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Wiggins v. State

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Third Division

April 28, 2015


Page 380

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Louis County. 13SL-CC04554.

         Gwenda Robinson, St. Louis, MO, for appellant.

         Chris Koster, Todd T. Smith, Jefferson City, MO, for respondent.


Page 381

          Gary M. Gaertner, Jr., Judge.


         Corey A. Wiggins (Movant) appeals the judgment denying his motion for post-conviction relief under Rule 24.035[1] without an evidentiary hearing. Movant argues that he adequately alleged facts, not refuted by the record, that established his guilty plea was involuntary. We reverse and remand to the motion court for an evidentiary hearing.


         Movant pled guilty to one count of murder in the second degree and one count of armed criminal action. Movant's pleas arose out of an incident during a family gathering on Thanksgiving Day in 2012, when Movant and the victim got into an argument and Movant shot the victim. The plea court sentenced Movant to consecutive terms of life in prison for second-degree murder, and nine years for armed criminal action.

         Movant timely filed his motion under Rule 24.035, alleging that his plea counsel was ineffective for failing to advise him before he pled guilty of the viability of proceeding to trial on the theory that he was guilty of the lesser-included offense of voluntary manslaughter, rather than second-degree murder. Movant alleged his plea counsel was aware of the following facts that would have supported such a defense.

Page 382

          Movant alleged that the victim was a friend of Movant's family whom Movant had known all his life. Movant described a history of the victim verbally and sexually abusing Movant since he was a child. Movant alleged that the victim harassed and threatened him several times during the days before the shooting. The morning of Thanksgiving, the victim approached Movant with a screwdriver and grabbed him by the neck. Movant also alleged that during the argument later that day, before Movant stood to shoot the victim, the victim came over to the table where Movant was seated and stood next to him holding a screwdriver and making threatening comments. A heated argument followed, during which the victim told Movant, " I'll have your ass right now." Movant believed the victim might do something sexual in nature to him. Movant alleged that he stood up from the table, and the victim came at him with the screwdriver. Movant alleged that at that point he " lost it" and shot the victim multiple times.

         Movant argued in his motion that although his plea counsel was aware of these facts, he never discussed the possibility of proceeding to trial and arguing Movant committed voluntary manslaughter rather than second-degree murder. The motion court denied Movant's motion without an evidentiary hearing, finding that the record conclusively refuted his claim. Specifically, the motion court held that the plea hearing record showing the prosecutor's recitation of the factual basis of the case and Movant's agreement to it refuted the facts alleged in Movant's motion. The motion court also found that the record refuted Movant's claim that his counsel was ineffective because Movant repeatedly assured the plea court that he was satisfied with the representation provided by his attorney. This appeal follows.

         Standard of Review

          Appellate review of the denial of a motion under Rule 24.035 is " limited to a determination of whether the motion court's findings of fact and conclusions of law were clearly erroneous." Rule 24.035(k); see Weeks v. State, 140 S.W.3d 39, 44 (Mo. banc 2004). Because the findings of the motion court are presumed to be correct, we will find them clearly erroneous only if, after a review of the entire record, this Court is left with the definite and firm impression that a mistake has been made. Vaca v. State, 314 S.W.3d 331, 334 (Mo. banc 2010).

          In order to obtain an evidentiary hearing on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel under Rule 24.035, (1) a movant must raise facts, not conclusions, warranting relief; (2) the facts alleged must raise matters not refuted by the record; and (3) the matters complained of must have resulted in prejudice to the movant. State v. Driver, 912 S.W.2d 52, 55 (Mo. banc 1995). To justify the denial of an evidentiary hearing, the record must be specific enough to ...

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