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Matthews v. Villmer

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

September 8, 2015

TOM VILLMER, [1] Respondent.



This matter is before the Court on Missouri State prisoner Darryl Matthews' ("Petitioner's") pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Doc. 1). The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1). (Doc. 16). After reviewing the case, the Court has determined that Petitioner is not entitled to relief, and the petition will be dismissed.


On the evening of May 6, 2003, David Salvato was taking out the trash at his cafe when he was confronted by an individual (later identified as Petitioner) who demanded Salvato's money and said he had a pistol in his belt. Resp't Ex. A at 177-79. Salvato observed a silver automatic pistol in the individual's waist band. Id. at 180. Although Salvato initially refused, he eventually gave the individual his money and cell phone. Id. at 180-81. The two men were two to three feet apart during the entire ten minute encounter, the parking lot was "well lit, " and Salvato stated that he was able to see the individual "very easily." Id. at 179-82. Salvato testified that during the encounter he was "trying to get a good ID on [the robber]." Id. at 180. After the robber left, Salvato called 911, described the robber, and said he could identify the robber. Id. at 183-85. Officers came to the scene, and Salvato gave a more complete description. Id. at 185.

Upon obtaining Salvato's description of the robber at the scene, officers went to the University City Police Department with Salvato's description, and they were given Petitioner's name as a possibility. Id. at 146-47. Officers then used a computer system to create a photo spread containing Petitioner's photograph along with photographs of five other individuals with similar physical characteristics. Id. at 131-34; Resp't Ex. B at 286-87.

On the following evening, May 7, 2003, Sherryl Washington had just exited her car when she was approached by an individual (later identified as Petitioner) who came toward her with a gun and told her to get down. Resp't Ex. A at 206-09. Washington saw that he was holding a silver hand gun. Id. at 210. Her robber stood over her and pointed his gun at her head, demanding her money and credit cards. Id. at 211. The encounter lasted for approximately nine minutes, during which time the robber stood right in front of Washington and faced her, and she "was looking at him the whole time." Id. at 212-13. After the robber fled, Washington called the police and described the incident and the robber. Id. at 213-15.

When the police arrived to interview Washington that night, they brought along the photo lineup that had been created based on Salvato's description of his robber from the night before. Id. at 132. Although the police had initially intended to show the photo lineup to Salvato, they showed it to Washington instead after overhearing a broadcast of her robbery, which had occurred near the first robbery and involved a similar suspect description. Id. at 132-33. The police told Washington that her robber may or may not be in the lineup. Id. at 136. She immediately selected Petitioner's photo from the lineup and signed and dated her selection. Id. at 137. This identification occurred at around 11:00 p.m. which was within an hour of the initial call to police about Washington's robbery. Id. at 214, 219.

After Washington's identification, the police located Petitioner near his known hangout spot in a local parking lot and detained him. Resp't Ex. B at 266-67, 270. The police then brought Washington to that lot on the same night. Resp't Ex. A at 159. She stayed in a police car while police shined a light on Petitioner and asked her if she recognized him. Id. at 160. She said yes, because she recognized his face and clothes and it was very clear he was the person who had robbed her. Id. Washington was one hundred percent certain of her identification, and the police did not tell her that they believed Petitioner to be the robber or that they wanted her to pick him. Id. at 160-61. This identification took place a little over an hour after the robbery. Id. at 162.

By the next day, May 8, 2003, police had prepared another six-photo lineup to show to Salvato. Id. at 138. Salvato was told before viewing the photo lineup that his robber might or might not appear therein. Id. at 139. Salvato selected Petitioner's photo and initialed and dated his selection. Id. at 140. Salvato was one hundred percent certain of his selection and stated that the police did not help him at all in identifying Petitioner. Id. at 202. The police at this point also prepared a live lineup to show Salvato, composed of individuals from the police holdover with physical characteristics similar to Petitioner's. Id. at 141. When Salvato viewed this live lineup, the police again advised him that his robber might or might not be present; Salvato selected Petitioner from this live lineup as the person who had robbed him. Id. at 143. According to Salvato's testimony at trial, Petitioner did not stand out in any way from the other members of either the photo lineup or the live lineup. Id. at 189-90.


On February 9, 2005, a jury found Petitioner guilty of two counts of first-degree robbery. Resp't Ex. B at 369-70. On April 29, 2005, a judge in the Circuit Court of St. Louis, Missouri sentenced Petitioner to two 20-year sentences to run concurrently. Resp't Ex. C at 84-86. The Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed Petitioner's conviction on June 6, 2006. Resp't Ex. F. On August 1, 2006, Petitioner filed a motion for post-conviction relief under Missouri Rule 29.15, Resp't Ex. G at 3, which was amended by counsel on April 3, 2007, id. at 17. Petitioner's motion for post-conviction relief was granted in part and denied in part without a hearing.[2] Resp't Ex. G at 74. On June 21, 2011, the Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the motion court. Resp't Ex. J. On April 28, 2012, Petitioner filed the instant habeas corpus petition. (Doc. 1).


The Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 ("AEDPA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2254, governs federal habeas petitions filed by state prisoners. Federal habeas review exists only "as a guard against extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems, not a substitute for ordinary error correction through appeal.'" Woods v. Donald, 135 S.Ct. 1372, 1376 (2015) (per curiam) (quoting Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102-03 (2011)). Accordingly, "[i]n the habeas setting, a federal court is bound by AEDPA to exercise only limited and deferential review of underlying state court decisions." Lomholt v. Iowa, 327 F.3d 748, 751 (8th Cir. 2003) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254). By limiting federal habeas review of state court decisions, AEDPA aims "to prevent federal habeas retrials and to ensure state-court convictions are given effect to the extent possible under the law." Abernathy v. Hobbs, 748 F.3d 813, 816 (8th Cir. 2014) (citing Colvin v. Taylor, 324 F.3d 583, 586 (8th Cir. 2003)).

Under AEDPA, a federal court may not grant relief to a state prisoner unless the state court's adjudication of a 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). A state court decision is "contrary to" clearly established Supreme Court precedent "if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the United States Supreme] Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than [the United States Supreme] Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts." Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412-13 (2000); see also Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 694 (2002). A state court decision involves an "unreasonable application" of clearly established federal law if it "correctly identifies the governing legal rule but applies it unreasonably to the facts of a particular prisoner's case." Williams, 529 U.S. at 407-08; see also Bell, 535 U.S. at 694. "Finally, a state court decision involves an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in state court proceedings only if it is shown that the state court's presumptively correct factual findings do not ...

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