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Edward v. Lawrence

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

August 29, 2014

EDWARD V. LAWRENCE, Petitioner,
v.
BILL M. ARMONTROUT, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

E. RICHARD WEBBER, Senior District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on Petitioner Edward V. Lawrence's ("Petitioner") Motion for Relief from Judgment Pursuant to Rule 60(b)(6) [ECF No. 89], and Petitioner's "Motion for Leave to Submit a[n] Exhibit in Support of Claim Challenging the Unreliability of the Identification and a Showing of the Character and Credibility of State Eyewitness Henry Buford, by a Ruling in the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District that Shows His History and His Ability to Lie and Blame Others for His Wrong Doing, and that His Identification, in this Case Is Very Questionable" [ECF No. 94].

In his Rule 60(b)(6) Motion, Petitioner contends this Court "should revisit [Petitioner's] original petition for writ of habeas corpus and address the claims that were not addressed on the Merits" [ECF No. 89 at 3]. Specifically, Petitioner argues state witness Henry Buford's identification of him in a photo line-up was influenced by governmental suggestive influence, because police knew a friend had told Buford that Petitioner had committed a crime, and Buford had viewed a picture of Petitioner in a local newspaper.

I. BACKGROUND

In a state court proceeding, a jury found Petitioner to be guilty of capital murder and murder in the first degree; and he subsequently was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for fifty years on the capital murder conviction, and to a consecutive term of life imprisonment on the murder-in-the-first-degree conviction. State v. Lawrence, 700 S.W.2d 111 (Mo.Ct.App. 1985). On direct appeal, Petitioner contended the trial court erred in admitting certain identification testimony, and in disqualifying jury panel members who stated they would be unable to consider the death sentence. Id. at 111. Regarding his contention that the trial court erred in failing to suppress the identification testimony, Petitioner claimed witness Henry Buford's "identification of him in a police photo display was tainted because the witness remembered him, not from the day of the crime, but from a photo the witness had seen in a local newspaper, and from a conversation in which a friend told the witness that defendant had been involved in the murders." Id. at 112. Upon review, the Missouri Court of Appeals found no error in the trial court's admission of the identification testimony. Id. The court, noting Petitioner did not claim the police had used any improper identification procedures, recognized that "[i]t is for the trier of fact to determine the extent to which nongovernmental sources have influenced the perception or memory of a witness." Id. The court concluded Buford's identification of Petitioner was not so tainted as to be totally unreliable as a matter of law, noting Buford was fully cross-examined regarding the alleged suggestive influences and had denied the extrinsic events had swayed his identification of Petitioner. Id. The appellate court denied both of Petitioner's points, and affirmed trial court's judgment. Id.

After his convictions of capital murder and murder in the first degree were affirmed on direct appeal, Petitioner sought state postconviction relief, alleging that his trial counsel was ineffective for having failed to interview several individuals who would have corroborated his alibi on the evening of the murders, and for failing to object to the state's improper use of peremptory strikes. Lawrence v. State, 750 S.W.2d 505 (Mo.Ct.App. 1988). Petitioner and his counsel gave substantially conflicting testimony during an evidentiary hearing. Id. at 506. The motion court made extensive findings of fact regarding Petitioner's allegations, accepted his counsel's testimony, and denied Petitioner's requested relief. Id. Among its findings, the motion court stated: 1) trial counsel did not call Petitioner's mother as a defense witness to testify concerning a car used during the crimes because she told counsel she would not appear in court and testify; and 2) counsel did not call Police Officer Dennis Epps to impeach Henry Buford, because counsel determined the officer's testimony would not benefit Petitioner and the better strategy would be to cross-examine Buford thoroughly. Id. The Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed the motion court's judgment. Id. at 506-07.

Thereafter, Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 2254. Lawrence v. Armontrout, 900 F.2d 127 (8th Cir. 1990) ( Lawrence I ). The case was referred to a magistrate, who recommended the petition be denied, based on the state court opinion. Adopting the magistrate's recommendation, the district court denied Petitioner's requests for appointed counsel and an evidentiary hearing, and dismissed the petition with prejudice. Id. at 129. On appeal, the Eighth Circuit concluded Petitioner's trial counsel owed him a duty to pursue his alibi defense, and to investigate all witnesses alleged to have knowledge concerning his guilt or innocence. Id. at 130. The Eighth Circuit determined that Petitioner had not procedurally defaulted the prejudice portion of his ineffective assistance claim. It further concluded Petitioner had exhausted his state remedies, because Petitioner's postconviction counsel failed to present evidence of prejudice at the state postconviction hearing, and Petitioner consequently was unable to return to state court to obtain a ruling as to whether his trial counsel's deficient performance prejudiced his defense. Id. at 131. The Court of Appeals reversed the district court's order of dismissal, and remanded the matter with instructions to appoint counsel, and to conduct an evidentiary hearing to determine the issue of prejudice. Id.

