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Hendricks v. State

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Fourth Division

May 9, 2017

TERRENCE HENDRICKS, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis Honorable David C. Mason

          KURT S. ODENWALD, Judge

          Introduction

         Terrence Hendricks ("Hendricks") appeals from the judgment of the motion court denying his Rule 29.15[1] motion for post-conviction relief following an evidentiary hearing. Hendricks sought relief from his convictions relating to a violent home invasion that resulted in the shooting of Ernest Strong ("Ernest").[2] On appeal, Hendricks argues that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to present evidence that a purported eyewitness had previously identified another person, Demar Cotton ("Demar"), as Ernest's shooter. Because trial counsel's decision not to present this evidence was reasonable trial strategy, the motion court did not clearly err in denying Hendricks's motion for post-conviction relief. We affirm.

          Factual and Procedural History

         A jury found Hendricks guilty on one count each of first-degree assault, first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary, third-degree assault, and on three associated counts of armed criminal action, for his participation in a violent home invasion and shooting. At trial, the evidence showed that Hendricks and brothers Demar and Taitez Cotton decided to burglarize Ernest's home. After the brothers observed Ernest leaving the residence, Hendricks and the brothers forced their way into the home and encountered Ernest's daughter, Jennifer Strong ("Jennifer"). Hendricks assaulted and robbed Jennifer. Hendricks and the brothers took electronic devices from the home before fleeing out the back door upon Ernest's return to the residence. After encountering one of the burglars in the driveway, Ernest was shot multiple times. Police officers apprehended Hendricks nearby.

         At trial, Hendricks did not contest his involvement in the burglary or the robbery, but maintained that he did not shoot Ernest. Ernest could not identify his shooter, and neither could a neighbor who saw the shooting. The State provided evidence that police discovered Hendricks's sweatshirt with the gun used to shoot Ernest. Demar, testifying pursuant to a plea agreement, asserted that the brothers fled from the scene, but Hendricks returned to the driveway. Conversely, Hendricks testified that he fled the scene, but the brothers returned to the driveway and later used his sweatshirt to dispose of the gun used to shoot Ernest. Jennifer testified at trial that she did not see who shot her father.

         At issue here are two out-of-court statements made by Jennifer that were not presented to the jury. When interviewed at the scene of the crime, Jennifer said that Hendricks assaulted her father. Jennifer subsequently indicated in a recorded interview at the police station that she saw Demar in the driveway near her wounded father.

          After the jury found Hendricks guilty, he appealed his convictions. We affirmed. State v. Hendricks. 341 S.W.3d 152, 153 (Mo. App. E.D. 2011). Hendricks then sought postconviction relief, [3] claiming that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to present evidence that Jennifer had at one time identified Demar as Ernest's shooter.

         At the motion hearing, trial counsel testified that she had received and reviewed Jennifer's police interview. According to trial counsel, Jennifer was a developmentally disabled woman. Trial counsel was concerned how Jennifer might respond or react to questioning at trial. Trial counsel was further worried that the jury would be protective of Jennifer and that the jury could perceive the use of Jennifer's inconsistent statements as an attempt to upset or attack her. Nonetheless, trial counsel testified that she was prepared to cross-examine Jennifer on her inconsistent statements regarding the identity of the shooter if Jennifer testified that Hendricks shot Ernest. When Jennifer testified at trial that she did not see the shooting, trial counsel changed her strategy to avoid confusion on the issue. Trial counsel feared that introducing the police interview would cause the prosecutor to then draw attention to Jennifer's on-the-scene identification of Hendricks as Ernest's attacker. Trial counsel recalled that Jennifer's testimony on direct examination achieved counsel's main objective, which was to demonstrate that no one could identify Hendricks as Ernest's assailant. Hendricks also testified at the motion hearing, explaining that trial counsel never informed him about Jennifer's police interview.

         The motion court found that trial counsel "articulated a valid strategic reason for not presenting the videotaped statement of [Jennifer] at movant's trial." Determining that this decision was reasonable in light of Jennifer's failure to identify a shooter at trial, the motion court ruled that Hendricks did not prove that trial counsel was deficient. The motion court also concluded that the presentation of Jennifer's interview would not have altered the trial's outcome. This appeal follows.

         Point on Appeal

         In his sole point on appeal, Hendricks argues that the motion court clearly erred in denying his claim for ineffective assistance of counsel because trial counsel unreasonably failed to present evidence that Jennifer had previously identified Demar as Ernest's shooter.

         Standard ...


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