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Edwards v. Steele

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Sixth Division, Writ

November 7, 2017

DAVID EDWARDS, PETITIONER,
v.
TROY STEELE, SUPERINTENDENT. EASTERN RECEPTION, DIAGNOSTIC AND CORRECTIONAL CENTER, RESPONDENT.

         Writ of Habeas Corpus

          ROBERT M. CLAYTON III, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         David Edwards ("Petitioner") has filed a Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus ("Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus" or "Petition") challenging the lawfulness of his confinement by Troy Steele, Superintendent of the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center ("Respondent"). In the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis, Petitioner was convicted of capital murder for killing Sivarh Coleman ("Victim") when Petitioner was 17 years old. Petitioner was then sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 50 years under a mandatory sentencing scheme in place at the time of his conviction that precluded consideration of Petitioner's youth and related circumstances. In his Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus, Petitioner alleges he is being unlawfully restrained by Respondent because his sentence violates the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution pursuant to precedent from the U.S. Supreme Court and Missouri Supreme Court. For the reasons discussed below, we grant Petitioner habeas relief, and we direct the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis to resentence Petitioner in accordance with this opinion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On January 16, 1980, Petitioner shot Victim after they had an argument, and Victim died as a result of his injuries. See State v. Edwards, 637 S.W.2d 27, 28 (Mo. 1982). At the time of the offense, Petitioner was 17 years old. Petitioner was charged with capital murder in violation of 565.001 RSMo 1978 (repealed effective October 1, 1984), which was a crime that could only be punished by death or a life sentence without the possibility of parole for 50 years.[1]As recently found by the Missouri Supreme Court, this mandatory sentencing scheme precluded consideration of an offender's youth and related circumstances. See State ex rel. Carr v. Wallace, No. SC93487, 2017 WL 2952314 at *2 n.2, *4 (Mo. banc July 11, 2017) (mandated on Oct. 5, 2017).

         The case was tried before a jury in the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis, and the jury found Petitioner guilty as charged. Petitioner was then sentenced to "[l]ife [i]mprisonment without eligibility for probation or parole until [Petitioner] has served a minimum of [50] years of his sentence."

         Petitioner filed a direct appeal, and the Missouri Supreme Court affirmed his conviction and sentence. Edwards, 637 S.W.2d at 30. Petitioner then unsuccessfully pursued collateral attacks on his conviction and sentence in state and federal court. Thereafter, Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the Circuit Court of St. Francois County ("the trial court"), the jurisdiction in which he was serving his sentence. The trial court denied the petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

         Subsequently, Petitioner filed the instant Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus in this Court, along with Suggestions in Support and Exhibits. In his Petition, Petitioner alleges he is being unlawfully restrained by Respondent because his sentence violates the Eighth Amendment pursuant to precedent from the U.S. Supreme Court and Missouri Supreme Court. Our Court entered an Order to Show Cause to Respondent, directing him to file a return stating why the relief prayed for in Petitioner's Petition should not be granted. Respondent then filed his Response to Show Cause Order and Return to Writ. Subsequently, Petitioner timely filed a Reply and Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings along with Exhibits. We dispense with further briefing as permitted by Rule 84.24(i).[2]

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. This Court's Authority to Issue a Writ of Habeas Corpus and General Law

         Pursuant to the Missouri Constitution, our Court has the authority to "issue and determine original remedial writs, " including writs of habeas corpus. Mo. Const, art. V, section 4.1; see State exrel. Fleming v. Missouri Board of Probation and Parole, 515 S.W.3d 224, 228 (Mo. banc 2017) (similarly finding with respect to the Missouri Supreme Court's authority to issue writs of habeas corpus); see generally State ex rel. Peete v. Moore, 283 S.W.3d 818, 819-22 (Mo. App. E.D. 2009) and State ex rel. Fowler v. Purkett, 156 S.W.3d 357, 358-62 (Mo. App. E.D. 2004) (decisions from this Court granting petitions for writs of habeas corpus). "[A]ny person restrained of liberty within this state may petition for a writ of habeas corpus to inquire into the cause of such restraint." Fowler, 156 S.W.3d at 359 (quoting a former and identical version of Rule 91.01(b)); see also section 532.010 RSMo 2000; Fleming, 515 S.W.3d at 228.

         "A prisoner is entitled to habeas corpus relief where he proves that he is restrained of his liberty in violation of the constitution or laws of the state or federal government." Carr, 2017 WL 2952314 at *3 (quotations omitted). Furthermore, although a prisoner is generally required to raise a constitutional claim in a direct criminal appeal or in a post-conviction proceeding, he is considered to have cause for failing to raise such a claim under circumstances where it is permissible for a new constitutional rule to be applied retroactively on collateral review. Id.

         B. Analysis of Petitioner's Claim for Habeas Corpus Relief

         In this case, Petitioner claims he is entitled to habeas corpus relief because his sentence violates the Eighth Amendment pursuant to precedent from the U.S. Supreme Court and Missouri Supreme Court, including Miller v. Alabama,132 S.Ct. 2455 (2012) and Carr, 2017 WL 2952314. We agree, finding the Missouri Supreme Court's recent decision in Carr, and the U.S. Supreme ...


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