United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
SHIRLEY PADMORE MENSAH UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
case is before the undersigned on a petition for writ of
habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, filed by
Petitioner James Bryant. (Doc. 1). Petitioner is represented
by counsel. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of
the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636(c)(1). (Doc. 14). For the reasons stated
below, the petition will be denied.
Factual and Procedural Background
September 17, 1975, Petitioner was convicted of first-degree
murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. Resp't Ex. A,
Doc. 8-1, at p. 3. After two parole releases and two
revocations, Petitioner was again released on parole on March
3, 2005. Id. at p. 2. As a condition of release,
Petitioner agreed to numerous conditions, including obeying
all federal and state laws and not consuming intoxicating
beverages. Resp't Ex. C, Doc. 8-1, at p. 6.
January 19, 2011, Sgt. Troy Thurman of the Cole County
Sheriff's Department responded to a domestic disturbance
call from Petitioner's wife at the time, Joyce Bryant
(“Mrs. Bryant”). Pet'r Ex. A, Doc. 1-2, at p.
20. According to the police report, Mrs. Bryant called from
the neighbors' house, where she was hiding from her
spouse. Id. Mrs. Bryant told Sgt. Thurman that she
and Petitioner had been sitting in the living room drinking
beer and talking. Id. At some point, they began to
disagree, and Petitioner jumped up and started choking her
with both hands. Id. at 20-21. Mrs. Bryant told Sgt.
Thurman that she thought he was going to kill her, and then
he suddenly stopped. Id. at 21. She said she was
afraid for her life and was scared of Petitioner.
Id. She said that she had called from the
neighbors' house because Petitioner had taken all the
phones in the house so that she could not call 911.
Id. Sgt. Thurman observed that Mrs. Bryant was
visibly upset and crying. Id. He also saw that her
eyes had what appeared to be petechial hemorrhaging from
being choked. Id. He saw that her left eye was
swelling and turning black and blue and looked like she had
been struck (though she denied remembering being struck).
Id. The only marks present on her neck were what
appeared to be fingernail scratches on one side. Id.
Sgt. Thurman went to Petitioner's home and asked
Petitioner what had happened, and Petitioner told him nothing
had happened. Id. Sgt. Thurman explained that
because Petitioner did not wish to explain what had happened,
Sgt. Thurman was going to arrest him for domestic assault 2nd
based on what his wife had stated. Id. He arrested
January 24, 2011, as a result of Petitioner's arrest and
Sgt. Thurman's report, Missouri Board of Probation and
Parole (“Board” or “Parole Board”)
Officer Rhonda Muenks issued a Field Violation Report for
Petitioner. Pet'r. Ex. A-1. This report listed
Petitioner's alleged parole violations: a violation of
the condition that he would obey all federal and state laws,
and a violation of the condition that he would not consume
any intoxicating beverages. Pet'r Ex. A-1, Doc. 1-2, at
p. 1. The Field Violation Report described the January 19
incident in some detail, including the alleged choking and
the alleged alcohol consumption. Id. at pp. 1-3.
Officer Muenks recommended revocation because Petitioner had
“engaged in actions that have his wife fearing for her
life.” Id. at p. 3.
February 16, 2011, Petitioner signed a document stating that
a preliminary hearing would be held on February 17, 2011,
that the purpose of the hearing was to determine whether
probable cause or reasonable grounds existed to refer
Petitioner's case to the Parole Board, and that
Petitioner was being charged with two violations:
“Violation of Condition of #1-LAWS, by being arrested
on 1/19/11 in Cole County for the Class C Felony of Domestic
Assault 2nd (case number 11AC-CR00270), ” and
“Violation of Condition #10.1-SPECIAL CONDITIONS, by
allegedly consuming alcohol on 1/19/11.” Pet'r Ex.
A-1, Doc. 1-2, at p. 6. Also on February 16, 2011, parole
officers created a second Field Violation Report noting that
a preliminary hearing would be held on February 17, 2011,
with the hearing officer being Sara Lemberger and the
witnesses (by speakerphone) to be Sgt. Thurman and Parole
Officer Rhonda Muenks. Pet'r Ex. A-2, Doc. 1-2, at pp.
4-5. It was noted that Petitioner had requested no witnesses.
Id. This report stated the conditions Petitioner was
alleged to have violated and referred back to the January 24,
2011 Field Violation Report for additional details.
February 17, 2011 preliminary hearing is summarized in a
third Field Violation Report prepared the same day. Pet'r
Ex. A-4, Doc. 1-2, at pp. 6-8. It was noted that Petitioner
had acknowledged receipt of the Field Violation Reports dated
January 24 and February 16, 2011, and had received notice of
the hearing. Id. In his briefing, Petitioner states
that he received “the field violation report” (it
is unclear which one) only minutes before the hearing began.
Traverse, Doc. 12, at p. 6. Petitioner testified, and Sgt.
Thurman participated by telephone. Pet'r Ex. A-3, Doc.
1-2, at pp. 7-8. Sgt. Thurman testified to the information in
the police report and also testified that he had detected a
faint odor of intoxicants emanating from Petitioner (a detail
not in the police report). Id. at p. 8. Petitioner
denied choking or striking Mrs. Bryant and denied consuming
intoxicants. Id. Petitioner testified that he and
his wife had had a conversation about Petitioner's
frustration with Mrs. Bryant's lack of employment and the
possibility that he was “putting her out” of the
house. Id. Petitioner also testified that as Mrs.
Bryant was leaving, she stated, “You will regret
this.” Id. He further testified that Mrs.
Bryant left the house for about 30 to 35 minutes before
returning and asking if she could stay the night; this was
several minutes before officers knocked on the door and
arrested him. Id. When provided with photos of Mrs.
