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Roberson v. Villmer

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

March 30, 2017

ANTHONY ROBERSON, Petitioner,
v.
TOM VILLMER, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          CAROL E. JACKSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the petition of Anthony Roberson for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Respondent has filed a response in opposition and petitioner has filed a traverse.

         I. Background

         A. Trial

         In 2006, a jury in the St. Charles Count Circuit Court found petitioner guilty of driving while intoxicated (DWI). He was sentenced by the court as a chronic offender to a 15-year term of imprisonment, pursuant to Mo. Rev. Stat. § 577.023 (Cum. Supp. 2005).

         Although the chronic offender statute only required proof of four prior convictions for intoxication-related traffic offenses, the State presented evidence that petitioner had six such convictions: (1) two 1981 St. Louis County manslaughter convictions for offenses on the same date (counted as one prior offense); (2) a 1985 St. Louis County guilty plea to driving with excessive blood alcohol; (3) a 1988 Calverton Park municipal conviction for driving while intoxicated; (4) a 1995 St. Charles County guilty plea to driving while intoxicated; (5) a 2001 St. Charles County guilty plea to driving while intoxicated and (6) a 1983 St. Louis County conviction for driving while intoxicated. Resp. Ex. A, at 23-24. Prior to sentencing, the State offered into evidence documentation of the prior convictions. When defense counsel objected that he had not had a chance to look at the documents, the court gave him time to examine them. Defense counsel then objected to the admissibility of one of the documents, a Missouri Uniform Law Enforcement System (MULES) record that was offered as evidence of the Calverton Park conviction. After reviewing the documents, defense counsel withdrew his objections. Resp. Ex. C, at 9-11.

         B. Direct Appeal

         In July 2009, petitioner's appellate counsel wrote a letter to petitioner stating that he could only ask for a sentence reduction on appeal if the sentence received was greater than that authorized by law. [Doc. #1-4]. In September 2009, counsel wrote to the prosecutor requesting copies of the exhibits that were used to prove petitioner's prior convictions. [Doc. #1-5]. On direct appeal, counsel did not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence to support the sentencing enhancement. Instead, the sole issue raised on appeal was that the trial court erred in overruling the defense's objections and requests for mistrial based on a statement made by the prosecutor during voir dire. Resp. Ex. E, at 12. Petitioner's conviction and sentence were affirmed by the Missouri Court of Appeals on May 18, 2010. Resp. Ex. G, at 1. The appellate court noted that petitioner did not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence. Resp. Ex. G, at 4.

         C. State Post-Conviction Proceedings

         On July 26, 2010, petitioner filed a pro se motion to vacate, set aside or correct the judgment or sentence pursuant to Missouri Supreme Court Rule 29.15 in which he raised the following claims: (1) his conviction was unconstitutional because Missouri's driving while intoxicated statute was vague; (2) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to challenge the constitutionality of the Missouri driving while intoxicated statute; and (3) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to call two witnesses to testify on behalf of petitioner. Resp. Ex. I, at 18, 21, 23. On September 9, 2011, the motion court granted an evidentiary hearing only as to the third claim, which was ultimately denied on the merits. On appeal, petitioner challenged only the motion court's denial of relief on the third claim. Resp. Ex. K, at 13. The judgment of the motion court was affirmed. Roberson v. State, 383 S.W.3d 479 (Mo. App. E.D. 2012).

         On April 5, 2012, petitioner filed a Rule 91 petition for habeas corpus in the Circuit Court of Cole County, Missouri, alleging ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel for failing to object to the chronic offender enhancement. Resp. Ex. Q, at 3. The court denied relief on September 5, 2012, finding that a petitioner could not use a proceeding in habeas corpus to challenge the sufficiency of the evidence supporting a trial court's finding of sufficient prior convictions if the challenge could have been brought in the ordinary course of review. Resp. Ex. R, at 1. On October 25, 2012, petitioner filed a Rule 91 petition for habeas corpus in the Missouri Court of Appeals Western District which was summarily denied on October 30, 2012. Resp. Ex. T, at 1. On February 13, 2013, petitioner filed a Rule 91 petition for habeas corpus in the Missouri Supreme Court; after ordering the State to file a response, the court denied the petition on June 11, 2013. Resp. Ex. V, at 1. In all of these petitions, which are substantially identical, petitioner alleges ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel for failing to object to the classification of petitioner as a chronic offender.

         II. Legal Standard

         When a claim has been adjudicated on the merits in state court proceedings, habeas relief is permissible under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA), 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), 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 Supreme Court of the United States; or
(2) resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented ...

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