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Murphy v. State

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Fourth Division

February 14, 2017

TRAVIS MURPHY, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis 1522-CC10438 Honorable Dennis M. Schaumann

          GARY M. GAERTNER, JR, JUDGE.

         Introduction

         Travis Murphy (Movant) appeals from the motion court's judgment denying his Rule 24.035[1]motion without an evidentiary hearing. Movant claims that the motion court erred in denying his request for post-conviction relief because plea counsel was ineffective for failing to reach a plea agreement with the State for a more lenient sentence and the plea court erroneously enhanced his stealing offense from a misdemeanor to a felony. We affirm.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         This case involves convictions stemming from three separate crimes to which Movant pleaded guilty without a plea agreement (blind plea). First, in Cause Number 1422-CRO1710-01, the State charged Movant as a prior and persistent offender with one count of the class C felony of burglary in the second degree, one count of the class C felony of stealing, three counts of the class A misdemeanor of stealing under $500, and one count of the class B misdemeanor of property damage in the second degree. The charges arose from an incident on May 6, 2014, when Movant and a co-defendant entered a building without permission and stole a laptop, a cell phone, $800 in currency, and the purses of three separate victims. In entering the building, Movant damaged a window and a screen.

         Second, in Cause Number 1422-CRO 1719-01, the State charged Movant as a prior and persistent offender with two counts of the class A felony of robbery in the first degree, two counts of the class A felony of kidnapping, and four related counts of armed criminal action (AC A). The indictment asserted that on April 7, 2014, Movant and a co-defendant forcibly stole cell phones and currency from two victims, and in the course thereof displayed and threatened the use of what appeared to be a deadly weapon. For the purpose of facilitating the robbery, Movant confined the two victims for a substantial period.

         At a plea hearing in February of2015 on both Cause Number 1422-CR01710-01 and Cause Number 1422-CRO 1719-01, Movant acknowledged that he was pleading guilty without an agreement with the State, he knew the ranges of punishment, the trial court alone would decide the sentence, no one had promised him specific sentences, and he still wished to plead guilty. Movant agreed that he committed the crimes as described by the State and was pleading guilty of his own free will. The plea court accepted his pleas. Also at the plea hearing, Movant admitted to at least two prior convictions and agreed that he was currently on parole.

         Third, at the sentencing hearing, Movant's counsel announced that since the prior plea hearing, Movant had been charged in a cold case, Cause Number 1522-CR00772, wherein the State charged Movant as a prior and persistent offender with one count of the class C felony of burglary in the second degree and one count of the class A misdemeanor of stealing under $500. The information stated that on May 21, 2012, Movant entered a building without permission and stole change from the purse of a victim who was not home. Movant acknowledged that he had committed the crime as described by the State, he understood the sentencing range, he was pleading guilty without a plea agreement, and no one had promised him a specific sentence. The court accepted his guilty pleas.

         The State recommended concurrent sentences of a total of fifteen years on Cause Number 1422-CR01710-01 (burglary, felony stealing, misdemeanor stealing, and property damage charges); concurrent sentences of a total of thirty years on all counts in Cause Number 1422-CR01719-01 (robbery, kidnapping, and ACA charges); and concurrent sentences of a total of fifteen years on Cause Number 1522-CR00772 (burglary and misdemeanor stealing charges). Movant expressed his remorse and requested a total sentence of sixteen point four (16.4) years on all counts and charges.

         The plea court sentenced Movant in Cause Number 1422-CR01710-01 to concurrent sentences of fifteen years on the burglary and felony stealing counts, of one year on the three misdemeanor counts, and of six months on the property-damage count, for a total of fifteen years. In Cause Number 1422-CR01719-01, the plea court sentenced Movant to concurrent sentences of twenty years on each of the robbery, kidnapping, and ACA counts. In Cause Number 1522-CR00772, the plea court sentenced Movant to concurrent sentences of fifteen years on the burglary count and one year on the misdemeanor stealing count, for a total of fifteen years. All three sentences were concurrent to each other, for a total sentence of twenty years.

         Movant timely filed a motion for post-conviction relief under Rule 24.035 in all three cases. Appointed counsel timely filed an amended motion arguing Movant's plea counsel was ineffective for failing to reach more lenient plea agreements with the State for his three criminal cases than the total twenty-year sentence Movant received. Movant stated that at an evidentiary hearing he would testify he had requested that plea counsel attempt to obtain a plea agreement for probation or for a sentence of no more than a total of fifteen years, but that plea counsel failed to reach this agreement. Movant further argued that he was prejudiced by plea counsel's failure because there was a reasonable probability that had counsel negotiated a deal for less than twenty years, Movant would have accepted it.

         The motion court denied Movant's Rule 24.035 motion without an evidentiary hearing, finding Movant failed to allege grounds, not refuted by the record, that would entitle him to relief. Specifically, the motion court found Movant's blind pleas were voluntary and his suggestions that his plea counsel might have been able to get a better deal or that the State might have agreed to ...


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