Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, First Division
CHRISTOPHER L. JONES, Appellant,
STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent.
from the Circuit Court of Buchanan County, Missouri The
Honorable Daniel F. Kellogg, Judge
Cynthia L. Martin, Presiding Judge, James Edward Welsh, Judge
and Karen King Mitchell, Judge.
Cynthia L. Martin, Judge
Jones ("Jones") appeals from the judgment of the
motion court denying his Rule 24.035 motion for
post-conviction relief without an evidentiary hearing. Jones
argues that the motion court applied the incorrect standard
to determine his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel
at sentencing. Jones also contends that it was error to deny
his claim without an evidentiary hearing because his
testimony expressing satisfaction with counsel applied only
to the voluntariness of his plea, and not to his satisfaction
with counsel's performance at sentencing. Alternatively,
Jones contends that it was error to deny his claim without an
evidentiary hearing because the record did not conclusively
refute his claim. We affirm.
and Procedural Background
October 23, 2015, Jones pled guilty to the Class C felony of
tampering in the first degree. After finding that Jones
entered his plea knowingly and voluntarily, the trial court
accepted the plea and ordered a sentencing assessment report.
A sentencing hearing was held on December 22, 2015.
sentencing hearing, defense counsel highlighted Jones's
newfound sobriety since entering custody, and requested a
three-year sentence with Jones possibly being assessed for
drug court upon release. Jones presented his own statement
accepting responsibility for his crime. The trial court noted
Jones's prior history of drug use and criminal activity.
The trial court specifically admonished Jones for using drugs
while out on bond. The trial court expressed concern that
Jones had continued to use drugs despite being given
opportunities to succeed. The trial court sentenced Jones to
a seven-year term of imprisonment.
trial court then advised Jones of his rights under Rule
24.035 to challenge his conviction and sentence. In response
to questions from the trial court, Jones testified that there
was nothing counsel did that Jones did not want him to do;
there was nothing counsel failed to do that Jones wanted him
to do; there were no witnesses to whom Jones wanted counsel
to talk; there was no evidence Jones wanted counsel to
present; and Jones was completely satisfied with
counsel's assistance, even in light of the trial
court's sentencing. Based on Jones's testimony, the
trial court held that there was no probable cause to find
that Jones received ineffective assistance of counsel.
thereafter filed a pro se Rule 24.035 motion.
Appointed counsel filed an Amended Motion to Vacate, Set
Aside, or Correct Judgment and Sentence on May 24, 2016
("Amended Motion"). The Amended Motion argued that
Jones received ineffective assistance of counsel because
counsel did not investigate or present testimony from
Jones's girlfriend and father at the sentencing hearing.
According to the Amended Motion, these witnesses were present
in the courtroom on the day of sentencing, and were prepared
to provide mitigating testimony that would have resulted in a
reasonable probability that Jones would have received a
motion court denied Jones's Amended Motion without an
evidentiary hearing and entered findings of fact, conclusions
of law, and a judgment ("Judgment"). The motion
court held that Jones's claim was refuted by the record
based on his sentencing hearing testimony.
timely appeal follows.
Appellate review of the denial of a post-conviction relief
motion is limited to a determination of whether the motion
court's findings of fact and conclusions of law are
clearly erroneous. Rule 24.035(k); Roberts v. State,
276 S.W.3d 833, 835 (Mo. banc 2009). Findings and conclusions
are clearly erroneous only if, after a review of the entire
record, the appellate court is left with the definite and
firm impression that a mistake has been made.
Roberts, 276 S.W.3d at 835. The movant bears the
burden of showing by a preponderance of the evidence that the
motion court clearly erred. Id.
Dunlap v. State, 452 S.W.3d 257, 261-62 (Mo. App.
W.D. 2015). "The motion court's findings of fact and
conclusions of law are presumed to be correct." Hays
v. State, 360 S.W.3d 304, 309 (Mo. App. W.D. 2012)
(quoting Edwards v. State, 200 S.W.3d 500, 509 (Mo.
sustain his burden to prove that he received ineffective
assistance of counsel, Jones "must prove by a
preponderance of the evidence that: (1) counsel failed to
exercise the level of skill and diligence of a reasonably
competent attorney; and (2) that he was thereby
prejudiced." Dunlap, 452 S.W.3d at 262 (citing
Zink v. State, 278 S.W.3d 170, 175 (Mo. banc 2009)).
"A movant claiming ineffective assistance must overcome
a strong presumption that counsel provided competent
representation." Id. (citing Worthington v.
State, 166 S.W.3d 566, 573 (Mo. banc 2005)). "To
prove prejudice the movant must demonstrate that 'there
is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's
unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would
have been different.'" Id. (quoting
Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 694 (1984)).
Because a movant must ...