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Harrington v. Wallace

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

June 27, 2017

LATHAN HARRINGTON, Petitioner,
v.
IAN WALLACE, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          CATHERINE D. PERRY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Missouri state prisoner Lathan Harrington's petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. For the reasons that follow, I will deny the petition.

         Procedural History

         Harrington is currently incarcerated at the Southeast Correctional Center (SECC) in Charleston, Missouri, pursuant to a judgment and sentence of the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis, Missouri.[1] On August 5, 2010, a jury found Harrington guilty of two counts of first degree statutory rape, four counts of first degree statutory sodomy, one count of first degree child molestation, two counts of second degree statutory sodomy, one count of second degree statutory rape, three counts of first degree sexual misconduct, and one count of second degree child molestation. On October 15, 2010, the circuit court sentenced Harrington to concurrent terms of imprisonment on all counts, totaling twenty-three years.

         Harrington appealed his conviction to the Missouri Court of Appeals, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence and arguing that the trial court committed instructional error. The Missouri Court of Appeals reversed Harrington's judgment of conviction for first degree child molestation and affirmed the remainder of his convictions and sentences. State v. Harrington, 352 S.W.3d 413 (Mo.Ct.App. 2011) (per curiam).

         Harrington thereafter filed a pro se motion for post-conviction relief under Missouri Rule 29.15, in which he raised various claims of ineffective assistance of trial and direct appeal counsel, and also a claim that the cumulative effect of counsel error prejudiced his defense. Appointed counsel filed an amended motion for post-conviction relief, raising one claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. The motion court denied Harrington's post-conviction motion on October 17, 2012, without an evidentiary hearing. On November 19, 2013, the Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed the motion court's denial of post-conviction relief. Harrington v. State, 414 S.W.3d 49 (Mo.Ct.App. 2013) (order) (per curiam).

         Numbered Counts of the Indictment

         The charges against Harrington were brought in sixteen separate counts by an indictment returned on May 29, 2009, in the Circuit Court of St. Louis City. (ECF #12-3, Resp. Exh. C, at 26-30.) After the presentation of evidence concluded at trial, the circuit court dismissed Counts 8 and 10 of the indictment. The trial court then renumbered the remaining counts - specifically, original Counts 9 through 16 were renumbered as Counts 8 through 14. When addressing Harrington's claims on appeal, the Missouri Court of Appeals referred to the counts of the indictment as they were renumbered by the trial court. (ECF #10-3, Resp. Exh. F, Memo.) For example, when addressing Harrington's claim challenging Count 9 of the indictment, the court of appeals referred to the count in its renumbered form, Count 8. In this habeas petition, Harrington's challenges refer to the counts as they were originally numbered in the sixteen-count indictment. I will do the same.

         Grounds Raised

         In this habeas petition, Harrington raises seventeen grounds for relief:

1) That there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction of first degree statutory sodomy as set out in Count 6 of the indictment;
2) That there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction of first degree child molestation;
3) That there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction of second degree statutory sodomy as set out in Count 9[2] of the indictment;
4) That there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction of second degree statutory sodomy as set out in Count 11[3] of the indictment;
5) That the trial court committed error in relation to jury instructions given on Counts 7 and 14[4] of the indictment;
6) That he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel for counsel's failure to investigate and secure certain witnesses;
7 through 12) That he received ineffective assistance of post-conviction counsel for counsel's failure to raise certain claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel during his post-conviction proceedings;
13 through 16) That he received ineffective assistance of direct appeal counsel for counsel's failure to raise certain claims of trial error on direct appeal; and
17) That the cumulative effect of all alleged errors violated his constitutional rights.

         In response, respondent argues that the claims raised in Grounds 2, 4, 5, and 7 through 17 are subject to various defenses of mootness, lack of jurisdiction, non-cognizability, and procedural default. Respondent contends that the claims raised in Grounds 1, 3, and 6 must be denied on their merits.

         Standard of Review

         Federal habeas relief is available to a state prisoner “only on the ground that he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). See also Williams-Bey v. Trickey, 894 F.2d 314, 317 (8th Cir. 1990).

         In order to obtain federal habeas review of a claim raised in a § 2254 petition, the petitioner must have first raised the federal constitutional dimensions of the claim in State court in accordance with State procedural rules. Duncan v. Henry, 513 U.S. 364 (1995) (per curiam); Beaulieu v. Minnesota, 583 F.3d 570, 573 (8th Cir. 2009) (quoting Gilmore v. Armontrout, 861 F.2d 1061, 1065 (8th Cir. 1988)). If the petitioner failed to properly present the claim in State court, and no adequate non-futile remedy is currently available by which he may bring the claim in that forum, the claim is deemed procedurally defaulted and cannot be reviewed by the federal habeas court “unless the [petitioner] can demonstrate cause for the default and actual prejudice as a result of the alleged violation of federal law, or demonstrate that failure to consider the claims will result in a fundamental miscarriage of justice.” Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 750 (1991); see also Martinez v. Ryan, 566 U.S. 1, 10-11 (2012).

         Where the State court adjudicated a claim on the merits, federal habeas relief can be granted on the claim only if the State court adjudication “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, ” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1); or “was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding, ” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2). See Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 379 (2000). The federal law must be clearly established at the time petitioner's State conviction became final, and the source of doctrine for such law is limited to the United States Supreme Court. Id. at 380-83.

         A State court's decision is “contrary to” clearly established Supreme Court precedent when it is opposite to the Supreme Court's conclusion on a question of law or different than the Supreme Court's conclusion on a set of materially indistinguishable facts. Williams, 529 U.S. at 412-13; Carter v. Kemna, 255 F.3d 589, 591 (8th Cir. 2001). A State court's decision is an “unreasonable application” of Supreme Court precedent if it “identifies the correct governing legal principle from [the Supreme Court's] decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case.” Williams, 529 U.S. at 413. Merely erroneous or incorrect application of clearly established federal law does not suffice to support a grant of habeas relief. Instead, the State court's application of the law must be objectively unreasonable. Id. at 409-11; Jackson v. Norris, 651 F.3d 923, 925 (8th Cir. 2011). Finally, when reviewing whether a State court decision involves an “unreasonable determination of the facts” in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceedings, State court findings of basic, primary, or historical facts are presumed correct unless the petitioner rebuts the presumption with clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Rice v. Collins, 546 ...


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