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Rhoades v. Dormire

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

September 26, 2014

DOYNE A. RHOADES, Petitioner,
v.
DAVE DORMIRE, Respondent.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

SHIRLEY PADMORE MENSAH, Magistrate Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Missouri State prisoner Doyne A. Rhoades's ("Petitioner's") pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (Doc. 27). After reviewing the case, the Court has determined that Petitioner is not entitled to relief. As a result, the petition will be dismissed.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND[1]

On December 18, 2006, Petitioner was in Moberly, Missouri, in violation of his parole. He was visiting the residence of his girlfriend, Zoah Smith. A friend of his from prison, Tim Adams, was also present. Late in the evening, Willie Patton came to Smith's residence to collect thirty dollars she owed him for crack cocaine. Patton initially told Smith and Petitioner that the debt would be forgiven if they stole some items from Wal-Mart for him, which they did. However, Patton later stated that the debt would be forgiven only for cash or sexual favors from Smith. Patton and Petitioner got into a physical altercation. Petitioner testified that Adams then struck Patton in the back of the head, and Patton fell to the ground unconscious. Petitioner testified that he and Adams loaded Patton into the back of a Lincoln vehicle. They drove to the home of Alfred Rathbun, where Petitioner told Rathbun that he had beaten a man unconscious because the man had "disrespected" Petitioner and that they wanted to borrow Rathbun's van to move the body. Rathbun refused, and Petitioner and Adams drove to a remote location in the Lincoln vehicle with Patton still in the trunk. According to Petitioner, when they opened the trunk to retrieve the body, Patton was alive, and he hit Adams with a tire iron. Petitioner testified that Patton then attempted to jump out of the trunk but fell, and Adams hit Patton multiple times with a tire iron. Petitioner and Adams then stripped the unconscious Patton down to his underwear, tied him up with cable and speaker wire from the car, and left him in a ditch. The medical examiner testified that Patton died in the ditch from a combination of head trauma and weather exposure.

On December 20, 2006, Petitioner was arrested for violating his parole and was confined to the Justice Center in Moberly. In investigating Patton's disappearance, Sergeant Arnsperger of the Moberly Police Department learned that Petitioner might have been one of the last people to see Patton before he disappeared. Investigators had also located the Lincoln vehicle and found blood evidence in the trunk. Arnsperger went to the Moberly Justice Center and spoke with Petitioner there. Petitioner initially stated that that he did not know Patton but eventually stated that he did know Patton, just not by that name, and that he had seen Patton and argued with him the day before the events in question. After this initial discussion, Petitioner refused to speak to investigators without an attorney present. Subsequently, the pants Petitioner had been wearing when he was arrested were found to have blood stains on them that were consistent with Patton's DNA. Petitioner was then charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action.

At trial, the State sought to elicit testimony from Officer Arnsperger about his questioning of Petitioner prior to the request for counsel. Petitioner's counsel objected that the statements were inadmissible because they had been made without Petitioner having been given Miranda warnings. The trial court overruled the objection and permitted the testimony. Officer Arnsperger testified that he went to the Moberly Justice Center "just to find out if [Petitioner] knew where [Patton] was at" and that he did not know at the time what had happened to Patton. Resp't Ex. K, Record on Appeal - Transcript, 468-69, 475. Officer Arnsperger testified that he asked to speak to Petitioner, that Petitioner was brought down from his cell, and that Officer Arnsperger and another officer sat down with him and spoke with him. Id. at 469. The officer testified that he did not give Miranda warnings to Petitioner "[b]ecause I didn't have a crime and I wasn't asking-he wasn't under arrest by me." Id. The officer told Petitioner that they were investigating a missing person case, told him that his name had come up in conversations with Patton's family members, and asked him if he knew anything about Patton or where he was. Id. at 470-71. The officer testified that Petitioner initially said he did not know Patton. Id. at 471. The officer then asked Petitioner questions about his activities during the days preceding Patton's disappearance. Id. at 471-75. The officer testified that Petitioner eventually stated that he did know Patton, just not by that name; that Patton had come over and gotten into a dispute with Petitioner and his girlfriend over a $30 debt; that Patton had threatened to shoot them; that Patton left; and that Petitioner did not know what had happened to Patton. Id. at 477-80. The officer testified that Petitioner was free to not answer his questions. Id. at 469. Petitioner acknowledged on cross-examination that he knew he did not have to talk to the officers if he did not want to and that he had not been forced to talk to the officers. Id. at 654.

