United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
C. COLLINS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter is before the Court for review and final disposition
of a petition for writ of habeas corpus filed by Craig Hill
(“Hill” or “petitioner”) pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 2254.Petitioner seeks to overturn his conviction
for first-degree murder because of alleged trial court error
and ineffective assistance of counsel. Respondent contends
that several of petitioner's claims are procedurally
defaulted and that all of his claims are meritless.
Respondent is correct, and the Court will dismiss this action
without further proceedings.
Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, summarized the
facts as follows:
On June 28, 2005, in the early afternoon, Doanita Whittier
(Whittier) got into an argument with some women outside a
store in the City of St. Louis. Later that afternoon
Whittier's boyfriend, Jason Holman (Holman), was walking
to the store where the argument had occurred when a man got
off a bus nearby. Holman did not know the man but identified
[Hill] in court as the man who exited the bus. [Hill] began
talking to the women that Whittier had argued with. The women
knew that Holman was dating Whittier and were pointing at
Holman while talking with [Hill]. As this was happening, two
men noticed that [Hill] had a gun, and grabbed [Hill] and
held him up against a fence. Holman and a third man were able
to get the gun away from [Hill]. After [Hill] was disarmed,
Holman and [Hill] fought briefly. Holman "got the best
of" [Hill] and the fight was broken up. Holman returned
home after the fight.
Later that afternoon, Whittier and her friends, Erica
Alexander (Alexander), Sabrina Chase (Chase) and Jaronda
Acres (Acres), were at Acres' aunt's house visiting.
The women left the house to walk to some stores nearby. Acres
and Alexander went to one store, while Whittier and Chase
went to a different store. Outside the store, Whittier got
into an argument with some women regarding the argument that
had occurred earlier that day. After an older woman came
outside and calmed everything down, Whittier, Alexander,
Chase and Acres went back to Acres' aunt's house.
Around 4:00 or 5:00p.m., Holman and Whittier met up with
Acres, Alexander, and Chase at the bus stop at the corner of
St. Louis Avenue and Sarah Street. The group sat at the bus
stop talking for a several hours.
Around 8:00p.m., as it was starting to get dark, [Hill] came
around the corner and started shooting into the group. The
first shot hit Holman in the chest and a second shot hit him
in the arm. Alexander and Holman ran across the street onto
the front porch of a house, where Holman blacked out.
Although Acres had been shot three times in the leg, she and
Chase ran to a gangway between two houses. Whittier collapsed
onto the street after being shot twice, once in the chest and
once in the arm. Whittier died as a result of the gunshot
wound to her chest.
On July 7, 2005, police contacted Alexander and Chase and
asked them to view a lineup. Both women identified [Hill] in
the lineup as the shooter.
At trial, Alexander testified that although it was getting
dark outside, there was enough artificial light in the area
for her to see the shooter. Alexander stated the shooter was
a black male with a light or caramel complexion, was 19-20
years old, was 5'7" to 5'9" tall, had a
slim build and had his hair in twisties. Alexander testified
that the shooter was not wearing anything to hide his face.
Alexander identified [Hill] at trial as the man who shot at
her and her friends.
Alexander testified that during the lineup the police told
her to look at the men and to "see if [she saw] a person
who was the shooter." Alexander testified she recognized
[Hill] as the shooter "right away." Alexander
stated the police did not make her try to pick someone out,
and she did not feel pressure from anyone to do so. Alexander
stated out of the five men in the lineup, two of the men were
too tall to be the shooter and one man did not have his hair
in twisties or braids. Alexander stated the detective
specifically directed her not to base her identification on
the men's hairstyles. Alexander testified that the
men's hairstyles did not have much effect on her
identification and that she picked [Hill] because she
recognized him as the shooter.
Chase testified that although it was getting dark, the street
lights had come on and there was enough light for her to see
the shooter clearly. Chase testified that the shooter was
light skinned, skinny, a couple of inches taller than her,
and had his hair in medium sized twisties. Chase identified
[Hill] as the shooter in court.
Chase testified that during the lineup the police officer did
not point anyone out to her or try to make her pick someone
out of the lineup. Chase testified the officer instructed her
to look to see if she saw the person she thought did the
shooting but not to worry if she did not see him. Chase
testified she identified [Hill] as the shooter because she
recognized him by his face. Chase stated she identified
[Hill] in the lineup because she saw him at the scene, not
because he matched the description she had given to police.
