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Branch v. State

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Second Division

August 15, 2017

TOM WILLIE BRANCH III, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Charles County 1511-CC00863 Honorable Ted House, Judge

          Lisa P. Page, Presiding Judge

         Tom Branch ("Movant") appeals from the denial of his Rule 24.035 motion for post-conviction relief, contending he was forced to plead guilty because Plea Counsel (I) failed to file a motion for a speedy trial, and (II) failed to raise a defense that the weapon used in the robbery could not be traced back to Movant. We affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         On June 12, 2014, Movant and his co-defendant lured a pregnant friend ("Victim") to their car in order to steal $120 from her. When Victim entered the vehicle, Movant pointed a silver revolver at her, demanded that she turn over her money, and then forced her from the vehicle. After Victim called 911, the police tracked Movant to the basement of a house, where they discovered Movant hiding in a storage closet along with a silver revolver.

          During a recorded interview while in custody, Movant confessed he had used a gun to rob Victim. Movant also spoke to an interviewer with the Missouri Department of Children's Services, [1] where he again confessed his involvement in the armed robbery with a gun. Movant was charged as a prior felony offender with one count of first-degree robbery, in violation of Section 569.020, [2] and one count armed criminal action, in violation of Section 571.015.[3]

         Initially, the State offered Movant a plea bargain of twenty years' imprisonment, but Movant informed his attorney ("Plea Counsel") that his goal was to obtain a more favorable plea. To that end, in September, Plea Counsel acquired a change of judge in order to avoid the prosecutor assigned to that particular division. The State thereafter offered Movant sixteen years, and Movant told Plea Counsel he would accept twelve. Movant's trial was set for February 17, 2015.

         On February 11, 2015, Movant sent a letter directly to the trial court, which read:

I, [Movant] is herby [sic] asking the courts to grant me a conference hearing with the Honorable Judge Ted House, The District Attorney, as well as My Attorney. I know with this conference hearing that I would be able to resolve this legal matter in a timely manner without costing the county of St. Charles for a trial [sic].

         Movant's trial date was continued twice, and was ultimately docketed for a June 23 trial.

         Movant pleaded guilty on June 6, 2015. At the plea hearing, Movant stated that he wished to waive his right to a jury trial and plead guilty, that no promises or threats had been made to induce his plea, and that he had "a lot" of time to consult with and discuss his case with Plea Counsel. The trial court accepted Movant's plea, found no probable cause to believe Plea Counsel was ineffective, and sentenced Movant to eleven years' imprisonment.

          On October 9, 2015, Movant filed his Rule 24.035 pro se motion for post-conviction relief. Counsel was appointed on October 19, and the transcripts were filed in the underlying criminal cause (1411-CR03496-01) on November 6. Movant's amended motion was filed January 5, 2016. After an evidentiary hearing on Movant's amended motion, the motion court denied Movant's request for relief.

         This ...


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