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McCauley v. Bowersox

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

September 30, 2016




         This matter is before the Court on Petitioner Montia McCauley's First Amended Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus. [Doc. 45.] Respondent filed a response to the Amended Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus. [Doc. 46.] McCauley filed a Reply Brief. [Doc. 58.] The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1). [Doc. 10.] For the reasons set forth below, McCauley's petition for writ of habeas corpus will be denied.

         I.Background [1]

         McCauley was charged by a felony information in Scott County with seven counts that stemmed from an attack on March 27, 2008 on two female victims with a baseball bat. One victim, D.S., was or had been in a continuing romantic or intimate relationship with McCauley. D.S.'s injuries included a bilateral forearm fracture and intracerebral hemorrhaging due to bilateral frontal and temporal lobe contusions. D.S. subsequently spent weeks in intensive care and was at one point in a coma and ventilated as a result of her injuries. The other victim K.C., is D.S.'s daughter, who was twelve years old at the time. K.C. was struck by McCauley with the baseball bat on her arm.

         On June 25, 2009, McCauley appeared with counsel for a plea hearing. The State presented evidence on McCauley's status as a prior and persistent offender, and the plea court found McCauley to be a prior and persistent offender based on evidence of McCauley's guilty pleas on two prior felonies. Before Movant's pleas were accepted, the State advised the court and Movant of the possible ranges of punishment for each charge, and the court advised McCauley as required under Rule 24.02(b), inquiring whether McCauley understood each charge against him or had any questions regarding the charges. McCauley indicated he understood his rights and the charges against him and told the court he had no questions. The State recited its evidence that it contends established McCauley's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

         Three of the original counts were dismissed by the State, as negotiated in a plea agreement. The State acknowledged that attempts at plea negotiations toward a comprehensive plea agreement had been made, but McCauley was entering an open or blind plea instead of taking the State's offer to recommend twenty-three year sentences. The State reserved the “right to argue for any range of punishment that [it] wished at the time of sentencing.”

         McCauley acknowledged that the State's evidence was true, that nothing was omitted, misstated, or misrepresented, and that the plea agreement recited by the State was in accord with his understanding. McCauley pleaded guilty to Counts I, III, V, and VII. Count I charged first degree domestic assault and Count V charged felony armed criminal action, both in connection with McCauley's attack on D.S. Count III charged first-degree assault and Count VII charged felony armed criminal action; both charges related to McCauley's attack on K.C. The plea court accepted McCauley's pleas, ordered a sentencing assessment report, and took the matter under advisement. McCauley was sentenced as a prior and persistent offender to concurrent thirty-year terms of imprisonment on all four counts. (Resp't Ex. B at 75-76.)

         McCauley filed a pro se motion to vacate, set aside, or correct the judgment and sentences, pursuant to Rule 24.035, which was later amended. (Resp't Ex. B 79-89, 92-106, 108-184.) An evidentiary hearing was held wherein McCauley and plea counsel testified. (Resp't Ex. A.) The motion court denied McCauley's amended motion. (Resp't Ex. B at 186-200.) McCauley appealed to the Missouri Court of Appels, which denied relief. (Resp't Ex. F.) McCauley filed and later amended a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in this court. [Docs. 1, 45.]

         II. Standard of Review

         “The writ of habeas corpus stands as a safeguard against imprisonment of those held in violation of the law. Judges must be vigilant and independent in reviewing petitions for the writ, a commitment that entails substantial judicial resources.” Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 91 (2011). “In general, if a convicted state criminal defendant can show a federal habeas court that his conviction rests upon a violation of the Federal Constitution, he may well obtain a writ of habeas corpus that requires a new trial, a new sentence, or release.” Trevino v. Thaler, 133 S.Ct. 1911, 1917 (2013). The Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (AEDPA) applies to all petitions for habeas relief filed by state prisoners after this statute's effective date of April 24, 1996. Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320, 326-29 (1997). In conducting habeas review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, a federal court is limited to deciding whether a claim that was adjudicated on the merits in state court proceedings (1) resulted in a decision that is contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court, 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 determination of a factual issue made by a state court is presumed to be correct unless the petitioner successfully rebuts the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1).

         For purposes of § 2254(d)(1), the phrase “clearly established federal law refers to the holdings, as opposed to the dicta, of [the Supreme] Court's decisions as of the time of the relevant state court decision.” Lockyer v. Andrade, 538 U.S. 63, 71 (2003). “In other words, clearly established federal law under § 2254(d)(1) is the governing legal principle or principles set forth by the Supreme Court at the time the state court renders its decision.” Id. at 72. To obtain habeas relief, a habeas petitioner must be able to point to the Supreme Court precedent which he thinks the state courts acted contrary to or unreasonably applied. Buchheit v. Norris, 459 F.3d 849, 853 (8th Cir. 2006).

