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Williams v. State

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Second Division

August 30, 2016

KENNETH WILLIAMS, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis Cause No. 1322-CC01222 Honorable Philip D. Heagney

          OPINION

          Colleen Dolan, Judge.

         Kenneth Williams ("Movant") appeals the motion court's judgment denying his Rule 29.15[1] motion for post-conviction relief without an evidentiary hearing. Movant is requesting this Court to reverse the motion court's judgment and remand the case for a new trial, or in the alternative, an evidentiary hearing, based on newly discovered evidence. Because the findings of the motion court are not clearly erroneous, we affirm.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         On April 26, 2010, Movant was arrested at his apartment because he had a warrant for failing to show up to serve a previous sentence and because he was wanted for questioning on a domestic assault complaint. There were five officers at the scene of the arrest: Kevin Manning, Jason Scheel, Joseph Tomlinson, William Helbing, and Joseph Kuster. While the officers were at Movant's apartment to make the arrest, Movant admitted he had some crack or crack cocaine in his apartment. He then showed the officers where he kept the drugs. Subsequently, Officer Manning contacted his supervisor, Sergeant Larry Davis, to come to Movant's apartment to "possibly get [Movant] to execute a consent to search form." Sergeant Davis arrived at the scene approximately fifteen to twenty minutes later. After Movant refused to sign the consent to search form, Sergeant Davis instructed the officers to seize all the narcotics evidence in plain view. Sergeant Davis did not actively participate in the seizure himself. Officer Manning seized all the drugs and packaged them.

         On December 9, 2011, following a jury trial in the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis, Movant was found guilty of one count of trafficking in the second degree.[2] After his trial, Movant learned that Sergeant Davis was indicted for possessing marijuana with intent to distribute on January 28, 2012. The federal government charged Sergeant Davis with engaging in this illegal behavior from "on or about October 1, 2010" until January 10, 2012. Subsequently, on or about April 23, 2012, Sergeant Davis pleaded guilty to the charges in the indictment. Based on the newly discovered evidence of Sergeant Davis' indictment, Movant filed a pro se Rule 29.15 motion for post-conviction relief on May 17, 2013. Subsequently, Movant filed a timely amended Rule 29.15 motion[3] and request for evidentiary hearing on September 9, 2013. Movant alleged that Sergeant Davis, or officers under his direction, planted the narcotics evidence seized in Movant's underlying criminal case, altered its weight by adding to it, or "committed some other misconduct."

         The motion court entered a judgment denying Movant's Rule 29.15 motion without an evidentiary hearing. The motion court found that Movant did not allege "any actual knowledge or evidence of specific misconduct in [his case]" and Sergeant Davis' minimal involvement "does not support an inference of wrongdoing under the facts of the instant case." The motion court also found Movant never directly stated that the prosecution knowingly used false evidence and that all allegations related to prosecution's knowledge of the false evidence were "wholly speculative and conclusory."

         II. Standard of Review

         Appellate review is limited to determining whether "the findings of fact and conclusions of law of the motion court are clearly erroneous." McArthur v. State, 428 S.W.3d 774, 778 (Mo. banc 2014); Rule 29.15(k). The motion court's ruling is clearly erroneous if, in light of the entire record, we are left with the definite and firm impression that a mistake has been made. Johnson v. State, 406 S.W.3d 892, 898 (Mo. banc 2013). Movant bears the burden of proving his claims for relief by a preponderance of the evidence. Rule 29.15(i).

         III. Discussion

         In Movant's sole point on appeal, Movant asserts he is entitled to a new trial, or in the alternative, an evidentiary hearing, based on newly discovered evidence.

         A. New Trial Based on Newly Discovered Evidence

         "It is a well-established principle that Missouri's post-conviction relief rules are not a proper vehicle for the examination of claims of newly discovered evidence." Ferguson v. State, 325 S.W.3d 400, 406 (Mo. App. W.D. 2010) (quoting Wilson v. State, 813 S.W.2d 833, 834 (Mo. banc 1991)). The sole purpose of a post-conviction proceeding is to determine if any of the Movant's constitutional rights were violated during the proceedings that led to the conviction or if the judgment of conviction is otherwise void. Wilson, 813 S.W.2d at 834. Although "newly discovered evidence is generally not cognizable in a post-conviction action, " there is a single exception to this rule-when it is later discovered that "the state knowingly used perjured testimony" to obtain a conviction. Ferguson, 325 S.W.3d at 406-07. For this narrow exception to apply, a Movant must show that (1) the witness's testimony was false, (2) the state knew the testimony was false, and (3) the conviction was obtained as a result of the perjured testimony. Id. at 407.

         Additionally, to obtain a new trial based on newly discovered evidence, the movant must show that (1) the facts constituting the newly discovered evidence have come to the movant's knowledge after the end of the trial; (2) movant lacked prior knowledge, which was not caused by any want of due diligence on his own part; (3) the evidence is so material that it would likely produce a different result at a new trial; and (4) the ...


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