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Watson v. State

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Fourth Division

February 27, 2018

CHAD B. WATSON, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cole County, Missouri, The Honorable Daniel Green, Judge.

          Before: Mark D. Pfeiffer, Chief Judge, Presiding, Victor C. Howard, Judge and Cynthia L. Martin, Judge.

          CYNTHIA L. MARTIN, JUDGE.

         Chad Watson ("Watson") appeals from an order denying his request for post-conviction relief pursuant to Rule 24.035 which claimed that under the holding of State v. Bazell, 497 S.W.3d 263 (Mo. banc 2016), [1] his sentence for stealing should not have been enhanced to a class C felony, and he should instead have been convicted of a class A misdemeanor. We affirm.

         Factual and Procedural History

         Watson pleaded guilty to the class C felony of stealing. He was placed on probation. Watson's probation was revoked, and he was thereafter sentenced to five years' imprisonment.

         Watson timely filed a pro se motion for post-conviction relief pursuant to Rule 24.035. Appointed counsel timely filed an amended motion ("Amended Motion"). The Amended Motion alleged that pursuant to Bazell, Watson's five-year sentence exceeded the maximum punishment authorized by law for what should have been a class A misdemeanor. On May 23, 2017, the Amended Motion was denied by an unsigned, handwritten docket entry that stated "Amended Mot to vacate denied."

         On May 26, 2017, Watson filed a motion for reconsideration or to amend the judgment which argued, among other things, that Rule 24.035(j)[2] required the motion court to issue findings of fact and conclusions of law on all issues presented, whether or not a hearing is held. Pursuant to Rule 78.07(c), Watson asked the motion court to amend its judgment in order to make the required findings and conclusions. On May 30, 2017, the motion to amend the judgment was denied by an unsigned, handwritten docket entry that stated "Mot For Reconsideration denied."

         Watson timely filed a notice of appeal.

         Analysis

         Watson asserts a single point on appeal. He alleges that the motion court clearly erred in denying the Amended Motion because Watson's five-year term of imprisonment exceeded the maximum sentence authorized by law because pursuant to Bazell, Watson's sentence should not have been enhanced to a class C felony and should instead have remained a class A misdemeanor with a maximum one-year term of imprisonment. Before addressing the merits of Watson's point on appeal, we are required to address two procedural issues that potentially impact our authority to entertain this appeal.

         Whether the motion court entered a final judgment for purposes of appeal

         "Prior to reaching the merit of the issues set forth in this case, this Court must determine, sua sponte, if there is a final judgment. Ndegwa v. KSSO, LLC, 371 S.W.3d 798, 801 (Mo. banc 2012). "A final judgment is a prerequisite to appellate review." Id. "If the [motion] court's judgment was not a final judgment, then the appeal must be dismissed." Id.

         Rule 74.01(a) provides in pertinent part that "[a] judgment is entered when a writing signed by the judge and denominated 'judgment' or 'decree' is filed." Rule 74.01(a) also provides that "[a] docket sheet entry complying with these requirements is a judgment unless the docket sheet entry indicates that the court will enter the judgment in a separate document." Rule 74.01(a) thus imposes three requirements on a final judgment: a writing, signed by the judge, and denominated as a judgment. Here, the May 23, 2017 docket ...


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