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Strickland v. State

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, First Division

May 30, 2017

LEONARD K. STRICKLAND, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent.

         APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF LAFAYETTE COUNTY, MISSOURI THE HONORABLE DENNIS A. ROLF, JUDGE

          Before Gary D. Witt, Presiding Judge, Alok Ahuja, Judge and Edward R. Ardini, Jr., Judge.

          EDWARD R. ARDINI, JR., JUDGE.

         Leonard K. Strickland ("Strickland") appeals the denial of his motion for post-conviction relief under Rule 24.035 by the Circuit Court of Lafayette County.[1] Because the motion court failed to adjudicate all claims raised in the motion, the appeal is dismissed for want of a final judgment. Rule 74.01(b).

         Factual and Procedural Background

         On November 4, 2013, Strickland entered guilty pleas in separate cases each involving a single felony charge of driving while revoked or suspended. These guilty pleas were the product of an agreement reached with the State under which Strickland would be sentenced to seven years' imprisonment for each offense, to run consecutive to each other, with execution of the sentences suspended and Strickland placed on five years of supervised probation. The court accepted Strickland's pleas in both cases and imposed sentences consistent with the agreement.

         In February of 2014, Strickland was again charged by felony complaint with driving while revoked or suspended and subsequently failed to appear for his initial court appearance in this case. The State thereafter obtained an indictment on the felony driving while revoked or suspended charge and added an additional count of felony failure to appear. The State also filed applications to revoke Strickland's probation from his 2013 cases. On November 17, 2014, Strickland appeared before the same court that had accepted his guilty pleas a year earlier and entered open guilty pleas on the two new felony charges. In addition, Strickland admitted to violating the conditions of his 2013 probation. The court accepted Strickland's pleas and admissions and ordered a sentencing assessment report.

         On December 15, 2014, the court addressed Strickland's probation status and imposed sentence in the pending felony cases. With regard to the 2013 matters, the court revoked Strickland's probation and executed on the consecutive seven-year sentences. As to the 2014 charges, the court sentenced Strickland to seven years on both the driving while revoked or suspended and failure to appear offenses, with the sentences ordered to run concurrent with each other but consecutive to the sentences in the 2013 cases.

         Strickland filed a pro se motion for post-conviction relief pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 24.035 regarding all three cases. The court appointed him counsel who timely filed an amended motion. As required by local court rule, appointed counsel filed the amended motion by uploading it through the court's electronic filing system. In addition to raising three claims for relief in the body, the amended motion specifically incorporated the claims from the pro se motion and noted that those claims were being "filed as an attachment to the electronic filing this [sic] Amended Motion."[2] Contemporaneous with the filing of the amended motion, Strickland's counsel electronically filed an attachment labeled "attachment of movant's pro se claims." On June 9, 2016, the motion court issued findings of fact and conclusions of law denying Strickland's motion without an evidentiary hearing. As to the three claims for relief raised in the body of the amended motion, the motion court denied each claim individually. With regard to the claims incorporated from the pro se motion, the motion court set forth no ruling but rather stated that "[t]his Court does not find any pro se claims attached to the Motion and thus has no pro se claims to review in this motion." This appeal follows.

         Standard of Review

         "Appellate review of the denial of a post-conviction motion is limited to a determination of whether the findings of fact and conclusions of law of the motion court are clearly erroneous." DePriest v. State, 510 S.W.3d 331, 337 (Mo. banc 2017) (quoting Moss v. State, 10 S.W.3d 508, 511 (Mo. banc 2000)). "A judgment is clearly erroneous when, in light of the entire record, the court is left with the definite and firm impression that a mistake has been made." Davis v. State, 486 S.W.3d 898, 905 (Mo. banc 2016) (quoting Swallow v. State, 398 S.W.3d 1, 3 (Mo. banc 2013)). We presume the motion court's findings are correct and defer to it on all matters of credibility. Id.

         "A final judgment is a prerequisite to appellate review." Ndegwa v. KSSO, LLC, 371 S.W.3d 798, 801 (Mo. banc 2012). "A final judgment disposes of all issues as to all parties, leaving nothing for future determination." Brooks v. State, 242 S.W.3d 705, 708 (Mo. banc 2008). If the motion court's "judgment [is] not a final judgment, then the appeal must be dismissed." Ndegwa, 371 S.W.3d at 801.

         Discussion

         Strickland does not challenge the merits of the motion court's ruling as to any of the claims set forth in the body of his amended motion. Rather, his sole point on appeal contends that the motion court erred in failing to adjudicate his pro se claims that he asserts were properly incorporated into his amended motion. The State does not contest that Strickland's pro se claims were properly pleaded or that the motion court failed to dispose of all claims, and both parties maintain that the motion court's failure to rule on each of Strickland's claims renders this appeal premature for lack of a final judgment. However, the parties' consonance does not dictate the disposition of this ...


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