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Bearden v. State

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Third Division

March 28, 2017

TODD BEARDEN, Movant/Appellant,
v.
STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Francois County Honorable Sandy Martinez[*]

          OPINION

          LISA VAN AMBURG, JUDGE.

         Todd Bearden appeals from the judgment of the circuit court denying, without an evidentiary hearing, his motion for post-conviction relief after a guilty plea, pursuant to Rule 24.035. We reverse and remand for an evidentiary hearing.

         Background

         In 2013, Movant appeared before the plea court as one of six unrelated defendants in ten separate cases disposed in a "group plea" procedure. All defendants were represented simultaneously by the same public defender. The court began by explaining that the purpose of the group procedure was to save time; to that end, the court would pose questions to the group and "move straight down the line" for their responses and, when necessary, would speak to each defendant individually regarding his or her particular case. Movant was fourth in line. The court asked counsel and each defendant if anyone objected to the procedure, and they all replied no.

         Starting with group questions, the court first conducted an inquiry whether the defendants were satisfied with their attorney's services. Twelve questions on this topic were followed by consecutive responses of yes or no, unanimously. For example:

Q: Has your attorney done all the things that you have requested him to do for you in your case?
A1: Yes, sir.
A2: Yes, Your Honor.
A3: Yes.
A4: Yes, Your Honor.
A5: Yes, Your Honor.
A6: Yes, Your Honor.

         The court's subsequent inquiry, comprised of thirteen questions as to the defendants' understanding of their right to a jury trial and the consequences of the waiver of that right, proceeded in the same fashion.

Q: Do you understand that you have a right to have a jury determine your guilt or innocence of the charges against you ...

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