affidavits submitted, that there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Sec. 10-9.1-6(c). The standard for granting summary disposition on an application for post-conviction relief is the same as in granting summary judgment under Super. R. Civ. P. 56(c)-the "trial justice must consider the affidavits and pleadings . . . in the light most favorable to the party against whom the motion is made." Palmigiano, 120 R.I. at 406, 387 A.2d at 1385. The trial justice may not resolve genuine issues of material fact or adjudge the weight or credibility of the evidence. Reyes, 141 A.3d at 653.

         III

         Analysis

         Petitioner asserts that his conviction violated his due process rights under both the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and article I, section 10 of the Rhode Island Constitution because the statutes of conviction, §§ 11-37-2 and 11-37-4, fail to state what conduct qualifies as a crime and fail to provide a penalty. In response, the State contends that Petitioner cannot prove that §§ 11-37-2 and 11-37-4 are unconstitutional beyond a reasonable doubt because Chapter 37 of Title 11 of the Rhode Island General Laws, when read as a whole, clearly and unambiguously provides a description of the criminalized conduct and states a penalty.

         Petitioner was convicted of three counts of first degree sexual assault in violation of § 11-37-2. Section 11-37-2 provides:

"A person is guilty of first degree sexual assault if he or she engages in sexual penetration with another person, and if any of the following circumstances exist:
"(1) The accused, not being the spouse, knows or has reason to know that the victim is mentally incapacitated, mentally disabled, or physically helpless.
"(2) The accused uses force or coercion.
"(3) The accused, through concealment or by the element of surprise, is able to overcome the victim.
"(4) The accused engages in the medical treatment or examination of the victim for the purpose of sexual arousal, gratification, or ...

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