Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Mia Townsend v. State

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Second Division

August 2, 2016

MIA TOWNSEND, Movant/Appellant,
v.
STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Louis County Honorable Robert S. Cohen

          Philip M. Hess, Chief Judge.

         Introduction

         Mia Townsend (Movant) appeals the motion court's denial, without an evidentiary hearing, of her Rule 24.035[1] amended motion for post-conviction relief. In her sole point relied on, Movant contends the motion court erred by denying her motion without an evidentiary hearing because Movant pleaded facts, unrefuted by the record, that her plea counsel was ineffective for promising she would receive probation in exchange for making a blind[2] Alford[3] plea. We affirm.

         Factual Background

         In June 2012, Movant acted with her mother and co-defendant, Cheryl Moore, and her sister, Ronnica Moore, in forcibly entering an apartment where Ronnica Moore's estranged husband, C.W., and his girlfriend, T.D. were residing. The State alleged that all three women kicked and pushed T.D. and that Movant hit her with a metal baseball bat. Movant was charged with one count of first-degree burglary, a Class B felony, and one count of second-degree assault, a Class C felony. In October 2013, Movant entered a blind Alford plea to both counts, and the plea court accepted the plea.

         Movant failed to appear for her sentencing hearing scheduled for November 2013 and a warrant was issued. Movant then appeared at a later hearing in May 2014. At the hearing, the sentencing court stated it reviewed a letter in which Movant discussed her expectation of a probation sentence and her representation issues with plea counsel. After questioning Movant, the sentencing court found no probable cause for ineffective assistance of counsel and sentenced Movant to concurrent terms of seven years' imprisonment on Count I of burglary in the first degree and seven years on Count II of assault in the second degree.

         In October 2014, Movant filed a pro se Rule 24.035 motion seeking post-conviction relief. Counsel was appointed and subsequently filed an amended motion alleging that plea counsel's performance was ineffective because he told Movant "she would receive the suspended imposition or suspended execution of sentence and probation in exchange for her blind, Alford plea to the charges." The motion court denied the motion without an evidentiary hearing, finding that Movant "entered her plea knowingly and voluntarily, " because she was "examined extensively on these issues by the Court during her plea of guilty at the time of sentencing." This appeal follows.

         Standard of Review

         We review the denial of a Rule 24.035 post-conviction motion to determine whether the findings of fact and conclusions of law of the motion court are clearly erroneous. Rule 24.035(k). Findings and conclusions are clearly erroneous, if, after a review of 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). In order to be entitled to an evidentiary hearing on a Rule 24.035 motion, the following must be satisfied: (1) Movant must allege facts which, if true, would warrant relief; (2) the facts must not be refuted by the record; and (3) the matters complained of must have resulted in prejudice to the movant. Smith v. State, 353 S.W.3d 1, 3 (Mo. App. E.D. 2011). If the motion court determines the record conclusively establishes the movant is not entitled to relief, the motion court shall deny an evidentiary hearing. Rule 24.035(h).

         Discussion

         In her sole point, Movant contends the motion court clearly erred by denying her motion for post-conviction relief without an evidentiary hearing because plea counsel was ineffective for promising that Movant would receive a suspended imposition or suspended execution of sentence in exchange for her blind Alford plea. She argues plea counsel's promise rendered her plea unknowing, involuntary, and unintelligent, and but for plea counsel's ineffectiveness, there is a reasonable probability that she would not have pleaded guilty and would have gone to trial. In response, the State asserts that because Movant failed to appear for her sentencing hearing in November 2013, the escape rule should apply, waiving her right to appeal. In the alternative, the State argues the motion court did not clearly err by denying Movant's motion without an evidentiary hearing because the record refutes Movant's claim that counsel rendered ineffective assistance.

         I. Escape Rule

         The State asserts that because Movant failed to appear for her sentencing hearing in November 2012, Movant waived her right to appeal under the "escape rule." Movant does not address the escape rule in her brief.

         The judicially-created "escape rule" operates to deny the right of appeal to a defendant who escapes justice. Harvey v. State, 150 S.W.3d 128, 129 (Mo. App. E.D. 2004). "Whether or not to use the escape rule to dismiss an appellant's claims of error rests within the sound discretion of the appellate court." Id. Although we do not condone Movant's failure to appear for sentencing, this Court chooses not to invoke the escape rule. We will address Movant's point on its merits.

         II. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

         Movant contends the motion court clearly erred by denying her motion for post-conviction relief without an evidentiary hearing because plea counsel was ineffective for promising she would receive a suspended imposition or suspended execution of sentence in exchange for her blind Alford plea. She argues plea counsel's promise rendered her plea unknowing, involuntary, and unintelligent, and but for plea counsel's ineffectiveness, there is a reasonable probability that she would not have pleaded guilty and would have gone to trial. In response, the State argues the motion court did not clearly err by denying Movant's motion without an evidentiary hearing because the record refutes Movant's claim that counsel rendered ineffective assistance.

         Movant's testimony at her plea hearing directly refutes her claim that her plea was involuntary. Even if plea counsel told Movant she would receive probation in exchange for her guilty plea, the record demonstrates it was not reasonable to believe his alleged statements.

         "To prevail on a claim of ineffective assistance of plea counsel, a movant must show that (1) counsel's performance did not conform to the degree of skill, care, and diligence of a reasonably competent attorney, and (2) counsel's deficient performance prejudiced the movant." Burnett v. State, 311 S.W.3d 810, 817 (Mo. App. E.D. 2009). "When pleading guilty, a defendant waives any claim that defense 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) (citations and quotations omitted). To establish prejudice where a movant has pleaded guilty, the movant must show that but for counsel's errors, he would not have pleaded guilty and would instead have insisted on proceeding to trial. Smith, 353 S.W.3d at 3. When Movant has alleged that he was misled by plea counsel, he must show that his belief in his plea counsel's statements was reasonable. Shackleford v. State, 51 S.W.3d 125, 129 (Mo. App. W.D. 2001). "A defendant's mistaken belief about the terms of his sentence can vitiate his sentence only if ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.