Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Second Division
DEANTE L. HARRIS, Movant/Appellant,
STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent.
from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis Honorable
Bryan L. Hettenbach
M. HESS, CHIEF JUDGE
Harris (Movant) appeals the motion court's denial,
without an evidentiary hearing, of his Rule
24.035 amended motion for post-conviction relief.
In his sole point relied on, Movant contends that the motion
court erred by denying his motion for post-conviction relief
without an evidentiary hearing because he pleaded facts
unrefuted by the record that counsel improperly assured him
he would receive eight to ten years' imprisonment in
exchange for pleading guilty, thus making the plea
involuntary, and that, but for counsel's deficient
performance, Movant would have instead proceeded to trial. We
November of 2011, Movant and an accomplice, Laron Eason,
forcibly robbed three men and attempted to forcibly rob two
others at gun point. Movant was indicted on three counts of
first-degree robbery, two counts of attempted first-degree
robbery, and five counts of armed criminal action in January
2012. Movant entered a blind plea of guilty to all charges in
May 2013. The court accepted the plea and, at a later
hearing, sentenced Movant to twenty years' imprisonment
for each count of first-degree robbery; twenty years for each
count of armed criminal action; and fifteen years for each
count of attempted robbery, with all sentences to run
April 2014, Movant filed a pro se Rule 24.035 motion
for post-conviction relief. Counsel was appointed and filed
an amended motion alleging that plea counsel "failed to
meet the standard of a reasonably competent attorney under
similar circumstances [because he] improperly advised Movant
that if he pleaded guilty and left sentencing up to the plea
[court], he . . . should do no worse than ten years
imprisonment" and that "[h]ad Movant known that
plea counsel should not have assured him that he would not do
worse than ten years' imprisonment, [Movant] would have
taken his case to trial." The motion court denied the
motion without an evidentiary hearing, finding that the
record refutes Movant's claim "because he knew at
the time his pleas were accepted that ten years was the
minimum, that his sentences were up to the Court and the
Court was not bound by either the State's or defense
counsel's recommendation, and he knew he could receive up
to 120 years plus . . . ." This appeal follows.
24.035 post-conviction motion is reviewed for clear error.
Rule 24.035(k). "We presume that the motion court's
findings and conclusions are correct." Clay v.
State, 297 S.W.3d 122, 124 (Mo. App. E.D. 2009). Its
findings and conclusions are clearly erroneous only if, after
reviewing the entire record, we are left with the definite
and firm impression that a mistake has been made. Mullins
v. State, 262 S.W.3d 682, 684 (Mo. App. E.D. 2008). A
motion court is not required to hold an evidentiary hearing
unless "(1) the motion . . . allege[s] facts, not
conclusions, warranting relief; (2) the facts alleged must
not be refuted by the files and records of the case; and (3)
the allegations must have resulted in prejudice."
Wilkes v. State, 82 S.W.3d 925, 928 (Mo. banc 2002).
The motion court must deny an evidentiary hearing if it
determines that the record conclusively establishes the
movant is not entitled to relief. Rule 24.035(h).
sole point, Movant contends that the motion court clearly
erred by denying his motion for post-conviction relief
without an evidentiary hearing because he pleaded facts
unrefuted by the record that plea counsel was ineffective for
improperly assuring Movant he would receive eight to ten
years' imprisonment in exchange for pleading guilty.
Movant maintains that plea counsel's performance rendered
his guilty plea involuntary and unknowing, and, but for plea
counsel's assurances, Movant would not have pleaded
guilty but would have proceeded to trial. In response, the
State asserts that the motion court did not clearly err by
denying Movant's motion without an evidentiary hearing
because the record refutes Movant's claim that plea
counsel's performance was ineffective.
entitled to an evidentiary hearing, a movant must demonstrate
that "counsel's performance was deficient and that
this deficiency prejudiced the defense." State v.
Smith, 353 S.W.3d 1, 3 (Mo. App. E.D. 2011). By pleading
guilty, "a movant waives any claim that [plea] counsel
was ineffective except to the extent that counsel's
conduct affected the voluntariness and knowledge with which
the plea was made." Nichols v. State, 409
S.W.3d 566, 569 (Mo. App. E.D. 2013) (citation and quotations
omitted). In order to demonstrate prejudice, a movant must
illustrate that absent counsel's errors he would have
insisted on proceeding to trial rather than pleading guilty.
Smith, 353 S.W.3d at 3.
movant's guilty plea is entered knowingly if he "had
sufficient awareness of the relevant circumstances and likely
consequences of the act." Whitehead v. State,
481 S.W.3d 116, 123 (Mo. App. E.D. 2016). Mistaken beliefs
about sentencing may affect, to an extent, a movant's
ability to knowingly enter a guilty plea. Lynn v.
State, 417 S.W.3d 789, 801 (Mo. App. E.D. 2013). That
is, "even if Movant established that counsel made
misleading statements that caused him to have a mistaken
belief about his sentence, he would be entitled to relief
only if his belief was reasonable." Id. Where a
defendant affirms that he understands the full consequences
of entering a guilty plea, including that the court may
assess a sentence up to the full range of punishment at its
discretion, any mistaken belief remaining about the potential
sentence is unreasonable. Id.; see also Zarhouni
v. State, 313 S.W.3d 713, 716 (Mo. App. W.D. 2010);
Porter v. State, 480 S.W.3d 455, 459 (Mo. App. W.D.
At the plea hearing, the following exchange occurred:
[THE COURT]: Has anybody forced you in any way to get you to
-- get you to plead guilty today?
[MOVANT]: No, sir.
[THE COURT]: And has anybody promised you anything in return
for your ...