United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
JHERRIT M. STANSBERRY, Petitioner,
GEORGE LOMBARDI, Director, Missouri Department of Corrections, Respondent.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
CATHERINE D. PERRY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Jherrit M. Stansberry pled guilty in the Circuit Court of St.
Louis City, Missouri, to two counts of first degree assault
and two counts of armed criminal action and was sentenced to
concurrent terms of imprisonment aggregating twenty years. He
brings this habeas action under 28 U.S.C. § 2254
claiming that his guilty plea was involuntary because of
ineffective assistance of counsel. Because this claim does
not merit granting habeas relief, I will deny the petition
for writ of habeas corpus.
October 26, 2009, Stansberry pled guilty to two counts of
assault first degree and two counts of armed criminal action.
He was sentenced on December 18, 2009, to a term of twenty
years’ imprisonment for the first count of assault and
to three fifteen-year terms of imprisonment for the remaining
counts, with all sentences to be served concurrently. No
appeal was taken. On April 7, 2011, Stansberry filed a motion
for post-conviction relief under Missouri Supreme Court Rule
24.035, which was denied on April 11, 2012, without an
evidentiary hearing. On December 18, 2012, the Missouri Court
of Appeals affirmed the denial of post-conviction relief.
Stansberry v. State, 388 S.W.3d 601 (Mo.Ct.App.
2012) (order) (per curiam). Stansberry filed this federal
habeas action on April 5, 2013.
is currently incarcerated at the Southeast Correctional
Center in Charlston, Missouri. In this petition, he claims
that plea counsel provided ineffective assistance by advising
him that the court would impose a sentence within the
guidelines, which he understood to be no more than fifteen
years. Stansberry claims that he would not have pled guilty
and would have insisted on going to trial if he knew that he
was facing a longer term of imprisonment. Stansberry raised
this claim of ineffective assistance of counsel in his motion
for post-conviction relief and on appeal of its denial. Upon
consideration of the merits of the claim, the Missouri Court
of Appeals denied relief. Stansberry has thus exhausted this
claim in State court and I may address it here. 28 U.S.C.
2254(b)(1); O'Sullivan v. Boerckel, 526 U.S.
838, 842 (1999).
the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996
(AEDPA), [a]n application for a writ of habeas corpus on
behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a
State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim
that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings
unless the adjudication of the 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;
(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). See also Williams v.
Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 379 (2000). A State court’s
decision is “contrary to” clearly established
Federal law when it is opposite to the Supreme Court’s
conclusion on a question of law or different than the
Court’s conclusion on a set of materially
indistinguishable facts. Williams, 529 U.S. at
412-13; Carter v. Kemna, 255 F.3d 589, 591 (8th Cir.
2001). A State court’s decision is an
“unreasonable application” of Supreme Court
precedent if it “identifies the correct governing legal
principle from [the Supreme Court’s] decisions but
unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the
prisoner’s case.” Williams, 529 U.S. at
413. Merely erroneous or incorrect application of clearly
established Federal law does not suffice to support a grant
of habeas relief. Instead, the State court’s
application of such law must be objectively unreasonable.
Id. at 409-11; Jackson v. Norris, 651 F.3d
923, 925 (8th Cir. 2011). Finally, when reviewing whether a
State court decision involves an “unreasonable
determination of the facts” in light of the evidence
presented in the State court proceedings, State court
findings of basic, primary, or historical facts are presumed
correct unless the petitioner rebuts the presumption with
clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1);
Rice v. Collins, 546 U.S. 333, 338-39 (2006);
Collier v. Norris, 485 F.3d 415, 423 (8th Cir.
2007). Erroneous findings of fact do not ipso facto
ensure the grant of habeas relief. Instead, the determination
of such facts must be unreasonable in light of the evidence
of record. Collier, 485 F.3d at 423; Weaver v.
Bowersox, 241 F.3d 1024, 1030 (8th Cir. 2001).
federal court is “bound by the AEDPA to exercise only
limited and deferential review of underlying State court
decisions.” Lomholt v. Iowa, 327 F.3d 748, 751
(8th Cir. 2003). Therefore, to obtain relief on his habeas
claim here, Stansberry must show that the challenged State
court ruling “rested on ‘an error well understood
and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for
fairminded disagreement.’” Metrish v.
Lancaster, 133 S.Ct. 1781, 1786-87 (2013) (quoting
Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 103 (2011)).
This standard is difficult to meet. Id. at 1786.
time Stansberry’s conviction became final, the law was
clearly established that the Sixth Amendment guarantees a
criminal defendant the right to effective assistance of
counsel. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687
(1984). In Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52 (1985), the
Supreme Court held that a defendant who pled guilty upon the
advice of counsel may challenge the voluntariness of that
plea through a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel.
Id. at 56-57.
entitled to habeas relief on his claim, Stansberry must show
that his attorney's performance was not within the range
of competence demanded of attorneys in criminal cases.
Hill, 474 U.S. at 56-57. The standard to be
applied in assessing counsel's performance is that set
out in Strickland. Id. at 58. Accordingly,
Stansberry must demonstrate that: 1) his counsel's
performance was deficient, and 2) the deficient performance
prejudiced his defense. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687.
To establish prejudice in the context of a guilty plea,
Stansberry must show a reasonable probability that but for
counsel’s error, he would not have pled guilty and
would have insisted on going to trial. Hill, 474
U.S. at 59. Stansberry is entitled to habeas relief only if
he can show that the State ...