STATE ex rel. AMY J. FITE, Christian County Prosecuting Attorney, Relator,
THE HONORABLE LAURA JOHNSON, Respondent. STATE OF MISSOURI, Appellant,
ROBBY LEDFORD, Respondent.
PROCEEDING IN PROHIBITION
Fischer, Chief Justice.
Fite, the Christian County Prosecuting Attorney, filed a
petition for a writ of prohibition alleging the circuit court
exceeded its authority by sustaining Robby Ledford's Rule
29.07(d) motion to withdraw his plea of guilty to felony
stealing pursuant to § 570.030.3(1) and resentencing
him as a misdemeanor offender. Ledford's claim is
procedurally defaulted and substantively meritless. This
Court's preliminary writ of prohibition is made
and Procedural Background
2013, Ledford pleaded guilty to stealing property worth more
than $500 but less than $25, 000. Pursuant to §
570.030.3(1), the circuit court sentenced Ledford as a felon
to five years' imprisonment, suspended imposition of the
sentence, and placed him on probation for five years.
November 2015, the circuit court revoked Ledford's
probation, executed his sentence, and delivered him to the
custody of the Department of Corrections. Ledford did not
appeal, nor did he file a Rule 24.035 motion for
February 2017, after expiration of the period for filing a
timely Rule 24.035 motion for post-conviction relief, Ledford
filed the underlying Rule 29.07(d) motion to withdraw his
guilty plea. Ledford claimed his conviction and
sentence for felony stealing were unlawful and constituted
manifest injustice pursuant to State v. Bazell, 497
S.W.3d 263 (Mo. banc 2016). Ledford argued Bazell
applies retroactively and holds that stealing in violation of
§ 570.030.1 is a class A misdemeanor, not a felony. The
circuit court sustained Ledford's motion, issued an order
amending the stealing charge from a felony to a class A
misdemeanor, and resentenced him to one year in the county
jail with credit for time served. The State filed the instant
writ petition and a notice of appeal.
Court has jurisdiction to issue original remedial writs. Mo.
Const. art. V, sec. 4.1. "A writ of prohibition is
appropriate: (1) to prevent the usurpation of judicial power
when a lower court lacks authority or jurisdiction; (2) to
remedy an excess of authority, jurisdiction or abuse of
discretion where the lower court lacks the power to act as
intended; or (3) where a party may suffer irreparable harm if
relief is not granted." State ex rel. Strauser v.
Martinez, 416 S.W.3d 798, 801 (Mo. banc 2014).
Circuit Court Lacked Authority
criminal judgment becomes final when a sentence is entered.
State v. Larson, 79 S.W.3d 891, 893 (Mo. banc 2002).
"[O]nce judgment and sentencing occur in a criminal
proceeding, the trial court has exhausted its jurisdiction.
It can take no further action in that case except when
otherwise expressly provided by statute or rule."
State ex rel. Simmons v. White, 866 S.W.2d 443, 445
(Mo. banc 1993). This Court has recognized Rule 29.07(d)
provides for a post-sentence civil matter. See Brown v.
State, 66 S.W.3d 721, 724-25, 730 n.5 (Mo. banc 2002).
Therefore, the circuit court had jurisdiction to adjudicate
Ledford's Rule 29.07(d) motion as a civil matter.
See Mo. Const. art. V, sec. 14(a).
circuit court lacked authority, however, to sustain the
motion. Because Ledford pleaded guilty, his claims
for post-conviction relief are governed by Rule 24.035. Rule
24.035(a) "provides the exclusive procedure" to
seek relief for the claims enumerated in the rule.
Brown, 66 S.W.3d at 727. Rule 24.035, therefore, was
the exclusive procedure by which Ledford could have
collaterally attacked the final judgment based on his claim
his sentence exceeds the maximum sentence authorized by law.
Ledford's claim is procedurally defaulted due to his
failure to file a Rule 24.035 motion for post-conviction
to the circuit court's order, Rule 29.07(d) does not
provide an independent basis for reviewing procedurally
defaulted claims for post-conviction relief. Brown,
66 S.W.3d at 730. Rule 29.07(d) provides:
A motion to withdraw a plea of guilty may be made only before
sentence is imposed or when imposition of sentence is
suspended; but to correct manifest injustice the court after
sentence may set aside the judgment of ...