Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, First Division
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF IRON COUNTY Honorable Judge Randy
W. SHEFFIELD, P.J.
Cortez Pate ("Movant") raises three points in
appealing a judgment that denied his amended Rule 29.15
motion for post-conviction relief. In point 1, he argues the
case must be remanded with directions for the motion court to
enter a prior judgment sustaining his amended motion for
post-conviction relief. In points 2 and 3, he argues the
motion court clearly erred in denying claims that
Movant's trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective.
For the reasons that follow, Movant's points are denied,
and the motion court's judgment is affirmed.
jury found Movant guilty of receiving stolen property-a video
camera- valued at $500 or more, he was sentenced to seven
years' imprisonment. Movant's conviction was affirmed
on direct appeal in an unpublished opinion. State v.
Pate, No. SD33086 (Mo. App. May 28, 2015) (per
filed a pro se and amended motion for
post-conviction relief. Movant and the State agreed to submit
the amended motion for the court's consideration based on
the underlying criminal case file, the deposition transcript
of Movant's trial counsel, and the deposition transcript
of Movant's appellate counsel "in lieu of a live
evidentiary hearing." On March 21, 2016, the motion
court issued a judgment granting the amended motion
("the first judgment"). On April 13, 2016, the
State filed a "Motion to Vacate Judgment." On June
28, 2016, the motion court granted the State's
"Motion to Vacate Judgment." On August 1, 2016, the
motion court then entered a new judgment denying Movant's
amended Rule 29.15 motion ("the second judgment").
This appeal followed. Additional facts will be discussed
below as necessary.
1-Control over the First Judgment
first point claims the motion court was "without
authority to enter [the second judgment] because the time for
filing an amended judgment had expired" by the time the
motion court entered the second judgment. Movant therefore
concludes that the second judgment "is a nullity and
this case must be remanded with directions to reinstate"
the first judgment.
trial court retains control over judgments during the
thirty-day period after entry of judgment and may, after
giving the parties an opportunity to be heard and for good
cause, vacate, reopen, correct, amend, or modify its judgment
within that time." Rule 75.01. If no authorized
after-trial motion is filed, the judgment becomes final at
the expiration of thirty days after its entry. Rule
81.05(a)(1). If an authorized after-trial motion is timely
filed, however, Rule 81.05(a)(2)(A) grants the trial court up
to ninety days from the date the motion was filed to rule on
the motion, after which the motion is deemed denied. Rule
81.05(a)(2)(A) and (B).
The combined effect of these Rules is to afford the trial
court the authority to modify its judgment for any reason for
good cause within thirty days of its entry, and the authority
between the thirty-first and ninetieth day following entry of
a judgment to modify its judgment to remediate a matter
raised by a party in an authorized after-trial motion.
State ex rel. Missouri Parks Ass'n v. Missouri Dept.
of Nat. Resources, 316 S.W.3d 375, 382 (Mo. App. W.D.
law authorizes the filing of several after-trial motions,
including motions for new trial . . . pursuant to . . . Rule
78.04." Payne v. Markeson, 414 S.W.3d 530, 538
(Mo. App. W.D. 2013). "[A] motion for a new trial is an
authorized after-trial motion that is 'directed toward
errors of fact or law in the trial.'" State v.
Carter, 202 S.W.3d 700, 705 (Mo. App. W.D. 2006)
(quoting Taylor v. United Parcel Service, Inc., 854
S.W.2d 390, 392 (Mo. banc 1993)). A "motion to
vacate" is not an authorized after-trial motion, but it
may be considered as one depending on the relief requested.
Lucious v. State, 460 S.W.3d 35, 38 (Mo. App. E.D.
2015). This is because "in evaluating whether a pleading
is an authorized after-trial motion, we do not concern
ourselves with the title of the pleading or with a
party's citation to a particular Rule, but we look
instead to the substance of the pleading." Missouri
Parks Ass'n, 316 S.W.3d at 382. In other words,
"Missouri courts have looked not to the nomenclature
employed by the parties, but to the actual relief requested
in the motion." Berger v. Cameron Mut. Ins.
Co., 173 S.W.3d 639, 641 (Mo. banc 2005).
Movant's amended motion for post-conviction relief
alleged that trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective
for failing to raise certain objections. After the first
judgment was entered sustaining the amended motion, the State
timely filed a "Motion to Vacate Judgment" 23 days
later asking the court to "reconsider and vacate"
the first judgment for seven reasons. The first six reasons
claimed, in various respects, that Movant had failed to carry
his burden of proving that trial ...