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Mueller v. Wallace

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

December 10, 2014

JEFFREY J. MUELLER, Petitioner,
v.
IAN WALLACE, Respondent.

OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

HENRY EDWARD AUTREY, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Petitioner's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 [Doc. No. 1]. Respondent has filed his Response to the Court's Order to Show Cause. [Doc. No. 11]. Petitioner has filed a reply. [Doc. No. 18]. For the reasons set forth below, the Petition will be denied and dismissed.

Background

Following a deadly traffic accident, Petitioner was charged with one count of first-degree involuntary manslaughter and five counts of second-degree assault. On April 14, 2009, the State extended a plea offer, the terms of which included Petitioner pleading guilty to the charged offenses, the State recommending sentence of twelve years imprisonment, and Petitioner waiving his right to a preliminary hearing. The offer was to remain open for sixty days. Petitioner waived his right to a preliminary hearing on May 4, 2009. Subsequently, on May 14, 2009, the State revoked the plea offer and filed an amended information. Petitioner moved for a preliminary hearing, in light of the State's revocation of the initial plea offer, and the trial court denied the motion.

On September 21, 2009, Petitioner pled guilty to all of the charges in the amended information-one count of second-degree murder, one count of felony driving while intoxicated, and five counts of second-degree assault. Pursuant to the new plea agreement, the State would recommend a sentence of twenty years imprisonment on the second-degree murder charge and seven years concurrent on the remaining six counts. Petitioner would reserve the right, through his counsel, to argue for a lesser sentence. On December 14, 2009, Petitioner was sentenced, as recommended by the State, to twenty years imprisonment on the second-degree murder charge and seven years concurrent on the remaining six counts. Petitioner did not appeal the sentence.

On May 6, 2010, Petitioner filed a motion for post-conviction relief pursuant to Missouri Supreme Court Rule 24.035. Counsel entered an appearance for Petitioner on May 21, 2010, and filed an amended motion on August 3, 2010. In an order dated October 10, 2010, the motion court denied the relief sought by Petitioner. The Missouri Appeals Court affirmed the denial of the post-conviction relief motion on September 13, 2011, and the mandate issued on October 7, 2011.

Standard of Review

The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, 28 U.S.C. § 2254 ("AEDPA") applies to all petitions for habeas relief filed by state prisoners after the statute's effective date of April 24, 1996. When reviewing a claim that has been decided on the merits by a state court, AEDPA limits the scope of judicial review in a habeas proceeding as follows:

An application for writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a state court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in state court proceedings unless the adjudication of the claim -
(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States; or
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceeding.

28 U.S.C. § 2254(d).

In construing AEDPA, the United States Supreme Court, in Williams v. Taylor, held that:

Under the contrary to' clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the U.S. Supreme Court] on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than [the U.S. Supreme Court] has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts. Under the unreasonable application' clause, a federal habeas court may grant the writ if the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle from [the U.S. Supreme Court's] decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case.

529 U.S. 362, 412-13 (2000). Furthermore, the Williams Court held that "a federal habeas court may not issue the writ simply because that court concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state court decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly." 529 U.S. at 409.

Grounds for Relief

As a basis for relief under his federal habeas corpus application this Petitioner asserts that (1) the State breached the offered plea agreement and Petitioner's guilty plea was therefore unknowing, unintelligent, and involuntary; (2) his trial counsel was ineffective because he failed to object to evidence and arguments during the sentencing hearing; (3) his trial counsel was ineffective because he failed to explain the range of punishment to Petitioner; (4) his trial counsel was ineffective because he failed to call more character witnesses at the sentencing hearing; and (5) his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to conduct sufficient discovery or investigate.

Respondent asserts that all of Petitioner's grounds for federal habeas relief lack merit. Respondent also argues that the Petition is untimely and procedurally barred as it ...


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