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Allen v. United States

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

August 22, 2014

BILLIE JEROME ALLEN, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

E. RICHARD WEBBER, Senior District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on Petitioner Billie Jerome Allen's Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59 [ECF No. 379].

I. BACKGROUND

On March 17, 1997, Petitioner Billie Jerome Allen and Norris Holder robbed the Lindell Bank & Trust Company in Saint Louis, Missouri. The bank robbery resulted in the death, by multiple gunshot wounds, of bank security guard Richard Heflin. Mr. Allen was indicted for crimes stemming from the armed bank robbery in April 1997. Count I of the indictment charged him with killing Mr. Heflin in the course of committing an armed bank robbery, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2113(a) and (e) (1994). Count II of the indictment charged Mr. Allen with using a firearm to commit a crime of violence resulting in the death of another under circumstances constituting first-degree murder, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(j)(1) (1994 and Supp. II 1996).[1] The Government filed a timely notice of intent to seek the death penalty, and, following a trial, a jury found Mr. Allen guilty on both Counts. Following a separate penalty phase, the jury returned a sentence of life imprisonment on Count I, and a sentence of death on Count II. The Court formally sentenced Mr. Allen on June 4, 1998.

On February 11, 2008, Mr. Allen filed his Amended Motion Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence by a Person in Federal Custody Under a Sentence of Death (Amended Motion) [ECF No. 60], [2] raising numerous grounds for relief. In its Memorandum and Order dated May 10, 2011 [ECF No. 147], the Court denied, without an evidentiary hearing, all but one of Mr. Allen's asserted grounds of relief. The Court granted an evidentiary hearing regarding Mr. Allen's claim trial counsel were ineffective for failing to adequately investigate and present mitigating evidence at the penalty phase of trial.

On June 14, 2011, Mr. Allen filed a Motion for Reconsideration [ECF No. 149], asking, inter alia, the Court to reconsider various portions of its May 10, 2011 Memorandum and Order. The Court denied the Motion for Reconsideration on August 29, 2011. ECF No. 165. Then, on dates between June 4, 2012 and December 10, 2012, the Court conducted an extensive evidentiary hearing on Mr. Allen's claim trial counsel were ineffective for failing to adequately investigate and present mitigating evidence at the penalty phase of trial. Afterward, the parties submitted post-hearing briefs.

On November 25, 2013, Mr. Allen filed a Letter to the Court requesting permission to file a pro se motion raising additional grounds for his pending Amended Motion. The Court, although recognizing it had no obligation to entertain pro se filings while Mr. Allen is represented by counsel, permitted Mr. Allen to state his additional grounds for relief. The Court allowed Mr. Allen to "submit only those filings necessary to apprise the Court of (1) the substance of his additional grounds for relief, and (2) whether such grounds have been procedurally defaulted." ECF No. 361 at 2. On February 12, 2014, after receiving additional pro se filings outside this scope, the Court ordered, in the future, it would only accept filings through counsel of record. ECF No. 372.

On June 25, 2014, the Court denied relief as to both the pro se filings and the filings submitted with assistance of counsel, including the claim litigated at the evidentiary hearing. ECF Nos. 373-74. The Court entered judgment against Mr. Allen the same date. ECF No. 375. Mr. Allen filed a pro se Motion for Recusal [ECF No. 377] on July 7, 2014, which the Court struck from the record pursuant to its February 12, 2014 Order. In the instant Motion, Mr. Allen, through counsel, seeks to alter the Court's June 25, 2014 judgment.

II. STANDARD

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e), a district court has broad discretion to "alter or amend a judgment... no later than 28 days after the entry of judgment." Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e); Innovative Home Health Care, Inc. v. P.T.-O.T. Assocs. of the Black Hills, 141 F.3d 1284, 1286 (8th Cir. 1998). Motions under Rule 59(e) "serve the limited function of correcting manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence." U.S. v. Metro. St. Louis Sewer Dist., 440 F.3d 930, 933 (8th Cir. 2006) (internal quotations omitted). "Rule 59(e) motions cannot be used to introduce new evidence, tender new legal theories, or raise new arguments which could have been offered or raised prior to the entry of judgment." Id. at 934.