Bryant depicting a black eye, Petitioner indicated that she
must have injured herself during the time she left the
residence and then called law enforcement with the made-up
story about an assault. Id. Petitioner also pointed
out that law enforcement had not administered a breathalyzer
to ascertain whether he had been drinking. Id. at p.
9. Upon questioning by Petitioner, Sgt. Thurman testified
that when they spoke, Petitioner's speech was not
slurred, his gait was not staggered, and he was not behaving
irrationally. Mem. Supp. Pet'n, Doc. 1-1, at p. 6. The
hearing officer found that there was probable cause to
believe that the alleged violations had occurred based on the
offense report and the photos of the victim. Pet'r Ex.
A-3, Doc. 1-2, at p. 9.
March 31, 2011, Petitioner was advised that his revocation
hearing would be held on April 14, 2011. Resp't Ex. E,
Doc. 8-1, at p. 9. On April 14, 2011, a revocation hearing
was held. Resp't Ex. D, Doc. 8-1, at p. 7. Mrs. Bryant
was not produced as a witness, and Petitioner indicates that
the hearing officer commented that “the [Parole Board]
had no subpoena power to get her there.” Mem. Supp.
Pet'n, Doc. 1-1, at p. 7; see also Pet'r Ex.
A-11, Doc. 1-2, at p. 29. The record contains no additional
details regarding her absence. Petitioner testified at the
hearing, as did Sgt. Thurman. Resp't Ex. D, Doc. 8-1, at
p. 7. On May 3, 2011, the Board issued a notice stating that
it found, by a preponderance of the credible evidence, that
Petitioner had knowingly violated Condition #1 of his parole
conditions “in that on 1-19-2011 that Joyce Bryant
reported to Deputy Thurman of the Cole County Sherriff
Department that you assaulted her and caused physical injury.
You were arrested and charged with Assault 1st degree and
this charge is still pending.” Id. It also
stated that, independent of the preceding finding, “the
Board finds that you knowingly violated Condition #10
Alcohol, of the Conditions and Orders of (Parole Release), in
that on 1-19-2011 your wife reported to Deputy Thurman that
you had been drinking alcohol and Deputy Thurman testified at
your revocation hearing that he smelled alcohol on your
person at the time of your arrest.” Id. The
Board stated that it had decided to revoke Petitioner's
parole release. Id.
20, 2011, Petitioner appealed the Board's decision.
Pet'r Ex. A-7, Doc. 1-2, at pp. 14-18. The appeal was
apparently denied. On September 26, 2011, Mrs. Bryant
informed Petitioner's attorney that she would no longer
participate in the domestic assault trial and that if she
were forced to testify, she would only do so on his behalf.
Pet'r Ex. A-8, Doc. 1-2, at p. 19. On December 14, 2011,
the domestic assault charges against Petitioner were dropped
pursuant to a nolle prosequi. Pet'r Ex. A-4,
Doc. 1-2, at p. 10. On September 20, 2012, Mrs. Bryant, by
then divorced from Petitioner, wrote a letter to the Parole
Board, explaining that her prior account had been untrue and
that Petitioner was innocent of the charges against him.
Pet'r Ex. A-10, Doc. 1-2, at p. 26. Mrs. Bryant stated
that if she had been notified of the revocation hearing, it
would have been clear that he was innocent of the charges.
filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus under Missouri
Supreme Court Rule 91 in the Circuit Court of Mississippi
County, Missouri, asserting that he was denied his right to
confront his accuser, as well as other claims. Pet'r Ex.
A-11, Doc. 1-2, at pp. 27-34. The Circuit Court denied the
petition without explanation. Resp't Ex. A-12, Doc. 1-2,
at p. 36. The Missouri Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court
also denied the petition without explanation. Resp't Ex.
B, Doc. 8-1, at p. 4.
15, 2013, Petitioner filed the instant petition for a writ of
habeas corpus. Petitioner asserts two grounds for relief: (1)
that his due process rights were violated because he was
denied the right to confront his chief accuser at his final
revocation hearing, and (2) that his due process rights were
violated because he was not provided with adequate notice or
evidence before his preliminary hearing.
habeas review exists only “as ‘a guard against
extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems,
not a substitute for ordinary error correction through
appeal.'” Woods v. Donald, 135 S.Ct. 1372,
1376 (2015) (per curiam) (quoting Harrington v.
Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102-03 (2011)). Accordingly,
“[i]n the habeas setting, a federal court is bound by
AEDPA [the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act] to
exercise only limited and deferential review of underlying
state court decisions.” Lomholt v. Iowa, 327
F.3d 748, 751 (8th Cir. 2003) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254).
Under AEDPA, a federal court may not grant relief to a state
prisoner with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on
the merits in the state court proceedings unless the state
court's adjudication of a 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; or (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). A state court decision is “contrary to”
clearly established Supreme Court precedents “if the
state court applies a rule that contradicts the governing law
set forth in [the Supreme Court's] cases” or
“if the state court confronts a set of facts that are
materially indistinguishable from a decision of [the Supreme]
Court and nevertheless arrives at a result different from
[the Supreme Court's] precedent.” Williams v.
Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-06 (2000); see also Brown
v. Payton, 544 U.S. 133, 141 (2005). A state court
decision involves an “unreasonable application”
of clearly established federal law if it “correctly
identifies the governing legal rule but applies it
unreasonably to the facts of a particular prisoner's
case.” Williams, 529 U.S. at 407-08; see
also Bell v. Cone, 535 U.S. 685, 694 (2002).
“Finally, a state court decision involves an