Also at trial, during the cross-examination of Petitioner, the state attempted to impeach Petitioner by showing that his changing testimony was related to his knowledge of his codefendant's (Adams's) cooperation with police. Defense counsel objected on the ground that such testimony was hearsay. The trial court sustained the objection as to "the content of what Adams said" but stated that the prosecution could elicit testimony regarding "a motive to change [Petitioner's] statement." Resp't Ex. D, at 16. The cross-examination of Petitioner then included the following exchange:

Q. Okay. But you're-at that point in time, before talking to the police, you're concerned, one, if the [S]tate's going to seek the death penalty.
A. Yes.
Q. And you're concerned about whether Adams might testify against you.
A. Yes.
Q. And you now know, I don't need the details, but you now know that Mr. Adams has told a different story about-
MR. SLUSHER: Objection, Your Honor. It's hearsay.
THE COURT: The objection will be overruled.
Q. [By Mr. Zoellner]: You know he's telling a different story about who did what that night.
A. Yes.
Q. And he's pointing a finger at you.
A. Yes.

Resp't Ex. D at 16-17.

After the end of a two-day trial, the jury began deliberations at approximately 6:30 p.m. At 11:30 p.m., after five hours of deliberations, the jury sent a note to the trial court stating, "We would like to take a short break." The trial court responded with a note that said, "Please continue your deliberations." The jury did so and found the defendant guilty at around 2:00 a.m. on June 5, 2008.

II. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On June 5, 2008, a jury in the Circuit Court of Randolph County convicted Petitioner of one count of murder in the first degree and one count of armed criminal action. Resp't Ex. A at 9, 87-88. On July 18, Petitioner was sentenced to concurrent terms of life in prison without eligibility for probation or parole and 30 years in prison. Id. at 97. On October 20, 2009, Petitioner's conviction and sentence were affirmed on direct appeal. Resp't Ex. D. On November 5, 2009, Petitioner filed a motion for post-conviction relief pursuant to Missouri Supreme Court Rule 29.15, and on March 22, 2010, he filed an amended motion, Resp't Ex. E at 4, 110. The Circuit Court of Randolph County held a hearing on May 13, 2010, and it denied Petitioner's amended motion on June 8, 2010. Id. at 131, 137. On July 12, 2011, the Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of post-conviction relief. Resp't Ex. J. Petitioner's Motion for Rehearing and/or Transfer to the Supreme Court was denied on August 30, 2011.

Petitioner filed the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus on August 11, 2011 (Doc. No. 1), and it was amended with leave of Court on March 27, 2012 (Doc. Nos. 17 & 18). In the petition, as amended, Petitioner raises six claims for relief:

(1) That the trial court violated Petitioner's Fifth Amendment right against selfincrimination when it admitted into evidence a statement made by Petitioner while he was in custody and no Miranda warnings had been given;
(2) That the State's attorney's references at trial to the statements of Petitioner's nontestifying co-defendant violated Petitioner's Sixth Amendment right to confront his accuser;
(3) That the trial judge's refusal of the jury's request to take a short break, without defense counsel present, was a coercive tactic that caused the jury to return a verdict they might not have reached had they been allowed the opportunity for a break or recess;
(4) That Petitioner's trial counsel was ineffective for failing to allow the trial court the opportunity to decide whether the Uniform Mandatory Disposition of Detainers Law ("UMDDL"), Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 217.450-217.485, had been violated;[2]
(5) That Petitioner's trial counsel was ineffective for failing to file and litigate a pretrial motion to suppress statements Petitioner made while he was in custody ...

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