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McGuire v. State

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Fourth Division

July 5, 2017

BRANDON C. McGUIRE, Appellant,

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis Honorable Rex M. Burlison



         Brandon McGuire ("McGuire") appeals the motion court's judgment denying his Rule 29.15[1] motion for post-conviction relief. McGuire's post-conviction motion asserted fifteen claims of ineffective assistance of counsel against defense counsel. On appeal, McGuire argues that the motion court clearly erred in denying five of those ineffective-assistance claims. Under Strickland v. Washington, [2] McGuire bore the burden to demonstrate that defense counsel's performance was constitutionally ineffective and that McGuire was prejudiced thereby. We are not firmly convinced that any of McGuire's claims demonstrated both prongs of the Strickland test. Accordingly, the motion court did not clearly err in denying McGuire's motion. We affirm.

         Factual and Procedural History

         I. The Underlying Crimes

         On Halloween night, 2006, 16-year-old K.J. attended a party at a community center in St. Louis with her cousin. The two left the party, and K.J. arrived home around 10:00 P.M. K.J., however, did not stay at home long; she received a phone call and left shortly thereafter to catch public transit. K.J. was in a good mood when she left.

         A witness found K.J.'s body discarded in a dumpster the following morning. K.J.'s bloodied jeans were unfastened and pulled down to her knees; her shirt and sweater were pushed up. Various parts of K.J.'s body were bruised, blackened, and cut. K.J.'s anus was bloody and torn. Based on her body temperature, KJ. had died of mechanical asphyxiation 6-13 hours before her body was found at 9:00 A.M. The injury to her anus indicated that she had been violated with an object sometime near her death, but while she was still alive. DNA swabs of seminal fluid found on K.J.'s body indicated the presence of both male and female DNA-the male was unidentified, but the female profile matched KJ. The police did not charge anyone at the time.

         Almost a year later, H.T. was walking late at night down Broadway in St. Louis with some friends. H.T. was in her third trimester of pregnancy. A car pulled up alongside H.T., and the driver asked her if she wanted a ride. Being tired, H.T. accepted. The driver eventually drove down a dead-end street and stopped the car. The driver asked H.T. if she "dated." H.T. took that to be an offer of money for sex. H.T. acknowledged that she had "dated" in the past, but on this night she declined.

         The driver lunged at H.T., grabbing her neck with one hand and covering her mouth with the other. The driver climbed on top of H.T., and she blacked out. When H.T. briefly awoke, the driver said, "I killed you, bitch, " and H.T. blacked out again. Next thing H.T. knew, she was lying in a puddle of blood on the street, naked from the waist down. Eventually, H.T. flagged down a car in the sparsely populated area. An ambulance was called and H.T. went to the hospital.

         H.T.'s injuries were grave. The right side of H.T.'s uterus was torn, along with a main blood vessel, which resulted in bleeding to her abdomen. The torn artery also deprived her unborn baby of blood flow, and the baby died.[3] A doctor who treated H.T. testified that her injuries were caused by a blunt object inserted and pushed up into her vagina. That doctor stated that it would be "almost impossible" for a penis to cause such injuries-any suggestion that a penis caused H.T.'s injuries "bord[ered] on almost ridiculous." Seminal fluid was found on H.T.'s clothing and was sent to a crime laboratory.

         At some point before November 1, 2007, McGuire's DNA was entered into the CODIS database.[4] On November 1, detectives in K.J.'s case learned that McGuire's DNA matched the male sample found on K.J.'s person. Shortly thereafter, detectives in H.T.'s case learned that her jeans contained DNA from her, McGuire, an unknown male, and traces of a fourth person.

         McGuire was arrested and charged with eight crimes relating to both victims.[5] Regarding K J., the State charged McGuire with first-degree murder, forcible rape, and forcible sodomy. Regarding H.T., the State charged McGuire with forcible rape, forcible sodomy, first-degree assault, and kidnapping. The State also charged McGuire with second-degree murder for the death of H.T.'s unborn baby. The case proceeded to a jury trial.

