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Chandler v. State

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Fourth Division

October 18, 2016

JEFFREY A. CHANDLER, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lincoln County 14L6-CC00097 Honorable James D. Beck

          OPINION

          JAMES M. DOWD, PRESIDING JUDGE

         Jeffrey A. Chandler was convicted, after a bench trial, of the felony charges of two counts of second-degree statutory sodomy, one count of second-degree statutory rape, and one count of incest. The trial court sentenced Chandler to three consecutive seven-year prison terms for the two counts of second-degree statutory sodomy and the count of second-degree statutory rape, and to a concurrent four-year prison term for the count of incest. Chandler appealed the judgment of conviction in State v. Chandler, 429 S.W.3d 503 (Mo.App.E.D. 2014), and this Court affirmed. Chandler then filed a Rule 29.15 motion for post-conviction relief. The motion court denied it after an evidentiary hearing. We now consider Chandler's appeal of the motion court's ruling.

         Arguing that the motion court clearly erred in denying his Rule 29.15 motion, Chandler raises one point on appeal: that trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to object under Missouri v, Seibert, 542 U.S. 600 (2004) to a police detective's trial testimony that he did not believe Chandler's denials of committing the charged offenses because his "micro-gestures" during interrogation indicated that he was not telling the truth. Because the motion court did not clearly err in determining that Seibert does not support Chandler's ineffective assistance claim, and thus that he is not entitled to any relief, we affirm.

         Standard of Review

         We review the denial of a Rule 29.15 motion for post-conviction relief only to determine whether the motion court's findings and conclusions are clearly erroneous. Rule 29.15(k)[1]; Mallow v. State, 439 S.W.3d 764, 768 (Mo.banc 2014). Findings and conclusions are clearly erroneous only if, after reviewing the entire record, we are left with the definite and firm impression that a mistake has been made. Id. We presume that the motion court's findings are correct. Id.

         Discussion

         The Strickland Test

         We apply the two-part Strickland test to ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims for postconviction relief under Rule 29.15. See Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984); Johnson, 406 S.W.3d at 898. To be entitled to relief, the movant must show by a preponderance of the evidence that (1) his counsel failed to exercise the level of skill and diligence that a reasonably competent counsel would in a similar situation, and (2) he was prejudiced by that failure. Johnson, 406 S.W.3d at 898-99. To overcome the strong presumption that counsel's conduct was reasonable and effective, the movant must identify specific acts or omissions of counsel that, in light of all the circumstances, fell outside the wide range of professionally competent assistance. Id. To show prejudice, the movant must demonstrate that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different. Id.

         Failure to Object under Seibert to Detective's Testimony about Chandler's "Micro-gestures"

         In his sole point on appeal, Chandler claims that the motion court clearly erred in denying his Rule 29.15 motion because trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to object under Missouri v. Seibert, 542 U.S. 600 (2004) to a police detective's trial testimony that he did not believe Chandler's denials of committing the charged offenses because his "micro-gestures" during interrogation indicated that he was not telling the truth. We disagree because the motion court did not clearly err in determining that Seibert does not support Chandler's ineffective assistance claim, and thus that he is not entitled to any relief.

         In Seibert, the Supreme Court of the United States held that a defendant's statement is not properly admitted, absent specific curative measures, where it has resulted from a particular two-step interrogation technique-in which police twice question the defendant, first without and then with the Miranda warnings[2], each time eliciting the same statement-and the technique has been used in a calculated way to undermine the Miranda warnings. See Seibert, 524 U.S. at 621 (Kennedy, J., concurring) (controlling opinion) ("When an interrogator uses [the above-described] deliberate, two-step strategy, predicated upon violating Miranda during an extended interview, postwarning statements that are related to the substance of prewarning statements must be excluded absent specific, curative steps."). For several reasons, Seibert*$ holding does not support Chandler's claim here.

         Most important, in this case Chandler admits that there is no evidence that the police detective who interrogated him used the two-step interrogation technique condemned in Seibert. Chandler simply argues that the interrogation techniques the detective did use had the same effect on his understanding of his Miranda rights. But not even that much is true. Unlike the two-step interrogation in Seibert, the detective's questioning in this case did not deprive Chandler of a free and rational choice whether to exercise his Miranda rights, see Seibert, 542 U.S. at 611 (plurality opinion) ("Miranda addressed 'interrogation practices ... likely... to disable [an individual] from making a free and rational choice' about speaking, and held that a suspect must be 'adequately and effectively' advised of the choice the Constitution guarantees." (quoting Miranda, 384 U.S. at 464-65, 467) (emphasis added)), and thus no unconstitutional coercion resulted here.

         In this case, Chandler was arrested for committing sexually deviant acts against his 16-year-old daughter, and he was questioned by a police detective both before and after receiving the Miranda warnings. However, prior to giving the warnings the detective did not ask any questions regarding the allegations of Chandler's criminal offenses. Instead, for approximately 20 minutes the detective discussed only Chandler's background, his employment, and his family dynamics. When the detective finally gave Chandler the Miranda warnings, Chandler signed an "advice of rights" form stating that he ...


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