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Williams v. Wallace

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

December 29, 2017

BRIAN WILLIAMS, Petitioner,
v.
IAN WALLACE, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          AUDREY G. FLEISSIG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the petition of Missouri state prisoner Brian Williams for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. For the reasons set forth below, federal habeas relief will be denied.

         BACKGROUND

         On February 27, 2009, Petitioner pled guilty in Missouri state court to charges in two separate cases: In Case No. 07SL-CR04300-01 (hereinafter, “CR04300-01”), Petitioner pled guilty to one count of second-degree murder (Count I), one related count of armed criminal action (“ACA”) (Count II), three counts of first-degree assault (Counts III, V, and VII), and three counts, respectively, of ACA (IV, VI, and VIII). All charges arose out of the August 25, 2007 shooting death of one victim and the shooting of three other victims in the same gang-related shooting spree. In exchange for his guilty plea, the prosecutor had amended Count I from first-degree murder to second-degree murder, and also amended Count II, accordingly. In Case No. 08SL-CR03262-01 (hereinafter, “CR03262-01”), Petitioner pled guilty to three counts of first-degree robbery and three counts of ACA. These crimes involved three different victims and were unrelated to the crimes charged in CR4300-01.

         At the guilty plea and sentencing hearing, Petitioner confirmed that he had sufficient time to discuss the case with his attorney, and that he understood the rights he was giving up by pleading guilty. The prosecutor outlined a factual basis for the pleas and Petitioner affirmed that the facts as set forth by the prosecutor were true. The prosecutor then reviewed the range of punishment for each crime, as follows: “The range of punishment . . . for the murder in the second degree was 10 to 30 years or life imprisonment. Regarding assault in the first degree those also contain the range of punishment of 10 to 30 years. And the armed criminal action is a minimum of three years with a maximum of life imprisonment.” ECF No. 12-3 at 50. The prosecutor explained that the State's recommended punishment as to CR04300-01 was life imprisonment on Count I, a concurrent term of life on Count II, and 25 years on each of Counts III-VIII to be served concurrent to one another, but consecutive to the life sentences on Counts I and II, for “a total of life plus 25 years.” As to CR03262-01, the prosecutor stated that the recommended sentences of 20 years on each count “would run concurrent to one another and concurrent to the life sentences that the Court will be imposing [in CR04300-01].” Id. at 51.

         Petitioner confirmed that the prosecutor's recitation matched his “understanding of what the State recommended in both of [his] cases.” Id. Petitioner then pled guilty to all of the charged offenses and the court accepted the pleas as voluntarily and intelligently made with a full understanding of the charges and consequences of the pleas. Consistent with the parties' recommendations, the court sentenced Petitioner in CR04300-01 to life imprisonment for murder in the second degree; life imprisonment for the related ACA; and 25 years for each count of assault in the first degree and each remaining count of ACA. The court ordered the sentences on Counts I and II to run concurrently with each other, and the remaining sentences to run concurrently with each other, but consecutively to Counts I and II.

         The court sentenced Petitioner in CR03262-01 to 20 years for each count and ordered the sentences to run concurrently with all of the other sentences. After sentencing, Petitioner expressed satisfaction with counsel's representation and stated that the sentences imposed were the result of a plea bargain. Id. at 53.

         State Post-Conviction Proceedings

         The only claim Petitioner raised in his amended motion for postconviction relief was that his plea was involuntary and “must be withdrawn” because plea counsel failed to explain the “details and consequences of the life sentence and consecutive time.” ECF No. 12-3 at 78. He asserted that his plea counsel did not “explain what a life sentence for murder meant, ” but rather “told him that life meant thirty years and he would be eligible for parole after a certain number of years, [and that Petitioner] did not understand that he would be forced to serve more than thirty years at the most.” Petitioner alleged that he did not know that he would be subject to § 558.019.3, Mo. Rev. Stat., [1] pursuant to which he would have to serve 85 percent of the life sentence and 85% percent of the 25 year sentences, for a total of 46 and ¾ years before being eligible for parole. Petitioner alleged that had he known he would have to serve “this extended amount of time, ” he would not have pled guilty, and would have insisted upon a trial. In sum, Petitioner claimed that plea counsel actions in “misadvising him about the amount of time [Petitioner] would have to serve before becoming eligible for parole” deprived him of his constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel. Id. at 80.

         The motion court denied Petitioner's request for an evidentiary hearing and rejected this claim. The court held that parole eligibility is a collateral consequence of a guilty plea and, under although under Missouri law, plea counsel and the trial court have “a duty not to affirmatively misinform [a defendant] of the consequences of his plea, ” there was “no evidence of affirmative misinformation in this case.” Id. at 93-94.

         In affirming the motion court's decision, the Missouri Court of Appeals held that the motion court's finding that counsel was not obligated to advise Petitioner about parole eligibility, a collateral consequence of pleading guilty, was not clearly erroneous. ECF No.12-4 at 7. The appellate court cited § 558.019, and reasoned as follows:

[E]ven if counsel advised Movant in terms of the “number of years” he should expect to serve for murder, the allegation in Movant's amended motion did not show that counsel misinformed Movant about parole eligibility on his life sentence for murder. Moreover, the record shows that Movant was aware that he would receive additional sentences of twenty-five years, and that those sentences would run consecutively to his life sentences, meaning that his total sentence would be “life plus 25 years.” At his plea Subsection 4 provides that for the purpose of determining the minimum prison term to be served, “A sentence of life shall be calculated to be thirty years.” hearing, Movant assured the court that he understood the terms of the plea agreement and he did not allege in his amended motion that counsel misadvised him about the meaning of consecutive sentences or the length of time he would have to serve before being eligible for parole on all of his sentences.

Id.

         Federal ...


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