         II. The Trial

         During voir dire, defense counsel asked a general question to the venire, and Juror Tanika Hale ("Juror Hale"), who was an accountant, eventually responded following another juror's answer:

[Defense counsel]: Okay. Now, in the box, I anticipate there is going to be some very graphic testimony about things of a sexual nature, and I address this to everyone in the box at this time and to the people in the front chairs. Will any of you have any difficulty in sitting and listening to testimony from a young woman concerning matters of a graphic sexual nature? And the reason I'm asking because some people will, you know, can get turned off and don't want to listen, and if you do, if it's going to bother you, and I anticipate there may be pictures, if it's going to bother you, now is the time to let it be known.
[Defense counsel]: ... Juror Number 601.
[Juror 60 l]: Yes. I would have a problem with that. The visual aids, I would have a problem.
[Defense counsel]: So you would think that you may be turned off to the point where you may not even listen to the testimony?
[Juror 601]: If it's graphic like that, it might be a stopping point for me.
[Defense counsel]: So you would think that you may be turned off to the point where you may not even listen to the testimony?
[Juror 601]: If it's graphic like that, it might be a stopping point for me.
[Defense counsel]: I understand. Anyone else in the box that feels as Juror 601 fels, that there could be a point where the testimony or the pictures and something that's put forth is of such a nature that it just turns you off and you can't focus on that? Anyone in the pews to my right. Juror 810, please stand.
[Juror Hale]: I couldn't do it.
[Defense counsel]: You couldn't do it.
[Juror Hale]: No. [Emphasis added.]

         No additional questions were asked of Juror Hale about her ability to weigh evidence of a graphic sexual nature. Neither party moved to strike Juror Hale, and she served on petit jury.

         After the State's case-in-chief, which was presented in accordance with the facts stated above, McGuire testified in his own defense. During direct examination, defense counsel asked McGuire, "Ever been in trouble with the law before?" McGuire replied, "No." At a subsequent sidebar, the prosecutor argued that defense counsel had opened the door to evidence of McGuire's prior arrest history, which would rebut the testimony that McGuire had never been in trouble with the law. The trial court allowed the prosecutor to inquire on cross-examination into the number of prior arrests, including the dates of the arrests. The trial court did not allow any evidence about the circumstances of those arrests. McGuire was evasive about his prior arrests, but he eventually admitted that he had probably been arrested "twice or more than twice." The prosecutor listed the dates of four arrests, but McGuire said he did not remember those arrests. Because McGuire testified at trial, evidence was also elicited regarding his prior convictions for assaulting a police officer, driving while intoxicated, and possessing a controlled substance.

         McGuire's version of Halloween 2006, when KJ. died, was relatively innocent. McGuire remembered trick or treating with his wife and son in the evening. At around 9:30 P.M., McGuire drove his son to his son's mother's house, arriving around 10:00 P.M. Immediately after dropping off his son, McGuire took the long way home to search for a prostitute. McGuire found K.J., who waved at him. McGuire picked up K.J., had consensual sex with her in the front seat of his car, and left. K.J. was alive, according to McGuire, when he left her. McGuire arrived home "[a]bout 10:45, " and did not leave his home for the remainder of the night. (The State's evidence established that K.J. made a phone call around 11:30 P.M.)

         McGuire also claimed to have had consensual sex with H.T. shortly before she was attacked. On that early morning, McGuire was cruising around, looking for a prostitute around 4:00 A.M. H.T. was walking on Natural Bridge road near Fairgrounds Park. H.T. flagged McGuire down, asking if he was looking for a "date." McGuire and H.T. agreed to have sex in exchange for a $10 piece of crack. McGuire remembered pulling out of H.T. to ejaculate and finding blood on his hand and penis. McGuire exclaimed, "Oh, hell no. You bleeding. Why are you bleeding?" H.T. replied, "I'm trying to get rid of this baby." Now totally freaked out by H.T., McGuire "opened up the door and pushed her out and drove off." When asked what condition H.T. was in when he left, McGuire explained, "I mean she was fine as far as I know. You know what I mean? I didn't run over her. I'm positive I didn't run over her or anything."

         McGuire's wife, Meghan McGuire ("Meghan"), also testified for the defense. Meghan remembered McGuire arriving home on Halloween 2006 at "about 10:45, a little before 11." Meghan stated that she remembered because it was a holiday and that she always got a little jealous when McGuire drove to his son's mother's house, so Meghan always had a "little extra cautio[n]" about how long it would take McGuire to come back home. On cross-examination, Meghan acknowledged that she never told police or prosecutors about this memory when they interviewed her, instead only revealing this memory about two weeks prior to trial.

         After evidence concluded, the jury convicted McGuire on seven of the eight counts. The jury acquitted McGuire of forcibly raping H.T. The trial court sentenced McGuire to life in prison without parole for first-degree murder of K.J.; thirty years each for second-degree murder of the unborn baby, forcible rape of K.J., forcible sodomy of K.J., and forcible sodomy of H.T.; and fifteen years each for first-degree assault and kidnapping of H.T. The trial court ran all ...

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