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Dawson v. Wallace

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

August 9, 2017

MORION DAWSON, Petitioner,
IAN WALLACE, Respondent.



         This matter is before the Court on Missouri state prisoner Morion Dawson'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

         Dawson is currently incarcerated at the Southeast Correctional Center (SECC) in Charleston, Missouri, pursuant to a judgment and sentence of the Circuit Court of St. Louis County, Missouri.[1] On August 2, 2012, Dawson pled guilty to one count of burglary first degree, two counts of robbery first degree, and three counts of armed criminal action. With the plea, the State dismissed a separate count of assault first degree and a related count of armed criminal action.

         On August 16, 2012, the court sentenced Dawson to fifteen years' imprisonment for burglary, and to twenty years' imprisonment on each of the five remaining counts, with all terms to be served concurrently. Dawson thereafter filed a motion for post-conviction relief under Missouri Rule 24.035, arguing that he received ineffective assistance of plea counsel for counsel's failure to properly advise him regarding the amount of his sentence he would be required to serve before becoming eligible for parole. The motion court denied Dawson's post-conviction motion on June 20, 2013, without an evidentiary hearing. On March 4, 2014, the Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed the motion court's denial of post-conviction relief. Dawson v. State, 423 S.W.3d 314 (Mo.Ct.App. 2014).

         Dawson timely filed this petition for writ of habeas corpus on July 9, 2014.

         Grounds Raised

         In this habeas petition, Dawson claims that he received ineffective assistance of plea counsel when counsel failed to properly inform him regarding the amount of time he would have to serve on his sentence before becoming eligible for parole. Specifically, Dawson claims that counsel advised him that the statute requiring that he serve eighty-five percent of a sentence for a dangerous felony would not apply to any of his sentences once the assault charge was dismissed. Dawson further claims that counsel provided this misinformation in order to get Dawson to plead guilty, so that counsel would not have to prepare for trial. Dawson avers that counsel did not prepare for trial because he had not been paid. Dawson argues that counsel therefore acted with a conflict of interest in his representation of Dawson, given that counsel's interest in getting paid conflicted with Dawson's interest in going to trial. Dawson claims that without counsel's coercion to get him to plead guilty, he would not have pled guilty and would have insisted on going to trial.

         In response, respondent argues that Dawson's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel is procedurally defaulted to the extent Dawson contends that counsel acted under a conflict of interest. To the extent Dawson claims that counsel was ineffective for providing wrong information regarding parole eligibility, respondent argues that the claim is without merit.

         Standard of Review

         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, a federal court must presume that State court findings of basic, primary, or historical facts are correct unless the petitioner rebuts the presumption with clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Rice v. Collins, 546 U.S. 333, 338-39 (2006); Collier v. Norris, 485 F.3d 415, 423 (8th Cir. 2007). Erroneous findings of fact do not ipso facto ensure the grant of habeas relief. Instead, the determination of these facts must be unreasonable in light of the evidence of record. Collier, 485 F.3d at 423; Weaver v. Bowersox, 241 F.3d 1024, 1030 (8th Cir. 2001).

         The federal court is “bound by the AEDPA [Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act] to exercise only limited and deferential review of underlying State court decisions.” Lomholt v. Iowa, 327 F.3d 748, 751 (8th Cir. 2003). To obtain habeas relief from a federal court, the petitioner must show that the challenged State court ruling “rested on ‘an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.'” Metrish v. ...

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