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Moore v. State

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Fourth Division

October 25, 2016

CORNELIUS MOORE, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Platte County, Missouri The Honorable Thomas C. Fincham, Judge

          Before: Mark D. Pfeiffer, Chief Judge, Presiding, Victor C. Howard, Judge and Gary D. Witt, Judge

          Gary D. Witt, Judge

         Appellant Cornelius Moore ("Moore") appeals the judgment of the Circuit Court of Platte County denying his Rule 29.15[1] amended motion for post-conviction relief. Moore was convicted of one count of assault in the first degree, section 565.050, [2] and sentenced to fourteen years' imprisonment. In his amended post-conviction motion for relief, as relevant to this appeal, Moore argued that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to adequately advise him of the benefits of a jury trial. Following an evidentiary hearing, the court denied his motion. Moore now appeals. We affirm.

         Factual and Procedural Background[3]

         On July 25, 2010, Moore was almost in a vehicular collision with Chad Pauley ("Pauley") in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Moore followed Pauley's vehicle to a nearby Payless Shoe store. Moore exited his vehicle and pounded on the window of Pauley's vehicle, ordering him to exit. When Pauley opened his door, Moore punched Pauley multiple times in the face knocking Pauley to the ground. A security guard testified that he ordered Moore not to leave the scene as police were on their way. Moore got back in his vehicle and drove away.

         The State charged Moore with the class A felony of assault in the first degree. Moore waived his right to a jury trial, and the court conducted a bench trial. At trial, Pauley testified that he had permanent damage to the iris of his right eye, resulting in blurred vision. Moore testified in his own defense at trial. He alleged that Pauley was the aggressor and that he only punched Pauley after Pauley attempted to punch him.

         The trial court found Moore guilty of assault in the first degree, resulting in serious physical injury. It further found that Moore's version of events and claims of self-defense were not credible. On August 2, 2012, the trial court sentenced Moore to fourteen years' imprisonment. Moore's conviction and sentence were affirmed by this Court in State v. Moore, 414 S.W.3d 580 (Mo. App. W.D. 2013).

         Moore timely filed a pro se Rule 29.15 motion on March 24, 2014. The court appointed counsel, and an amended motion was timely filed on June 24, 2014 ("Amended Motion"). The Amended Motion alleged, inter alia, his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to fully advise him regarding jury trials and caused him to make an unknowing, involuntary, and unintelligent waiver of his right to a jury trial.

         An evidentiary hearing was held on June 11, 2015, at which both Moore and his trial attorney testified.

         On July 17, 2015, the motion court issued its findings of fact and conclusions of law denying Moore's Amended Motion. Moore now appeals.

         Standard of Review

This Court will affirm the judgment of the motion court unless its findings and conclusions are clearly erroneous. Rule 29.15(k). The motion court's judgment is clearly erroneous only if this Court is left with a definite and firm impression that a mistake has been made. The motion court's findings are presumed correct. Additionally, a movant bears the burden of proving the ...

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