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Williams v. Pash

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, St. Joseph Division

August 22, 2017

RONDA J. PASH, Warden, Crossroads Correctional Center, Respondent.



         Pending is Petitioner Jimmie R. Williams's Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Doc. #1. For the following reasons, the Court denies the Petition, and declines to issue a Certificate of Appealability.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The underlying facts were summarized by the Missouri Court of Appeals:

Williams was originally charged with one count of first-degree statutory rape and one count of first-degree statutory sodomy. He pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree child molestation pursuant to a plea agreement with the State. Under the agreement, Williams could ask the court to impose the minimum sentences for the offenses that run concurrently; the State could request maximum sentences to run consecutively. Williams signed a written petition to enter [a] plea of guilty. The petition included the following paragraph:
I know that the Court will not permit anyone to plead guilty who is innocent, and because I am guilty, I request the Court to accept my plea of guilty. I did the following acts in connection with the charge(s) against me; [in handwriting] In Clay County Missouri, between 8/1/2010 and 2/2/2012, I touched [the victim], her vagina to my penis and my finger to her vagina.
At the plea hearing, Williams admitted that between August 1, 2010, and February 2, 2012, he knowingly subjected the victim, who was less than fourteen years old, to sexual contact by touching her vagina with his penis and by placing his finger inside her vagina. He acknowledged the plea agreement and stated that no threats or promises had been made to induce him to plead guilty. He further stated his understanding of the range of punishment for the class B felonies and the rights he was waiving by pleading guilty. Finally, Williams stated that his attorney had done everything he wanted and that he had no complaints with his services.
At the sentencing hearing, the court received a sentence assessment report (SAR). Williams presented the testimony of his psychologist, who opined that with proper supervision and treatment, Williams's propensity to re-offend was practically zero. He also presented “many letters of support.” The State presented the testimony of the victims' (sic) parents. After reception of the evidence, the court sentenced Williams to consecutive terms of eleven years imprisonment on each count. The court explained that it considered the age of the victim, the number of times she was victimized by Williams, and the SAR. It stated that although on paper Williams has a low risk of re-offending, he had changed his story and had not taken ownership of his fault.
Thereafter, Williams filed an amended motion for postconviction relief. The motion alleged that the prosecutor violated Brady v. Maryland by failing to disclose exculpatory evidence, a DVD recording of the victim's forensic interview and an audio recording of Williams's interview by law enforcement. The motion also raised several claims of ineffective assistance of counsel both in connection with guilty plea and with sentencing. Following an evidentiary hearing, the motion court denied Williams's motion.

Doc. #6-1, at 2-4. Williams appealed the motion court's decision to the Missouri Court of Appeals, which affirmed the judgment of the motion court. Williams v. State, 497 S.W.3d 778 (Mo.Ct.App. 2016); Doc. #6-1.

         In his Petition to this Court, Petitioner articulates the following grounds for relief:

(1) The motion court erred in denying Petitioner's Rule 24.035 motion because the State committed a Brady violation by failing to disclose recordings of the victim's forensic interview and Petitioner's interview by police detectives. Petitioner also argues the motion court's finding that the written summaries of these recordings accurately reflect the contents of the recordings was erroneous. Doc. #1, at 21-36.
(2) Petitioner was denied the right to effective assistance of counsel when counsel failed to investigate and obtain evidence from the State. Doc. #1, at 37-44.
(3) Petitioner was denied the right to effective assistance of counsel when counsel failed to correct the SAR, failed to cross-examine the victim's parents at the sentencing hearing, and failed to offer the victim's sexual assault forensic examination (“SAFE”) into evidence. Doc. #1, at 44-52.
(4) As a result of the Brady violation and ineffective assistance of counsel, Petitioner was deemed to be not credible at sentencing, resulting in a longer sentence, and at the hearing on Petitioner's post-conviction motion, resulting in the denial of post-conviction relief, all of which deprived him of his right to fair proceedings, due process, and effective assistance of counsel. Doc. #1, at 52-56.

         II. STANDARD

         Pursuant to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”), which amended 28 U.S.C. § 2254, a writ of habeas corpus shall not be issued on a claim litigated on the merits in state court unless the state court's decision either:

(1) 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; or
(2) resulted in a decision that 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). The “contrary to” and “unreasonable application” provisions in the first subsection have independent meaning. The “contrary to” provision applies “if the state court arrived at a conclusion opposite to that reached by the Supreme Court on a question of law, or reached a decision contrary to Supreme Court precedent when confronting facts that were materially indistinguishable.” Jackson v. Norris, 651 F.3d 923, 925 (8th Cir. 2011). The “unreasonable application” clause applies “if the state court correctly identified the governing legal principle, but unreasonably applied it to the facts of the particular case.” Id.

         Section 2254(d) “limits the applicability of the AEDPA's deferential standard to claims that have been ‘adjudicated on the merits' in state court.” Worthington v. Roper, 631 F.3d 487, 495 (8th Cir. 2011) (citation omitted). Federal courts are “directed to undertake only a limited and deferential review of underlying state court decisions.” Id. (quoting Collier v. Norris, 485 F.3d 415, 421 (8th Cir. 2007)). “A federal court may not issue the writ simply because it concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant state-court decision applied clearly established federal law erroneously or incorrectly. Rather, that application must also be unreasonable.” Id. (internal quotations and citations omitted).

         III. DISCUSSION[1]

         A. Ground One: Brady violation

         Petitioner argues the State violated Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), when it failed to produce certain recordings. Petitioner maintains the recordings ‚Äúcontained exculpatory evidence as to the crimes charged and information favorable to ...

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