III. DISCUSSION

In the instant Motion, Mr. Allen argues the judgment should be amended on several grounds. First, he contends the Court erred in finding he was not denied effective assistance of counsel in relation to his efforts to suppress certain incriminating statements made to law enforcement officials. Second, he claims the Court erroneously concluded counsel was not deficient for failing to present various forms of alleged exculpatory evidence during the guilt phase of trial. Finally, Mr. Allen states the Court should have granted relief on the grounds set forth in his pro se filings. For reasons stated infra, relief will be denied.

A. Motion to Suppress

On May 8, 1997, Mr. Allen filed a Motion to Suppress certain incriminating statements he made to law enforcement officials. See Case No. 4:97CR00141 ERW, Doc. No. 71. At the suppression hearing, the Government presented evidence indicating Mr. Allen was properly informed of his Miranda rights at the time of his arrest - approximately 2:00 A.M. on March 18, 1997 - and again upon his arrival at police department headquarters a short time later. A few hours later, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent Jan Hartman attempted to give Allen a third Miranda warning, but he interrupted her by requesting an attorney. The Government's evidence further suggested, on the following morning, Mr. Allen participated in a lineup but declined to have counsel present. After he was identified, a detective declined his request to "talk about it" based on his previous request for an attorney, whereupon he responded he did not want an attorney and wished to speak to a Lieutenant Henderson. Testimony indicated Mr. Allen was then directly led to an interview room and given a Miranda warning once again, at which point he made incriminating statements.

Mr. Allen contends the Court manifestly erred in concluding he was not denied effective assistance of counsel in connection with his motion to suppress statements made to the police. Specifically, Mr. Allen argues the Court erred by finding: (1) "the magistrate judge did not rule that Mr. Allen would be subject to cross examination on anything other than the issues pertaining to his motion to suppress, " (2) "counsel's performance was not deficient, " and (3) "counsel submitted a timely offer of proof to the magistrate court concerning Mr. Allen's proffered testimony." ECF No. 379 at 9. For reasons stated infra, the Court does not agree.

1. Scope of Cross Examination at the Suppression Hearing

First, Mr. Allen contends the Court manifestly erred when it held, "The magistrate judge did not suggest that [Mr.] Allen would be subject to cross examination on anything other than the preliminary matter' of issues relevant to his motion to suppress[.]" ECF No. 147 at 11. Mr. Allen claims the magistrate judge stated he would be subject to cross examination on any subject pertaining to the case if he chose to testify at the suppression hearing; he states he opted out of testifying on this basis. Mr. Allen states, had the magistrate judge properly limited the scope of cross examination to matters discussed on direct examination, he would have testified at the suppression hearing. He further argues his testimony would have resulted in the exclusion of his incriminating statements to law enforcement officers.

The Court finds it did not manifestly err in concluding "[t]he magistrate judge did not suggest that [Mr.] Allen would be subject to cross examination on anything other than the preliminary matter' of issues relevant to his motion to suppress[.]" ECF No. 147 at 11. The relevant portion of the suppression hearing transcript reads as follows:

THE COURT: I just want the, - I just want to make my point. I don't know what Mr. Landolt's position is, but to avoid this when we're in the middle of it, my position is once an individual takes a witness stand he's there for whatever cross examination that may pop up, especially in a situation like this. So, if you want to limit his testimony to various items, I'm not so sure that I can keep Mr., - or I won't keep Mr. Landolt to that limitations [sic]. I want to make sure you knew that going in.
MR. DEDE: Oh, alright. Well, then let me discuss that with the Defendant. It would be my position that consistent with, -
THE COURT: Unless Mr. Landolt agrees to cross only on the issues addressed in questioning.
MR. LANDOLT: Judge, I think once he takes the witness stand he's, - the issues in the case are the scope of cross examination.
THE COURT: Yeah. Well, that's what, -
MR. DEDE: Well, - I'm sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt.
THE COURT: No, that's okay. ...

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