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Bonds v. Steele

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

July 8, 2016

EARL BONDS, Petitioner,
TROY STEELE, Respondent.



         This matter is before the Court on Petitioner Earl Bonds’s pro se Petition Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody. (Petition, ECF No. 1.) Respondent has filed a Response (ECF No. 13), and the Petition is ready for disposition.


         On November 14, 2008, a jury in the Circuit Court of St. Louis City found Petitioner guilty of four counts of statutory sodomy in the first degree. On January 9, 2009, the trial court sentenced Petitioner to 10 years in prison on each count, to run consecutively. On February 16, 2010, the Missouri Court of Appeals upheld Petitioner’s conviction and sentence on direct appeal. Petitioner moved for post-conviction relief pursuant to Missouri Supreme Court Rule 29.15. He was appointed counsel and thereafter filed an amended Rule 29.15 motion, which was denied. On May 6, 2014, the Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of post-conviction relief.

         In the instant Petition, Petitioner raises the following two grounds for relief:

(1) that trial counsel was ineffective, in that counsel misinformed Petitioner regarding the range of punishment he faced, which led to his decision to not “plead[] guilty, pursuant to the State’s plea offer”; and
(2) that trial counsel was ineffective, in that counsel failed to investigate and develop a defense to challenge part of the victim’s videotaped statement.

         Petitioner did not raise either of these claims in his amended Rule 29.15 motion.[1] However, he asserts ineffective assistance of post-conviction counsel as cause for his procedural default.


         “Ordinarily, a federal court reviewing a state conviction in a 28 U.S.C. § 2254 proceeding may consider only those claims which the petitioner has presented to the state court in accordance with state procedural rules.” Arnold v. Dormire, 675 F.3d 1082, 1086-87 (8th Cir. 2012) (quotation and citation omitted). A section 2254 applicant’s failure to raise a claim in state court results in procedural default. See Wooten v. Norris, 578 F.3d 767, 777 (8th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). To avoid defaulting on a claim, a petitioner “must have fairly presented the substance of the claim to the state courts…thereby affording such courts fair opportunity to apply controlling legal principles to the facts bearing upon the claim.” Wemark v. Iowa, 322 F.3d 1018, 1020-21 (8th Cir. 2003) (quotation and citation omitted). “A claim has been fairly presented when a petitioner has properly raised the same factual grounds and legal theories in the state courts which he is attempting to raise in his federal habeas petition.” Id. at 1021 (quotations and citations omitted).

         “When a habeas petitioner defaults his federal claims in state court…federal habeas review of his claims is barred unless he ‘can demonstrate cause for the default and actual prejudice as a result of the alleged violation of federal law, or demonstrate that failure to consider the claims will result in a fundamental miscarriage of justice.’” Morgan v. Javois, 744 F.3d 535, 538 (8th Cir. 2013) (quoting Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 750-51 (1991)), cert. denied, 134 S.Ct. 1882 (2014). “Cause must be something external to the petitioner, something that cannot fairly be attributed to him.” Arnold, 675 F.3d at 1087 (quotation and citations omitted). To establish actual prejudice, the petitioner “must show that the errors of which he complains ‘worked to his actual and substantial disadvantage, infecting his entire trial with error of constitutional dimensions.’” Ivy v. Caspari, 173 F.3d 1136, 1141 (8th Cir. 1999) (quoting United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 170 (1982)). To establish that a fundamental miscarriage of justice would result, the petitioner must “present new evidence that affirmatively demonstrates that he is innocent of the crime for which he was convicted.” Murphy v. King, 652 F.3d 845, 850 (8th Cir. 2011) (quotation and citation omitted).[2]

         “[I]nadequate assistance of counsel at initial-review collateral proceedings may establish cause for a prisoner’s procedural default of a claim of ineffective assistance at trial.” Martinez v. Ryan, 132 S.Ct. 1309, 1315 (2012). To establish such cause, the petitioner must show that post-conviction counsel’s assistance was ineffective under the standards of Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), and that his underlying claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel is a “substantial” one. Martinez, 132 S.Ct. at 1318-19; see also Dansby v. Hobbs, 766 F.3d 809, 834 (8th Cir. 2014). If the underlying claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel is unsubstantial or non-meritorious, petitioner cannot establish that post-conviction counsel was ineffective and thus cannot show cause for default of the underlying claim. See Martinez, 132 S.Ct. at 1319. Likewise, if post-conviction counsel did not perform below constitutional standards, no cause is shown for default. Id.

         In order to prevail on an ineffective-assistance claim, a petitioner must demonstrate that counsel’s performance was constitutionally deficient, and that the deficient performance prejudiced his defense. See Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687, 694 (1984). The petitioner must first show that counsel’s performance “fell below an objective standard of reasonableness.” Id. at 687-88. Review of counsel’s performance by the Court is “highly deferential, ” and “counsel is strongly presumed to have rendered adequate assistance and made all significant decisions in the exercise of reasonable professional judgment.” Id. at 689, 690. The petitioner must then establish prejudice by showing that “there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different.” Id. at 694. “A ...

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