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State ex rel. Hawley v. Jackson

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Writ Division

November 14, 2017

STATE OF MISSOURI, ex rel. JOSHUA D. HAWLEY, Relator,
v.
THE HONORABLE RANDALL R. JACKSON, Circuit Judge of Buchanan County, and MARY BEATTIE, Circuit Clerk Buchanan County Circuit Court, Respondents.

          Before: Cynthia L. Martin, Presiding Judge, Thomas H. Newton, Judge and Lisa White Hardwick, Judge.

          ORIGINAL PROCEEDING IN CERTIORARI

          Cynthia L. Martin, Judge.

         This is an original proceeding in certiorari to review the grant of a writ of habeas corpus to habeas petitioner Kevin Vaughn ("Vaughn") by the Buchanan County Circuit Court ("habeas court"). Because the Missouri Supreme Court has concluded that its holding in State v. Bazell, 497 S.W.3d 263 (Mo. banc 2016) (per curiam) only applies forward, except as to those cases pending on direct appeal, the habeas court's record granting the writ of habeas corpus is quashed.

         Factual and Procedural History

         Vaughn was convicted in the Livingston County Circuit Court in 2015 for stealing property valued over $500, charged as a class C felony. Vaughn was sentenced to seven years' incarceration, and was committed to the custody of the Missouri Department of Corrections. Vaughn is currently confined in Buchanan County, Missouri.

         On March 2, 2017, Vaughn filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the habeas court alleging that his 2015 conviction and sentence for stealing over $500 was void because Bazell held that the offense of stealing pursuant to section 570.030.1, a class A misdemeanor, cannot be enhanced to a class C felony pursuant to section 570.030.3 based on the value of the stolen property because the value of the property is not an "element" of the offense.[1] 497 S.W.3d 263, 266-67. Vaughn argued that he was not seeking retroactive application of a new rule of law, but was merely seeking application of a now properly understood statute that was in effect at the time of his conviction, relying on this court's holding in Thornton v. Denney, 467 S.W.3d 292, 298-99 (Mo. App. W.D. 2015).[2]

         On April 6, 2017, the habeas court granted Vaughn a writ of habeas corpus which vacated Vaughn's conviction and sentence, and remanded Vaughn to the Livingston County Circuit Court subject to resentencing.

         On April 18, 2017, Relator, the Attorney General of Missouri, filed a petition for writ of certiorari seeking to quash the record of the habeas court. On April 19, 2017, this Court granted a writ of certiorari, [3] and directed the Circuit Clerk for Buchanan County to file a certified record of designated materials from the habeas proceedings. On June 30, 2017, this Court stayed further proceedings in the case pending the resolution of cases before the Missouri Supreme Court which addressed whether the holding in Bazell should be applied retroactively.[4] Because those pending cases have now been decided, our stay is dissolved.

         Standard of Review

         Rule 91.01(b) provides that "[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." Consideration of a petition for writ of habeas corpus is "limited to determining the facial validity of confinement." State ex rel. Nixon v. Jaynes, 73 S.W.3d 623, 624 (Mo. banc 2002). "Under the statutes that have codified the common law writ, the 'facial validity' of confinement is determined on the basis of the entire record of the proceeding in question." State ex rel. Nixon v. Dierker, 22 S.W.3d 787, 789 (Mo. App. E.D. 2000) (citing Brown v. Gammon, 947 S.W.2d 437, 440 (Mo. App. W.D. 1997)). The essential question to be determined is whether a review of the entire record establishes that a habeas petitioner is being deprived of his liberty without due process of law. See Ex Parte Kent, 490 S.W.2d 649, 650 (Mo. banc 1973).

         "[A]n action in certiorari . . . seek[s] to quash" the habeas judgment. State ex rel. White v. Swink, 256 S.W.2d 825, 827 (Mo. App. St. L. Dist. 1953). Certiorari is thus "available to correct [habeas] judgments that are in excess or an abuse of jurisdiction, and that are not otherwise reviewable on appeal." State ex rel. Nixon v. Sprick, 59 S.W.3d 515, 518 (Mo. banc 2001). Upon the completion of our review, our options are to "either quash the writ [of habeas corpus] or to uphold the actions of the habeas court." State ex rel. Koster v. Jackson, 301 S.W.3d 586, 589 (Mo. App. W.D. 2010)."[5]

         Analysis

         The Attorney General's petition for writ of certiorari contends that the habeas court exceeded its authority or abused its discretion in issuing the writ of habeas corpus because: (1) the holding in Bazell only applies to cases on direct review, and does not apply retroactively in a habeas corpus proceeding; and (2) the holding in Bazell does not apply to bases for enhancement identified in section 570.030.3 beyond the subsection at issue in Bazell.

         We dispense with the second argument first. The Missouri Supreme Court held in State v. Smith,522 S.W.3d 221, 230 (Mo. banc 2017) that "Bazell's analysis regarding the applicability of section 537.030.3 to the offense of stealing does not depend on which particular enhancement provision is at issue." "Bazell draws no distinction among the numerous subcategories enumerated within section 570.030.3." Id. There is no merit, therefore, to the Attorney General's contention that the habeas record should be quashed ...


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