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Mitchell v. State

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Fourth Division

February 7, 2017

IVAN MITCHELL, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis Honorable Mark H. Neill

          KURT S. ODENWALD, Judge

         Introduction

         Ivan Mitchell ("Mitchell") appeals the motion court's denial of his amended Rule 24.035[1]motion without an evidentiary hearing. On appeal, Mitchell argues that the motion court clearly erred for two reasons. First, Mitchell asserts that the motion court failed to issue the mandatory findings of fact and conclusions of law on his claim that the State violated Brady v. Maryland.[2]Alternatively, Mitchell contends that the motion court improperly denied him an evidentiary hearing on his claim for ineffective assistance of counsel because he pleaded facts, not refuted by the record, that entitled him to post-conviction relief. Mitchell's claim for relief due to the alleged Brady violation is not cognizable in this post-conviction proceeding because Mitchell was aware of the alleged non-disclosure of evidence before he entered his guilty plea. Because Mitchell's pleaded allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel are directly refuted by the record, we affirm the motion court's judgment.

         Factual and Procedural History

         The State charged Mitchell with two felonies-first-degree murder and armed criminal action-for allegedly shooting a victim to death in a bar. Mitchell indicated a willingness to plead guilty to these charges pursuant to an agreement with the State. Under the plea agreement, the State would reduce the murder charge from first-degree to second-degree and recommend concurrent life terms in prison with the possibility of parole. A fust-degree murder conviction carries the possibility of a life sentence without parole. The plea court held a hearing.

         At the hearing, the plea court questioned Mitchell about the voluntariness of his plea. Mitchell stated that he understood the terms of the plea agreement. Mitchell told the plea court that he had enough time with plea counsel to discuss the charges and review the evidence. The plea court then outlined Mitchell's trial rights. Mitchell acknowledged that he was waiving those rights by pleading guilty. Mitchell stated that he had discussed a mistaken-identity defense with plea counsel, but had no viable defense due to the incriminating statement he made during a police interrogation. Mitchell estimated that he had met with plea counsel four or five times concerning his case. According to Mitchell, plea counsel answered all of his questions and did everything Mitchell asked. After Mitchell said that he was voluntarily pleading guilty, the prosecutor read the factual basis for the plea. Mitchell did not dispute the factual basis, and the plea court accepted Mitchell's plea.

         At Mitchell's subsequent sentencing hearing, the plea court sentenced Mitchell according to the terms of the plea agreement. The plea court then inquired into plea counsel's effectiveness. Mitchell, as he had done during his plea hearing, reported no complaints about his plea counsel's representation of him. Again, Mitchell stated that plea counsel had answered all of his questions and had done everything he had asked. The plea court found no probable cause to believe that Mitchell had received ineffective assistance of counsel.

         Mitchell filed a timely amended motion under Rule 24.035. The motion alleged two grounds (relevant to this appeal) for post-conviction relief.

         First, Mitchell alleged that plea counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate and request from the State a recorded video of an interrogation in which Mitchell allegedly invoked his right to counsel. The alleged video, the motion claimed, was taken at some point before a subsequent interrogation in which Mitchell gave an incriminating statement. In the motion, Mitchell asserted that he had invoked his right to counsel during the first interrogation, the police terminated that interrogation, and then police later interrogated him a second time, during which he made the incriminating statement. Mitchell alleged that he received the video of the second interrogation containing the incriminating statement, but never received video of the first interrogation, in which he invoked his right to counsel. In his motion, Mitchell avers that he told plea counsel of the initial interrogation, but that plea counsel failed to file for additional discovery. But for plea counsel's ineffectiveness, the motion averred that there would have been a reasonable chance of suppressing the incriminating statement Mitchell made during the second videotaped interrogation.

         Second, Mitchell alleged in the alternative that he was entitled to post-conviction relief because the State committed a Brady violation by failing to disclose the video of the first interrogation.[3] Mitchell further pleaded that "information about the first interview and his request for counsel was necessary" to support a motion to suppress his statements. Mitchell asserted that he "was prejudiced because he did not receive this discoverable evidence ... and was not able to review the video in order to file a pre-trial motion to suppress his statements based on his request for counsel [in the first interrogation]."

         Without holding an evidentiary hearing, the motion court entered findings of fact and conclusions of law denying Mitchell's amended Rule 24.035 motion. Addressing the ineffective-assistance claim, the motion court found that Mitchell had repeatedly assured the plea court, during both the plea and sentencing hearings, that his counsel had done everything asked of him. Further, the motion court found that plea counsel had sufficiently discussed the case with Mitchell. The motion court noted that while Mitchell "claims he told his attorney about the first interview and asked his attorney to get any notes or recording[s] of the interview, " Mitchell twice informed the plea court that he had no complaints against his plea counsel. Because Mitchell testified that he had no complaints with plea counsel, the motion court concluded that the ineffective-assistance claim was without merit. The motion court's findings and conclusions did not specifically address Mitchell's alternate Brady claim.

         With leave of this Court, Mitchell subsequently filed a late notice of appeal. This appeal follows.

         Points on Appeal

         Mitchell raises two points on appeal, both asserting that the motion court clearly erred by denying his Rule 24.035 amended motion without an evidentiary hearing. In Point One, Mitchell contends that the motion court improperly denied relief based upon his Brady claim without issuing specific findings of fact and conclusions of law addressing that claim. In Point Two, Mitchell asserts that he pleaded facts (not conclusions), which the record did not refute, entitling him to post-convict ion relief because plea counsel was ineffective. Specifically, Mitchell maintains that the facts pleaded, if proved, would demonstrate that plea counsel failed to investigate and request the first interrogation video and that Mitchell was prejudiced because of plea counsel's failure.

         Standard ...


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