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Creighton v. State

Supreme Court of Missouri, En Banc

April 25, 2017

RODNEY CREIGHTON, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis The Honorable Elizabeth Byrne Hogan, Judge

          GEORGE W. DRAPER III, JUDGE.

         Rodney Creighton (hereinafter, "Movant") appeals from a judgment overruling his Rule 29.15 motion for post-conviction relief without an evidentiary hearing.[1] This Court holds as follows. First, the motion court's memorandum notifying the public defender that Movant filed a pro se motion for post-conviction relief was not an appointment of counsel triggering the Rule 29.15(g) timelines for filing an amended motion. Movant's amended motion was timely because it was filed within the applicable time period following counsel's entry of appearance. Second, the motion court did not clearly err by denying relief on Movant's claim that counsel was ineffective for failing to request a mistrial or, alternatively, the removal of a juror for intentional nondisclosure. Finally, the motion court clearly erred to the extent it denied relief on Movant's pro se claims by finding the claims were illegible. Therefore, the judgment is reversed and the case is remanded for consideration of the merits of Movant's pro se claims. The judgment is affirmed in all other respects.

         Background

         Following a jury trial, the circuit court convicted Movant of three counts of robbery in the first degree, three counts of armed criminal action, and one count of resisting arrest. The circuit court sentenced Movant to concurrent terms of twenty-five years for each of the three robbery convictions, ten years for each of the three armed criminal action convictions, and seven years for resisting arrest. Movant's convictions and sentences were affirmed on direct appeal. State v. Creighton, 386 S.W.3d 206 (Mo. App. E.D. 2012).

         On January 17, 2013, Movant filed a timely pro se Rule 29.15 motion for post-conviction relief. On March 8, 2013, the motion court issued the following memorandum:

The Court hereby notifies Scott Thompson that movant Rodney Creighton has filed a post-conviction motion. The motion is accompanied by an affidavit of indigency. So ordered, Judge Elizabeth B. Hogan.

         Movant's public defender entered his appearance on May 30, 2013. On July 26, 2013, the motion court sustained counsel's request for a thirty-day extension of time to file an amended motion. On August 28, 2013, post-conviction counsel filed an amended motion on Movant's behalf.

         As relevant to this appeal, the amended motion asserted trial counsel was ineffective for failing to seek a mistrial or, alternatively, the removal of a juror for intentional nondisclosure. Movant alleged the juror knew him but failed to respond when the State specifically asked the jury panel if anyone knew Movant. The motion court denied relief without an evidentiary hearing.

         Movant raises two points on appeal. First, Movant asserts counsel was ineffective for failing to request a mistrial or, alternatively, the removal of a juror for intentional nondisclosure. Second, Movant asserts the motion court clearly erred by finding that his pro se claims were illegible and, therefore, unreviewable. The threshold issue, however, is whether the motion court's March 8, 2013, memorandum notifying the public defender of Movant's pro se filing constituted an appointment that commenced the Rule 29.15(g) deadlines for filing a timely amended motion.

         Standard of Review

         This Court reviews a judgment denying a Rule 29.15 motion for post-conviction relief to determine whether the motion court's findings of fact and conclusions of law are clearly erroneous. Rule 29.15(k). The motion court's findings and conclusions are clearly erroneous only if a full review of the record leaves the reviewing court with "the definite and firm impression that a mistake has been made." Moore v. State, 458 S.W.3d 822, 829 (Mo. banc 2015) (quoting Williams v. State, 168 S.W.3d 433, 439 (Mo. banc 2005)).

         The amended motion was filed timely

         Rule 29.15(g) establishes the timelines for filing an amended motion. In ...


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