Acres testified that the shooter was a black male, with
twisties in his hair, but that she did not get a good look at
him. Acres viewed a photo array which included a photograph
of [Hill]. Acres pointed [Hill] out in the photo array and
told detectives that she had seen [Hill] in her neighborhood
prior to the shooting. Acres stated she did not get a good
enough look at the shooter to identify him.
Holman identified [Hill] in court as the same man he fought
with briefly the day of the shooting and who had shot him.
Homicide Detective Jody Ballman (Ballman) testified that
Alexander described the shooter as a black male with a light
complexion, 5'8" to 5'9" tall, skinny, and
wearing medium braids in his hair. Ballman stated that Chase
described the shooter to police as being 19 to 20 years old,
with a light complexion, 5'6" to 5'7" tall,
skinny, with medium length twisties in his hair. Ballman
testified that after [Hill] was arrested, the police
attempted to find four other people in custody that looked
similar to [Hill] that were willing to participate in the
[Hill] did not present any witnesses at trial. At the close
of the evidence, the trial court addressed [Hill]'s
Motion to Suppress Identifications which had been filed prior
to trial and had been taken with the case. [Hill] alleged
that the identification procedures used by police during the
physical and photo lineups were unduly suggestive. The court
found that although the men in the lineup had different
characteristics, they were all African-American males of the
same age and were sufficiently similar for the lineup to be
acceptable. The court denied the motion, finding that the
witnesses had an independent opportunity to view the events
and that the police procedures were permissible.
. . .
The jury found [Hill] guilty on all charges, including
first-degree murder, two counts of first-degree assault, and
three counts of armed criminal action. [Hill] filed a Motion
for Judgment of Acquittal, or in the Alternative for a New
Trial, but did not include issues related to the
identification testimony or the propriety of the State's
closing argument. The trial court denied the motion, and on
November 20, 2008, the trial court sentenced [Hill] to a term
of life without the possibility of probation or parole on the
first-degree murder conviction and to concurrent terms of
life on the remaining convictions.
Resp't Ex. E at 2-6 (Mem. Supplementing Order Affirming
J. Pursuant to Rule 30.25(b)).
direct appeal, petitioner argued that (1) the trial court
erred in denying his motion to suppress identifications, and
in allowing testimony regarding the pretrial lineup and
in-court identifications of him by Erica Alexander and
Sabrina Chase; and (2) the trial court plainly erred in
allowing the prosecutor to argue in closing that the evidence
was uncontradicted and uncontroverted in violation of his
Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Id. at 6-7.
The Missouri Court of Appeals found that the grounds were not
preserved for appellate review and, therefore, reviewed them
for plain error. Id. at 7. After review, the
appellate court found no plain error and affirmed the
conviction and sentences. Id. at 8-12.
filed a timely motion for postconviction relief under Rule
29.15 of the Missouri Court Rules. Resp't Ex. F at 3
(Legal File). The motion court denied relief without holding
an evidentiary hearing. Id. at 3.
appeal from the denial of postconviction relief, petitioner
argued that (1) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to
investigate and call Courtney Woods and Josephine Woods to
testify at trial because they would have provided him with an
alibi; and (2) trial counsel was ineffective for refusing to
allow him to testify at trial. Resp't Ex. I at 12-13
(Appellant's Statement, Br., and Argument). The Missouri
Court of Appeals, Eastern District, applied the
Strickland test to both of petitioner's claims,
and it found that petitioner had failed to demonstrate that
trial counsel was ineffective. Resp't Ex. at 3-8.
filed the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 on May 1, 2014.
Trial, appellate, and postconviction counsel were ineffective
for failing to present evidence of his actual innocence
through witnesses who were present in the area of the
shooting but did not see Hill there.
Trial counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate and
call his alibi witnesses.
Trial counsel was ineffective for advising him not to testify
Trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to a
verdict director based on transferred intent.
trial court erred when it failed to suppress petitioner's
identification from the lineups.
Trial counsel was ineffective by failing to investigate and
impeach State witness Jason Holman with his prior ...