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Winstead v. Wallace

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

August 9, 2016

NICK WINSTEAD, Petitioner
v.
IAN WALLACE, [1] Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          ABBIE CRITES-LEONI UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the Petition of Nick Winstead for a Writ of Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

         I. Procedural History

         Winstead is currently incarcerated at Southeast Correctional Center in Charleston, Missouri, pursuant to the sentences and judgments[2] of the Circuit Court of St. Louis County, Missouri. (Respt’s Ex. A at 98-102.)

         The convictions at issue in this case result from four separate cases. In Case Number 09SL-CR08218, the State charged Winstead with one count of burglary in the first degree, two class C felonies of stealing, and one misdemeanor of stealing for events occurring on October 9, 2009. (Respt’s Ex. A at 9-10, 12-15.) In Case Number 10SL-CR00147, the State charged Winstead with one count of attempted burglary in the second degree, three counts of burglary in the second degree, and three counts of the class C felony of stealing for events occurring between September 14, 2009, and September 16, 2009. Id. at 16-18, 52-55. In Case Number 10SL-CR00184, the State charged Winstead with three counts of burglary in the second degree and five counts of the class C felony of stealing for events occurring on September 25, 2009, October 9, 2009, and October 13, 2009. Id. at 18-21, 73-76. In Case Number 10SL-CR03525, the State charged Winstead with two counts of burglary in the second degree, one count of the class C felony of stealing, and two counts of attempted burglary in the first degree for offenses occurring on September 3, 2009, and October 8, 2009. Id. at 21-23, 92-95.

         On July 12, 2010, Winstead entered a “blind” plea of guilty to each of the above counts with no agreement about the sentence that the court might impose. Id. at 12-23. The court ordered the State Board of Probation and Parole to submit a Pre-Sentence Investigation/Sentencing Assessment Report (“SAR”), and deferred sentencing August 24, 2010. Id. at 13. The plea court also granted Winstead’s request that he be screened for placement in a long-term drug treatment program. Id. at 15. On August 24, 2010, the plea court sentenced Winstead to concurrent terms of eighteen years for the burglary in the first degree count, fifteen years for each of the class C felony stealing counts, fifteen years for each of the burglary in the second degree counts, fifteen years for each of the attempted burglary in the first degree counts, and seven years for the attempted burglary in the second degree count, for a total sentence of eighteen years imprisonment. Id. at 27-29.

         Winstead filed a Motion to Withdraw Guilty Plea on August 31, 2010. Id. at 125. Winstead argued that he did not understand the terms of his blind plea. Id. He claimed that he believed that, if he was approved for the long-term drug treatment program and assigned a bed date, he would be given a chance to complete the long-term drug treatment program. Id. The court denied Winstead’s Motion, after holding a hearing at which Winstead and plea counsel testified. Id. at 33-36.

         On November 15, 2010, Winstead filed a pro se Motion to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct the Judgment or Sentence pursuant to Mo.S.Ct.Rule 24.035. Id. at 107-19. On March 16, 2011, after appointment of counsel, Winstead filed an Amended Motion to Vacate, Set Aside or Correct Judgment and Sentence and Request for Evidentiary Hearing. Id. at 130-44. Winstead argued that he was denied effective assistance of counsel because plea counsel advised him that if he entered blind guilty pleas, he would receive long-term institutional drug treatment. Id. Winstead also argued that the plea court lacked authority to sentence him as a prior and persistent offender because the State failed to prove his prior convictions. Id. On November 10, 2011, the motion court denied Winstead’s motion and his request for an evidentiary hearing. Id. at 147-53. The court held that Winstead’s allegations were refuted by the record. Id. at 151-52.

         In his single point on appeal from the denial of post-conviction relief, Winstead argued that he was denied his right to effective assistance of counsel because plea counsel induced him to plead guilty by convincing him the court would order long-term drug treatment, provided Winstead qualified for it, following a blind plea. (Respt’s Ex. B at 13.) On November 13, 2012, the Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of post-conviction relief. (Respt's Ex. D.)

         On May 6, 2013, Winstead, pro se, filed the instant Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus. (Doc. 1.) In his single ground for relief, Winstead argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel rendering his guilty pleas involuntary. Id. at 5. Winstead contends that, based on advice from counsel, he had a mistaken belief that he was pleading guilty in return for a sentence to the State’s long-term drug treatment program. Id.

         On June 28, 2013, Respondent filed a Response to Order to Show Cause, in which he argues that the Petition should be denied because Petitioner’s claim fails on its merits. (Doc. 8.) Respondent argues that Winstead’s claim is based on the assumption that the record demonstrates that he was eligible to be placed in the long-term treatment program, yet Winstead failed to include the SAR as part of the record on post-conviction appeal. Respondent argues that, without the SAR, “this Court is left to infer what that report said about the Long-Term Treatment Program from ambiguous comments in the record, ” and Winstead is unable to show that the state court acted unreasonably in finding that Winstead could not show prejudice. (Doc. 8 at 11.) Respondent noted that, based on the discussion at the sentencing, “it appears that the sentencing assessment report recommended a prison sentence rather than placement in the Long-Term Treatment Program.” Id. at 8.

         In response to this argument, Winstead filed a Motion to Order Production of the SAR, claiming that Respondent had raised the issue of the contents of the SAR and he had been unable to obtain the SAR on his own from the state courts. The undersigned granted Winstead’s Motion to Order Production of the Sentencing Assessment Report. (Doc. 17.) Respondent complied with the Court’s Order and filed a copy of the SAR. (Doc. 18-1.) Respondent also filed a Supplemental Response to Order to Show Cause (Doc. 18), to which Winstead has filed a Reply (Doc. 19).

         II. Facts

         The following exchange occurred at Winstead’s plea hearing:

THE COURT: You want to give up all those rights and plead guilty here today?
[Winstead]: Yes, ma’am.
THE COURT: My understanding is that guilty plea is not pursuant to a recommendation with the state; is that correct?
[Winstead]: Yes, ma’am.
THE COURT: Okay. So it is what we call a blind plea?
[Winstead]: Yes, ma’am.
THE COURT: And you understand your lawyer explained that to you what that was?
[Winstead]: Yes, ma’am.
THE COURT: You understand that you will be participating in a Presentence Investigation or Sentencing Assessment Report?
[Winstead]: Yes, ma’am.
THE COURT: Okay. And then they will, the State Board of Probation and Parole, will participate in that with you and will then give a recommendation to the state.
[Winstead]: Yes, ma’am.
THE COURT: I mean, recommendation to the Court.
[Winstead]: Yes, ma’am.
THE COURT: And that the state has already made a recommendation; correct?
[Winstead]: Yes, ma’am.
THE COURT: Okay. You understand that any recommendation the state makes is not ...

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