         A state court's decision is “contrary to” clearly established Supreme Court precedent “if the state court either ‘applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in [Supreme Court] cases' or ‘confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision of [the] Court and nevertheless arrives at a result different from [the] precedent.'” Penry v. Johnson, 532 U.S. 782, 792 (2001) (citing Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-406 (2000)). A state court decision is an unreasonable application of clearly established Supreme Court precedent if it correctly identifies the governing legal rule but applies it unreasonably to the facts of a particular prisoner's case. Id. (citing Williams, 529 U.S. at 407-408). “A federal habeas court making the unreasonable application inquiry should ask whether the state court's application of clearly established federal law was objectively unreasonable.” Penry, 532 U.S. at 793. “A state court decision involves ‘an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceedings, ' 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2), only if it is shown that the state court's presumptively correct factual findings do not enjoy support in the record.” Evanstad v. Carlson, 470 F.3d 777, 782 (8th Cir. 2006). A “readiness to attribute error is inconsistent with the presumption that state courts know and follow the law.” Woodford v. Visciotti, 537 U.S. 19, 24 (2002). AEDPA's highly deferential standard demands that state court decisions be given the benefit of the doubt. Id.

         III. Discussion

         McCauley presents seven claims for review. First, he asserts five claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. McCauley states that counsel was ineffective for the following reasons: (1) plea counsel guaranteed McCauley that he would receive a ten year sentence in exchange for a blind plea and threatened him with a substantial sentence if he proceeded to trial; (2) plea counsel failed to effectively advocate for McCauley at sentencing concerning his motions to withdraw guilty pleas; (3) plea counsel failed to object and ensure a factual basis existed for Counts I and IV[2]; (4) plea counsel failed to advocate for an aggregate ten year sentence that he promised McCauley and failed to suggest to the sentencing court any specific sentence of imprisonment; and (5) plea counsel failed to explain to McCauley his liability for Counts III and VII were premised on transferred intent. McCauley also asserts that his due process rights were violated because the plea court accepted his pleas of guilty to Counts III and VII, which did not have a factual basis and the state failed to plead a factual basis for transferred intent in Counts III and VII. Respondent contends that McCauley's claims are either procedurally barred and/or lack merit.

         A. Procedural Default of Claims I, II, and V

         “Ordinarily a federal court reviewing a state conviction in a [§ 2254] proceeding may consider only those claims which the petitioner has presented to the state court in accordance with state procedural rules.” Arnold v. Dormire, 675 F.3d 1082, 1086 (8th Cir. 2012). “In all cases in which a state prisoner has defaulted his federal claims in state court pursuant to an independent and adequate state procedural rule, federal habeas review is barred.” Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 750 (1991). To overcome the default, a defendant must demonstrate either cause and actual prejudice as a result of the alleged violation of federal law, or demonstrate that a failure to consider the claims will result in a fundamental miscarriage of justice. Coleman, 501 U.S. 722 at 750. To show cause for the default, defendant must demonstrate that some objective factor external to the defense impeded counsel's efforts to comply with the State's procedural rule. Murray v. Carrier, 477 U.S. 478, 488 (1986). For example, a defendant could demonstrate that the factual or legal basis for a claim was not reasonably available to counsel or some interference by officials made compliance impracticable. Id. at 488.

         In this case, the Missouri Court of Appeals denied relief on McCauley's claims I, II, and V for failure to comply with Missouri Supreme Court Rule 84.04(d)(1)(B), which requires the movant's points relied on to “state concisely the legal reasons for the appellant's claim of reversible error.” (Resp't Ex. F at 5-6.) The appeals court stated that McCauley's points relied upon did not present anything for its review so review was denied. (Resp't Ex. F. at 6.). McCauley contends that his violation of Rule 84.04 is a procedural default that this Court can excuse. McCauley does not dispute that Rule 84.04 is firmly established and regularly followed. See Morgan v. Jaovis, 744 F.3d 535, 538 (8th Cir. 2013). McCauley does not contend that the state-law support for its decision was otherwise inadequate. Id. Finally, McCauley's reply brief fails to establish any cause for the acknowledged default, demonstrate actual prejudice, or that failure to consider the claims will result in a fundamental miscarriage of justice. See Coleman, 501 U.S. at 750. Therefore, habeas review is barred for McCauley's claims I, II, and V, which include the following asserted errors: plea counsel guaranteed McCauley that he would receive a ten year sentence in exchange for blind pea and threatened ...

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