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Moss v. State

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Second Division

February 20, 2018

LEON MOSS, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis Honorable Timothy J. Wilson

          Philip M. Hess, Judge

         Introduction

         Leon Moss ("Appellant") appeals the judgment of the Circuit Court of St. Louis City denying his Rule 29.15[1] motion for post-conviction relief without an evidentiary hearing. He argues the motion court clearly erred in denying his post-conviction motion because: 1) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to preserve, in a motion for new trial, the trial court's denial of his motion to compel discovery; 2) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to make continuous and proper objections to police testimony regarding telephone numbers of Appellant's accomplices; 3) appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to properly brief four claims on direct appeal; 4) appellate counsel failed to properly brief a claim on direct appeal that the trial court erred in denying Appellant's motion to sever his trial from that of his co-defendants; and 5) the motion court misapplied Rule 29.15(g). Finding no clear error, we affirm.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Angie Young ("Victim") was murdered on August 23, 2011. At the time of her murder, Appellant had pending charges for second-degree domestic assault and armed criminal action for acts he committed against Victim. The State presented evidence that prior to Victim's murder, Appellant told a group of his associates that he would pay $10, 000 to have Victim killed in order to prevent her from testifying against him in his domestic assault case. Appellant introduced one of his associates, Christopher Spates, to a man named Raymond Jones. It was agreed that Jones would drive Spates to murder Victim.

         In the evening of August 23, 2011, Victim pulled her car into a White Castle parking lot in St. Louis. Nearby video surveillance recorded a white truck following Victim's car. At around 11:30 p.m., Spates got out of the white truck and started walking towards Victim's car. An employee at a nearby Church's Chicken observed Spates as he approached the car. When Spates reached the car's driver's side door, he pulled out a gun and shot it repeatedly through the driver's side window. He then ran into a nearby alley, and eventually drove off in the white pickup truck.

         Victim died at the scene, having been shot numerous times in her head and neck. Appellant was Victim's emergency contact. Police called Appellant after Victim's murder and asked to speak with him because he was listed as her next-of-kin. Appellant told police he did not want them come to his residence, but he agreed to go to the police headquarters. However, Appellant never showed up, and eventually told police he was not coming because his attorney told him not to go. Police began investigating Appellant for his role in the murder shortly thereafter.

         Police later found the white pickup truck involved in the murder outside one of Appellant's properties. Police obtained a search warrant for the truck. Finger and palm prints found on the truck were identified as belonging to Jones and Spates.

         Appellant was tried by a jury and found guilty of first-degree murder and armed criminal action. The trial court sentenced Appellant to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for first-degree murder, and thirty years' imprisonment for armed criminal action, to be served consecutively. Appellant appealed his convictions and sentences, which this court affirmed. State v. Moss, 494 S.W.3d 646 (Mo. App. E.D. 2016).

         On October 7, 2016, Appellant timely filed his pro se Rule 29.15 motion for post-conviction relief. Counsel for Appellant timely filed an amended motion claiming that: 1) the prosecution violated Brady v. Maryland and Rule 25.03 for failing to disclose federal investigative and proffer materials relating to the State's witness Darryl demons and "other potential witnesses"; 2) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to preserve, in a motion for new trial, the trial court's denial of his motion to compel discovery; 3) appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to properly brief four claims of error regarding demons' testimony; 4) appellate counsel failed to properly brief a claim that the trial court erred in denying appellant's motion to sever his trial from that of his co-defendants; and 5) trial counsel was ineffective for failing to "make continuous and proper" objections to police testimony regarding telephone numbers of other accomplices to the murder.

         Appellant also attached a copy of his pro se motion, which raised eight claims of relief, some of which overlapped with his claims in his amended motion.

         The motion court denied Appellant's amended motion without an evidentiary hearing. The motion court also found Appellant's pro se claims were not properly before the court because Rule 29.15(g) forbids incorporating pro se claims through attachment to the amended motion. This appeals follows.

         Discussion

         Appellant raises five points of error on appeal. Additional facts will be provided where necessary.

         Relevant Law

         "Appellate review of a motion court's denial of post-conviction relief is limited to determining whether the findings and conclusions of the motion court are clearly erroneous." Hill v. State,532 S.W.3d 744, 747 (Mo. App. E.D. 2017); Rule 29.15(k). Findings of fact and conclusions of law are clearly erroneous only if, after reviewing the record, we are left with the definite ...


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