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Soubasis v. Norman

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

September 8, 2014

JEFF NORMAN, Respondent.


CAROL E. JACKSON, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the petition of Dionysos Soubasis for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §2254. Respondent has filed a response in opposition, and the issues are fully briefed.

I. Procedural Background

Petitioner is currently incarcerated in the Southeast Correctional Center pursuant to the sentence and judgment of the Circuit Court of St. Charles County, Missouri. On August 17, 2005, a jury found petitioner guilty of trafficking methamphetamine in the first degree, in violation of Mo. Rev. Stat. §195.222 (Count I).[1] Resp. Ex. A. On October 7, 2005, petitioner was sentenced to a 30-year term of imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Id . The Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment on June 5, 2007. Resp. Ex. E. On October 9, 2007, petitioner, through counsel, filed an amended motion for post-conviction relief under Missouri Supreme Court Rule 29.15. Resp. Ex. H at 15. An evidentiary hearing was held on October 20, 2009, and the motion was denied on November 20, 2009. Resp. Ex. F; Resp. Ex. H at 30. On February 22, 2011, the Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed. Resp. Ex. K.

In the instant § 2254 petition, petitioner asserts four grounds for relief: (1) that his right to due process was violated by the admission of State's Exhibit 7 without proof of a valid chain of custody; (2) that the trial court erred in delivering a certain portion of the jury instructions in the disjunctive; (3) that the evidence was insufficient to support the verdict; and (4) that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate and call an alibi witness, Rachel Toner.

II. Factual Background

On October 7, 2004, Amy Brown and petitioner were occupants in Room 324 at the Best Western hotel in St. Charles, Missouri. Melvin Lindsay, the supervisor of housekeeping at the hotel, saw petitioner entering and leaving that room. On October 8, the hotel relocated Brown and petitioner to Room 319.

While cleaning Room 324, hotel staff discovered suspicious items, including rubber gloves and a bag that smelled of ammonia and contained starter fluid cans. The hotel contacted the police, and the responding officers recognized the items as paraphernalia used in the manufacture of methamphetamine. Resp. Ex. A at 147-161. The officers proceeded to Room 319, where they found Brown and noticed a strong odor of ether. Detective Weissenborn also observed a can of salt, a spice grinder, and a zipper cooler containing several jars of liquid substances. He then contacted the police department's drug unit. Id . at 184-192. When Detective Helm of the drug unit examined Room 319, he found empty pseudoephedrine boxes, camp fuel, a spice grinder, a bottle containing sludge, letters addressed to petitioner, and a money transfer receipt with petitioner's name on it. Id . at 194-208. He also found a container with multiple layers of liquid which the prosecution later offered at trial as Exhibit 7.

Meanwhile, Lindsay identified petitioner as one of the occupants of Room 324. Id . at 150-51. Officer Hymes approached petitioner in the hotel parking lot and asked him for personal identification. Petitioner falsely identified himself as Anthony Soubasis, who is petitioner's brother. In the car where petitioner sat, Officer Hymes observed a can of acetone. The officers patted petitioner down, and found a knife and a driver's license identifying petitioner as Dionysos Soubasis. Petitioner fled, and although the officers gave chase, petitioner escaped. Id . at 175-184.

Petitioner was eventually located, arrested, and interviewed by Detective Helm. Petitioner was given the Miranda warnings and waived his rights to remain silent and to counsel. Petitioner then told Detective Helm that he had helped to purchase some of the items in the room. Although petitioner denied participating in the manufacturing process, he admitted that he knew the items would be used to manufacture methamphetamine. Id . at 213.

Brian Krey, a forensic scientist at the St. Charles County criminalistics laboratory, analyzed the contents of Exhibit 7 and found that it contained methamphetamine. After the liquid evaporated into a powder, Krey tested it and found that it weighed 345.1 grams and that it contained methamphetamine. Id . at 293-95.

III. Legal Standard

Federal courts may not grant habeas relief on a claim that has been decided on the merits in state court unless that adjudication:

(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the ...

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