United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
E. JACKSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the petition of William Sitton
for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
2254. Respondent has filed a response in opposition and the
issues are fully briefed.
and Tracy Dykes, the victim, were business associates and
friends. They “operated a back-yard car repair business
together and spent almost every night together
drinking.” Resp. Ex. E, at 362. On March 20, 2004,
Dykes and petitioner drove from Bowling Green, Missouri to
the home of another friend - Mike Castelli - in Mexico,
Missouri. Id. At that time they were already visibly
intoxicated, but had Castelli drive them to acquire more
alcohol. Id. During that drive, Dykes and petitioner
engaged in “‘play fighting' and wrestling,
” with some escalation. Id.
the group returned to Castelli's home, petitioner used a
baseball bat to damage a car belonging to Castelli's
brother-in-law. Id. The police came to investigate,
and before they departed, petitioner threatened a police
agreed to drive the petitioner and Dykes back to Bowling
Green. Id. at 363. Dykes and petitioner argued about
the earlier car incident and petitioner insulted Dykes, who
eventually pulled petitioner by the throat into the backseat,
where they continued to fight. Id. Eventually, the
arguing and fighting ceased, and petitioner remained in the
backseat as Castelli drove. Id. Petitioner directed
Castelli to drop him off at his father's home, and when
Castelli turned around, he “noticed dark red, bloody
spots in the back of the van and asked [petitioner], who was
holding up a blue fold-up knife, what he had done.”
Id. When Castelli indicated that he wanted to take
Dykes to the hospital, petitioner demanded that Castelli
drive to his father's home - threatening to kill Castelli
and “everyone [he] love[d]” should he fail to
comply. Id. After petitioner and Castelli arrived at
the home of petitioner's father, his father called the
police. Id. Petitioner told police that he had
stabbed Dykes in self-defense. Id.
was charged with one count of first-degree murder and one
count of armed criminal action. Id. at 365. On July
22, 2005, following a two-day trial, a jury in the Lincoln
County Circuit Court found him guilty of the lesser included
offense of first-degree involuntary manslaughter and armed
criminal action. Resp. Ex. B, at 176-77. Petitioner is
currently incarcerated at Jefferson City Correctional Center.
September 6, 2005, the trial court sentenced petitioner to an
aggregate term of twenty-five years' imprisonment-seven
years for involuntary manslaughter and eighteen years for
armed criminal action. Id. at 191-93. The Missouri
Court of Appeals granted leave to file a late notice of
appeal, and on January 12, 2006, petitioner filed a notice of
direct appeal in forma pauperis. Resp. Ex. B, at
194-95, 203-04. The Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed the
judgment of the trial court by per curiam order on February
20, 2007. Resp. Ex. E, 000360; State v. Sitton, 214
S.W.3d 404 (Mo.Ct.App. 2007). Petitioner did not seek to
transfer the case to the Supreme Court of Missouri, and thus
the judgment became final when the court of appeals issued
its mandate on March 14, 2007. 28 U.S.C. §
2244(d)(1)(A); see Gonzalez v. Thayer, 132 S.Ct.
641, 646 (2012); Streu v. Dormire, 557 F.3d 960, 962
(8th Cir. 2009).
moved for post-conviction relief in the Lincoln County
Circuit Court pursuant to Rule 29.15 on May 15, 2007. The
court denied the motion on October 31, 2008. Resp. Ex. F, at
349-51; Resp. Ex. G, at 435 app. A-1; Mo. Sup.Ct. R. 29.15.
Petitioner appealed on December 1, 2008, and the Missouri
Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of post-conviction
relief on October 13, 2009. Resp. Ex. F, at 351; Resp. Ex. I;
Sitton v. State, 294 S.W.3d 137 (Mo.Ct.App. 2009)
time of petitioner's trial, jurors were permitted to opt
out of service “by agreeing to perform community
service and paying a $50 fee.” State ex. rel.
Sitton v. Norman, 406 S.W.3d 915, 916 (Mo. 2013) (en
banc). On October 18, 2010, after learning about the opt-out
option, petitioner filed an amended motion for a new trial.
[Doc. #20 at 1]. Because the motion was not ruled on within
ninety days (by January 23, 2011), it was denied by operation
of law. Resp. Ex. J, at 499; Mo. Sup.Ct. R. 29.11(g). On
October 21, 2010, petitioner also filed a motion to recall
the mandate and remand for filing an amended motion for new
trial due to newly discovered evidence of improper jury
assembly procedures; that motion was denied on October 26,
2010. Id. at 7.
November 30, 2011, petitioner filed a petition for habeas
corpus relief in the Circuit Court of Cole County, asserting
that the jury opt-out procedure did not comply with Mo. Ann.
Stat. §§ 494.400-494.505. Resp. Ex. J, at 500. The
motion was denied on March 19, 2012. Id.
Petitioner's appeal was denied on August 6, 2012.
Id. The petitioner then appealed to the Missouri
Supreme Court on December 12, 2012. Id. In his
brief, petitioner argued that the opt-out procedure (1)
denied him a jury drawn from a fair cross-section of the
community, thereby violating his Sixth and Fourteenth
Amendment rights, and (2) violated state statutory jury
selection requirements. Resp. Ex. J, at 503. The Missouri
Supreme Court denied the petition on July 30, 2013. Resp. Ex.
L, at 548; State ex. rel. Sitton v. Norman, 406
S.W.3d 915 (Mo. 2013) (en banc).
October 25, 2013, petitioner filed the instant petition
asserting that (1) the Lincoln County opt-out practice
violated his Sixth Amendment guarantee of an impartial jury,
(2) the Missouri Supreme Court violated his Fourteenth
Amendment right to equal protection.
U.S.C. § 2254 provides that a prisoner in state custody
may petition a federal court for a writ of habeas corpus
“on the ground that he is in custody in violation of
the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United
States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a).
petitioner's claim has been adjudicated on the merits in
a state court proceeding, habeas relief is available under
the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA)
only if the state court's determination:
(1) resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved
an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal
law, as determined by the ...