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Feger v. Russell

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

September 17, 2014

CHARLES FEGER, Petitioner,
v.
TERRY RUSSELL, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

CATHERINE D. PERRY, District Judge.

Petitioner Charles Feger seeks a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. ยง 2254. Feger is currently incarcerated at the Eastern Reception Diagnostic, and Correctional Center in Bonne Terre, Missouri. Feger was convicted of robbery in the first degree and armed criminal action in the Circuit Court for St. Louis County in Clayton, Missouri. The Circuit Court sentenced him to two terms of twenty-five years imprisonment to be served concurrently.

Feger raises five grounds for relief in his petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Three of Feger's grounds for relief are barred by procedural default and the other two are without merit. Therefore, I will deny his petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

I. Procedural History

Feger was charged with robbery in the first degree and armed criminal action. His trial was held in the Circuit Court of St. Louis County, Missouri, where Robert and Joleen Taaffe represented him at trial. On November 4, 2009, the jury found Feger guilty of both counts. On December 9, he was sentenced to two twenty-five year terms to be served concurrently. He filed a direct appeal alleging three claims of error by the trial court. The state argued that his claims had not been properly preserved at trial, and the Court of Appeals for the Eastern District of Missouri agreed. The Court, however, exercised discretionary plain error review as allowed by Missouri Supreme Court Rule 30.20, and denied the claims on the merits. See State v. Feger, 326 S.W.3d 826, (Mo.Ct.App. 2010) (per curiam); Resp. Ex. E (Memorandum Supplementing Order).

Feger then filed a pro se motion for post-conviction relief under Missouri Supreme Court Rule 29.15 in the St. Louis County Circuit Court. The court appointed counsel and held an evidentiary hearing. In his motion Feger alleged two separate claims of ineffective assistance of counsel by his trial attorneys. The first claim was that counsel had failed to convey a fifteen-year plea offer. The second claim was that counsel had failed to call Feger or any other witnesses during the hearing to suppress the statements Feger made to police when he was in the hospital. Robert Taaffe testified that he did not recall a fifteen-year plea offer. Jolene Taaffe testified that there was no fifteen year plea offer. Both testified that they had considered calling witnesses at the suppression hearing before deciding against it. The motion court denied both of Feger's claims for relief. Feger appealed the motion court's decision and the state court of appeals affirmed the motion court's denial of post-conviction relief, deferring to their factual findings. See State v. Feger, 378 S.W.3d 421 (Mo.Ct.App. 2012) (per curiam); Resp. Ex. J (Memorandum Supplementing Order). Feger then filed this petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

II. Factual Background

On February 19, 2008, Feger was at a bar drinking beer and margaritas in St. Louis County along with his wife, Jennifer Feger, and uncle, James Davis. Feger's uncle left the bar between 9 and 9:30 p.m. Feger stayed at the bar with his wife until around 11 p.m., when he exited the bar into the alley after saying he felt sick. When Feger did not return quickly, his wife went outside and saw him throwing up. He told her to go back inside the bar and wait there for him.

The bar was located next to a pizza restaurant that was managed by Nathan Murphy. The restaurant had closed for the night and Murphy was finishing his shift when he was struck with a metal baseball bat and slammed into a soda machine. Murphy fell to the ground and looked up to see Feger standing over him wearing a black hooded sweatshirt, but Murphy could see Feger's face. Feger demanded that Murphy give him the money and Murphy told Feger it was on the counter. Feger walked over to the counter, took the money, and stuffed it in his sweatshirt. Feger then demanded to know where Murphy's car was and after learning it was parked behind the restaurant, Feger took Murphy's car keys.

Feger left the restaurant, headed for Murphy's car, and dropped the bat. Murphy heard the bat fall to the ground and saw Feger with his back turned, trying to unlock Murphy's car. Murphy picked up the bat, ran towards Feger and struck Feger in the back of the head with the bat. Feger fell to the ground and Murphy retrieved the money and his car keys. Murphy then went back inside the restaurant and called the police.

The police arrived and found Feger lying semi-conscious on the ground and bleeding. Feger told the police that his wife was inside the nearby bar. One of the officers went to locate her and informed her that a man appearing to be her husband was unconscious on the ground. Feger's wife identified the unconscious man as her husband and Feger was taken to a hospital in an ambulance.

At the hospital, Dr. Harlan Hodges treated Feger for his head injuries in the emergency room. According to Dr. Hodges, Feger had an open wound to his head, a skull fracture, and several hemorrhages. After treating Feger in the ER, Dr. Hodges sent Feger to the intensive care unit (ICU) and did not see him again.

Around 11:30 a.m. the next morning, the police questioned Feger in the hospital after asking hospital personnel for clearance. The police explained his Miranda rights, [1] and Feger agreed to answer questions, but he did not sign a written waiver. After some initial questioning, the police told Feger about the robbery and Feger admitted that he had committed the robbery and said he was sorry. Feger also admitted that he needed money for his $300-a-day crack habit. The police then placed him under arrest. Resp. Ex. A, 5-13.

Feger was indicted for robbery in the first degree and armed criminal action. Before trial, Feger's attorney filed a motion to suppress the statements Feger made in the hospital on the grounds that Feger had not been competent to waive his Miranda rights when he was in the hospital. At the hearing, one of the detectives testified that Feger had made a knowing and voluntary waiver of his rights and that there had been no police coercion. He also testified that Feger had not been under the influence of any medication at the time he made his statements. Based on this evidence, the trial court denied the defense motion to suppress the statements. Resp. Ex. A, 5-13.

At some point before Feger's trial, the state offered a plea of twenty-years imprisonment. Both Feger and his trial counsel confirmed that this offer was made and that after conferring with his attorneys, Feger rejected the offer. The defense raised the ...


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