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Williams v. Wallace

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

March 20, 2018

ANDRE WILLIAMS, SR., Petitioner,
IAN WALLACE, Respondent.



         This matter comes before the Court on Petitioner Andre Williams, Sr.'s amended motion for an evidentiary hearing (ECF No. 64) and amended motion for leave to conduct discovery (ECF No. 65). The State opposes both motions. For the reasons set forth below, Petitioner's motions will be granted.


         On May 6, 2010, Petitioner pled guilty to two charges arising out the robbery of a restaurant. DNA evidence obtained from a skull cap left at the scene of the crime linked Petitioner to the crime, and an eye witness identified the other individual committing the robbery. Petitioner was sentenced to serve two 10-year terms, to run concurrently. On June 5, 2010, he timely filed a motion for post-conviction relief under Missouri Supreme Court Rule 24.035, asserting that his plea was involuntary or unknowingly made due to ineffective assistance of counsel based on the attorney's failure to obtain independent DNA testing and failure to investigate certain witnesses. In his amended motion, Petitioner, through counsel, advanced only his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel for failure to investigate certain witnesses.

         The state trial court denied his motion on the basis that Petitioner failed to establish how he was prejudiced or how his claims affected the voluntary nature of his plea. The Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed. ECF No. 20-4.

         On January 31, 2014, Petitioner sent a records request to the St. Louis County Police Department. In response, an individual identified only as “CD” sent a letter dated February 11, 2014, describing misconduct by law enforcement and crime lab personnel in fabricating a positive DNA result matching Petitioner to the physical evidence at the crime scene. ECF No. 23-1 at 4-5. That letter enclosed Petitioner's records request, including numerous handwritten notes on St. Louis County Police stationary discussing the process of forging the DNA results. Petitioner then filed the instant habeas petition asserting six grounds for relief: (1) actual innocence; (2) a violation under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 89 (1963) for failure to disclose exculpatory DNA evidence; (3) deprivation of due process due to official misconduct in the fabrication of evidence; and (4) three additional grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel. ECF No. 1. Petitioner also requested an evidentiary hearing on his claims.

         On May 26, 2016, the Court denied Petitioner's habeas petition on the merits.[1] It held that the documents purporting to show the fabrication of evidence could not overcome Petitioner's guilty plea because some of the documents were dated after Petitioner's plea was entered. The Court further held that Petitioner's statements before the state court established that his plea was knowing and voluntary, and he explicitly acknowledged that DNA evidence implicated him. The Court also denied Petitioner's request for discovery and for an evidentiary hearing on the basis that the bulk of the documents purporting to show efforts by investigators and laboratory staff to implicate Petitioner by altering the results of DNA tests post-dated Petitioner's guilty plea and were unsigned, unauthenticated, and lacked any indicia of reliability. ECF No. 37.

         Petitioner appealed, and the Eighth Circuit held that the Court erred when it failed to analyze whether Petitioner could receive an evidentiary hearing based on the documents submitted. It opined that:

[Petitioner's] allegations are serious, and there are no obvious facial infirmities in the documents [Petitioner] presented to support those allegations. Accordingly, because the district court did not first decide whether [Petitioner] was entitled to an evidentiary hearing to authenticate his documents, the district court erred by denying his petition on the merits simply because the documents are unauthenticated.

ECF No. 52.

         The Court, on remand, directed the parties to brief the issue of whether Petitioner is entitled to an evidentiary hearing, as well as whether Petitioner is entitled to the documents set forth in his motion to compel.

         The State contends that Petitioner is not entitled to discovery or an evidentiary hearing on his claim because his habeas petition is barred by the statute of limitations. It also argues that Petitioner did not present his official misconduct claim in his state proceedings, and this procedural default is not excused because he failed to diligently pursue his claim in state court. Further, the State asserts that Petitioner's claims are meritless and many of the documents submitted by Petitioner as exculpatory appear to be modified copies of documents found in the original case file.

         Petitioner, through appointed counsel, argues that the suppression of material exculpatory evidence vitiates the knowing and voluntary nature of Petitioner's guilty plea, allowing a collateral attack on the plea. Petitioner contends that he has not procedurally defaulted the claims contained in his federal habeas petition because they are based upon newly-discovered evidence that Petitioner, exercising due diligence, could not have obtained earlier. As a result, Petitioner maintains that he was not able to advance his claims during his state proceedings for post-conviction relief. He further argues that his habeas petition is not barred by the statute of limitations because the exculpatory evidence could not have been discovered through the exercise of ...

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