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Henderson v. State

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, Second Division

January 31, 2018

STEVEN HENDERSON, Movant-Appellant,
STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent-Respondent.

         APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF LACLEDE COUNTY Honorable Kenneth M. Hayden, Circuit Judge


         Steven Henderson ("Henderson") appeals from the judgment of the motion court denying his amended Rule 24.035[1] motion to set aside his conviction of first-degree murder. In one point on appeal, Henderson asserts the motion court erred in denying his post-conviction motion, without an evidentiary hearing, because plea counsel was ineffective for failing to inform him that filing a motion to suppress statements he gave to law enforcement would constitute a viable defense to the charged crime. Because the motion court's denial of Henderson's Rule 24.035 motion without an evidentiary hearing was not clearly erroneous, we affirm.

         Facts and Procedural Background

         The "facts"-for purposes of our review-are those allegations of fact contained in Henderson's amended Rule 24.035 motion, excluding from consideration such allegations as are refuted by the record[2] or are mere conclusions. Lowery v. State, 520 S.W.3d 474, 478 (Mo.App. S.D. 2017). We set forth facts not otherwise imputed by this standard as necessary for context.

         Henderson was charged by amended information with the class A felony of murder in the first degree (Count I), and armed criminal action (Count II). The information alleged that "on or about June 22, 2013, in the County of Miller, State of Missouri, [Henderson] after deliberation, knowingly caused the death of [victim], by stabbing her[.]"[3]

         Henderson entered into an Alford[4] plea agreement with the State whereby the State would dismiss Count II-armed criminal action-and waive the death penalty, in exchange for Henderson's plea of guilty to Count I.

         A plea hearing was held on November 21, 2014. In response to questions from the judge, Henderson stated that no one had made him any promises, or threatened, or coerced him into pleading guilty; he understood all his rights attendant to a jury trial; he had sufficient time to discuss the matter with his attorneys; his attorneys had done everything he asked them to do, including investigating the matter and discussing potential defenses, and the consequences of his guilty plea; there was nothing he wanted his attorneys to do that they had not done; and in all respects, he was satisfied with their representation. These admissions were also contained in the plea agreement, entered into evidence as Exhibit A, and Henderson confirmed to the trial court that the signature on the plea agreement was his, and that all of the statements made in the plea agreement, both typewritten and handwritten, were true.

         The plea court then indicated the range of punishment for the charge of murder in the first degree was life in prison without eligibility for probation or parole. Henderson voiced his understanding of the range of punishment.

         The plea court, reciting its recognition that Henderson would be making an Alford plea, confirmed Henderson's understanding that if the case were to proceed to trial, the State's evidence would be that on or about June 22, 2013, Henderson, after deliberation, knowingly caused the death of victim by stabbing her. Henderson expressed his understanding of the State's evidence, and confirmed he had the opportunity to review all of the State's evidence before entering into the plea agreement. Henderson affirmed that the State's evidence was consistent with the facts as read, that if the State presented that evidence at trial, there was a reasonable likelihood that a judge or jury would convict him of felony first-degree murder; and in order to accept the benefit of the negotiated plea, wished to enter an Alford plea of guilty to the class A felony of first-degree murder.

         The plea court accepted Henderson's Alford plea of guilty and entered separate "Findings of Facts by the Court, " finding that: Henderson understood the charges against him and the consequences of his plea; Henderson voluntarily, freely and intelligently waived his rights; Henderson understood and assisted his attorneys; Henderson was ably and competently assisted by his attorneys; there was no probable cause to believe Henderson received ineffective assistance of counsel; Henderson had no mental disease or defect defense; Henderson's plea of guilty was made freely, voluntarily and intelligently; and there was a factual basis for Henderson's plea.

         After Henderson's waiver of the sentencing assessment report, the trial court sentenced Henderson to life imprisonment in the Department of Corrections, without the possibility of probation or parole.

         On January 23, 2015, Henderson timely filed a pro se Rule 24.035 motion. On January 26, 2015, the motion court appointed the public defender to represent Henderson. An entry of appearance was filed on April 6, 2015, and a thirty-day extension was granted for filing an amended motion. The transcript of the guilty plea and sentencing hearing was filed on June 17, 2015. An amended motion was filed on July 20, 2015.

         In his amended motion, Henderson asserted plea counsel was ineffective for failing to "file and litigate a motion to suppress [Henderson]'s alleged confessions on the basis said statements were rendered involuntary by what amounted to promises of leniency by the interrogating officer."

         On November 22, 2016, the motion court entered its "Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Judgment." The motion court found that after review of the amended motion and all files and records in the case, as well as the underlying criminal case, that the records conclusively showed that Henderson was not entitled to relief, and was not entitled to an evidentiary hearing. The motion court sustained the State's objection to the evidentiary hearing, and ...

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