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Hopkins v. State

Supreme Court of Missouri, En Banc

April 25, 2017

STEWART R. HOPKINS, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent.

         Appeal from The Circuit Court of Taney County The Honorable Laura J. Johnson, Judge

          GEORGE W. DRAPER III, JUDGE.

         Stewart Hopkins (hereinafter, "Movant") appeals from a judgment overruling his Rule 29.15 motion for post-conviction relief without an evidentiary hearing.[1] As in State v. Creighton, No. SC95527, ___S.W.3d ___(Mo. banc April 25, 2017), the threshold issue is whether the motion court appointed counsel and triggered the Rule 29.15(g) timelines for filing an amended motion by notifying the public defender that Movant filed a pro se motion. Consistent with Creighton, this Court holds the notification was not an appointment. Movant's amended motion was timely because it was filed within the applicable time period following counsel's entry of appearance.

         This Court further holds the motion court did not clearly err in denying relief on Movant's claim that counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the introduction into evidence of telephone calls recorded while Movant was incarcerated. The judgment is affirmed.

         Background

         A jury convicted Movant of murder in the first degree and armed criminal action for killing his ex-wife (hereinafter, "Victim"). The circuit court sentenced Movant to concurrent terms of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for murder and twenty-five years for armed criminal action. Movant's convictions and sentences were affirmed on direct appeal. State v. Hopkins, No. SD32486 (Mo. App. S.D. May 5, 2014).

         Viewed in the light most favorable to the jury's verdicts, the evidence at trial showed that Movant and Victim engaged in an argument in a motel room. During the argument, Movant called another of his ex-wives. Movant spoke to that ex-wife's boyfriend and, when told she was unavailable, stated that he had killed Victim.

         The next morning, a motel housekeeper found Victim's body on the floor of the motel room. The housekeeper called the motel manager, who called 911. The manager and the housekeeper observed Victim lying on the floor, on her back, in a puddle of blood with a cut across her neck. Police and emergency personnel arrived and confirmed Victim was deceased. An autopsy concluded that Victim sustained twenty sharp injury wounds.

         Movant was arrested in a motel room in Tulsa, Oklahoma. During a police interrogation, Movant disclosed the details of how he killed Victim. According to Movant, he and Victim began arguing. Victim slashed at Movant with a knife. Movant responded by slashing at Victim with his own knife. Movant then took Victim's knife and threw it into the parking lot. Movant stated everything after that point was a "cloudy area, " but he proceeded to describe how he stabbed Victim in the throat. Movant then described Victim's appearance after she died.

         There was also DNA evidence linking Movant to Victim's murder. A mixture of Movant's blood and Victim's blood was on the handle of Movant's knife. Only Victim's blood was on the blade.

         Finally, the jury heard recordings of three telephone calls Movant made from jail. In the first phone call, Movant said that he took the knife away from Victim, threw it in the parking lot, and then drew his knife because he "had to kill her." Movant also stated he wanted to be transferred to a different correctional center. In the second call, Movant said he would plead self-defense because Victim had her knife and "got me first." In the third call, Movant said that he could not wait to get out of jail and back to the department of corrections. Movant also said he was not going to take his case to trial.

         Following his convictions and unsuccessful direct appeal, Movant filed a timely pro se motion for post-conviction relief on July 16, 2014. On August 18, 2014, the motion court entered an "Order of Notification" stating:

The Court orders the Circuit Clerk to notify the Central Appellate Division for the State Public Defender of the filing of this 24.035 [sic] action and to provide the State Public Defender with a copy of Movant's Form 40.
The Circuit Clerk is ordered to furnish to the State Public Defender any and all pleadings from this file or the underlying criminal case that the ...

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