On remand, the matter was again referred to a magistrate, who held a hearing as instructed. Lawrence v. Armontrout, 961 F.2d 113, 114 (8th Cir. 1992)( Lawrence II ). The magistrate found the proffered alibi evidence was insufficient to undermine his confidence in the outcome of Petitioner's trial, because one alibi witness was not credible, the evidence of Petitioner's guilt was substantial, and the testimony of the other witnesses did not significantly add to Petitioner's alibi defense. Id. The magistrate recommended the petition be denied [ECF No. 89 at 11].

Petitioner objected to the magistrate's recommendation, contending: 1) the magistrate misapplied the standard for determining prejudice; 2) the State's case was not as substantial as the magistrate indicated; and 3) the magistrate erroneously weighed the witnesses' credibility, thus invading the jury's province [ECF No. 89 at 11]. In a March 25, 1991, Order, the district court, explicitly stating it was not its province to determine witness credibility, found the witnesses' testimony to be relevant and admissible evidence supporting Petitioner's alibi defense [ECF No. 89 at 13-14]. The district court then stated it was "unable to declare that the omission of this evidence was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt[, ]" and concluded, "[h]aving sustained petitioner's objections on this issue, the Court will not consider the other allegations of error raised by the petitioner." [ECF No. 89 at 14]. The district court rejected the magistrate's recommendation, and granted the petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Lawrence II, 961 F.2d at 114-15. Addressing the State's appeal, the Eighth Circuit concluded the district court erred by improperly shifting the burden of proof from Petitioner to the State, and by using the incorrect legal standard in its prejudice analysis. Id. at 115. The Court of Appeals reversed the district court's order, and remanded the case for consideration under the proper Strickland [1] prejudice standard. Id. at 115-16.

On remand, the magistrate judge readopted his previous report and recommendation, concluding the habeas petition should be denied because Petitioner failed to show prejudice. Lawrence v. Armontrout, 31 F.3d 662, 665 (8th Cir. 1994) ( Lawrence III ). The district court, accepting the magistrate's report and recommendation, denied the petition, concluding, "based on the totality of the evidence, that the evidence of Lawrence's guilt was substantial, and Lawrence had not affirmatively proven that there was a reasonable probability that had his counsel interviewed and called the alibi witnesses, Lawrence would have been acquitted." Id. at 667. The district court further concluded Petitioner failed to demonstrate his trial was fundamentally unfair, or that its result was not reliable. Id.

Petitioner appealed the denial of his petition for habeas corpus relief. The Eighth Circuit addressed the appeal's merits, rejecting, as waived, the State's assertion that Petitioner's ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim was procedurally barred due to Petitioner's failure to present alibi witnesses at the state evidentiary hearing. Id. at 665-66. The Court of Appeals noted twelve witnesses testified, either in person or by affidavit, at the federal evidentiary hearing. Id. at 666. It further noted the district court had conducted a de novo review of the magistrate's report, analyzing the trial testimony and the testimony of the alibi witnesses testifying at the habeas hearing, and explicitly refusing to judge the credibility of the witnesses. Id. at 667. After reviewing the record, the Court of Appeals was convinced the district court's ruling was not erroneous, because: 1) the alibi evidence only cast some doubt on aspects of the State's case, but did not rule out the possibility that Petitioner actually committed the crimes, and 2) the evidence of Petitioner's guilt was strong and substantial. Id. at 668. As an example of the strength of the State's case, the Court noted three different witnesses identified Petitioner as being at the crime scene on the evening when the murders were committed, one of who saw him from only five feet away. Id.

On January 23, 1998, Petitioner filed a motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) to vacate the district court's judgment; the motion was denied, as was Petitioner's subsequent motion for reconsideration [ECF Nos. 29, 35, 36, 37, 48 at 1]. Petitioner then filed a notice of appeal, which the Eighth Circuit treated as an application for a certificate of appealability, and denied on April 29, 1998 [ECF Nos. 38, 41, 42]. In October of 1998, the United States Supreme Court denied Petitioner's request for a writ of certiorari [ECF No. 46].

Petitioner filed another Rule 60(b) motion on December 15, 1998; this motion also was denied, on January 20, 1999 [ECF Nos. 47, 48 at 1]. On February 23, 1999, the district court denied motions Petitioner filed for a certificate of appealability, and for leave to appeal in forma pauperis [ECF No. 52]. The Eighth Circuit treated a notice of appeal filed by Petitioner as an application for a certificate of appealability; after review by a panel, this application was denied on March 18, 1999 [ECF No. 54]. The Eighth Circuit denied Petitioner's request to file a successive habeas application on November 22, 2000 [ECF No. 67]. Petitioner filed subsequent Rule 60(b) motions, which were denied on February 4, 2003, (summarily affirmed on March 12, 2003); and on December 5, 2005 [ECF Nos. 71, 78, 79, 80]. On December 14, 2005, the district court denied Petitioner's motion for a certificate of appealability, and the Eighth Circuit denied his application for a certificate of appealability on January 23, 2006 [ECF Nos. 83, 86]. Petitioner thereafter filed petitions for rehearing by the Eighth Circuit panel, and for rehearing en banc, both of which were ...


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