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Stevens v. Spackler

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division

July 7, 2015

JARVIS A. STEVENS, Petitioner,


HOWARD F. SACHS, District Judge.

Petitioner filed this federal petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 2254 to challenge his 2007 convictions and 2010 sentences for second-degree murder, second-degree trafficking, and armed criminal action, which were entered pursuant to a guilty plea in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri. Petitioner's motion for post-conviction relief filed pursuant to Mo. Sup.Ct. R. 24.035 was denied following an evidentiary hearing (Doc. No. 7-4, pp. 33-47), and that denial was affirmed on appeal therefrom (Doc. No. 7-9).

Petitioner raises four grounds for relief: (1) plea counsel was ineffective for misadvising petitioner that he would receive a sentence of less than twenty years if he agreed to enter an open guilty plea to second-degree murder with a lid of twenty years; (2) the plea court erred by failing to advise petitioner concerning the range of punishment and failing to ensure that petitioner understood the plea offer; (3) sentencing counsel was ineffective for misadvising petitioner that he would be required to serve less than 70% of his sentence when, in fact, petitioner is required to serve 85%;[1] and (4) the plea court erred in accepting petitioner's guilty plea to armed criminal action because there was an insufficient factual basis to support the conviction. Doc. No. 1, pp. 5, 7-8, 10; Doc. No. 9. Respondent contends that Grounds 1-3 are without merit and that Ground 4 is not cognizable and, alternatively, is without merit. Doc. No. 7, pp. 3-4.


In affirming the state circuit court's denial of petitioner's Rule 24.035 motion, the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District, set forth the following facts:

In 2007 Jarvis Stevens entered a guilty plea on charges of second degree murder, armed criminal action, and second degree trafficking. He was later sentenced to twenty years imprisonment for the murder count, three years for armed criminal action, and five years for trafficking, all sentences to run concurrently.
A guilty plea hearing was held, during which the prosecutor announced the plea agreement and the court confirmed Stevens's understanding of it:
The Court: Now, let me make sure I can recite this properly, and Mr. Stevens, I ask that you listen closely to see if this is your understanding also of the plea agreement. That you are going to plead to - in the alternative felony murder you are going to plea up to the Court with a lid of 20 years. In Count II of that case there will be [a] three-year sentence to run concurrent with Count I, correct?
Prosecutor: Yes
The Court: In... the trafficking case, you will be sentenced to five years and that time will run concurrent to the first case, the 20-year lid, whatever sentence that is, and also Count II of three years. Do you understand?
The Defendant: Yes, sir.
The Court: And further as part of this plea agreement, you agree to cooperate and testify against [the other alleged participants in the shooting death of Dominique Henderson]...?
Mr. Stevens, that is your understanding of the agreement, sir?
The Defendant: Yes, sir.
The court further confirmed that Stevens understood what was going on, that he indeed wished to withdraw his plea of not guilty and enter a plea of guilty. The court continued:
The Court: Okay. In your own words tell me what is going on here today, Mr. Stevens.
The Defendant: I'm taking a lid of 20 years for murder that happened on June 15th, ... 2005, and I'm taking a plea. I'm supposed to cooperate and help cooperate and testify on the other guys.
The court held a colloquy regarding the factual basis for Steven's guilty pleas, during which Stevens admitted that on June 15, 2005, he and his associates were going to have a shoot-out with some men, that he and all of his friends were armed, that he supplied some of the guns that day, and that he and the other men were on their way to shoot into a dwelling when they noticed Dominique Henderson, the victim of the fatal shooting, in the yard of another dwelling. He went on to admit that after Mr. Henderson was shot and killed, he and the other men got in the car again and fired at the house they originally intended to shoot at as they were driving away. Stevens admitted that three people shot their weapons, he was there, he also carried a weapon, and when they went to the house, it was with the intention of shooting at the front of the house where he knew there were people. Plea counsel specifically asked Stevens, "you knowingly committed this felony by the use of and assistance and aid of a deadly weapon; is that correct?" Stevens nodded his head in response, and admitted that it was with handguns and a shotgun. Stevens also admitted to, on another date, possessing more than two grams of a substance containing cocaine base, a controlled substance, knowing of its presence and nature.
In reference to sentencing, the court again emphasized that "the time in terms of sentencing, the amount of time I could give you is open. Do you understand that?" To which Stevens replied, "Yes, sir." The court reminded Stevens, "[t]hat again depends upon your cooperation in testifying against those other individuals who have ...

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