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Blackmon v. Godert

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

April 17, 2018

DEREK LAMONT BLACKMON, Petitioner,
v.
CHANTAY GODERT, [1]Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          CATHERINE D. PERRY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Missouri state prisoner Dereck Lamont Blackmon's petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. I will deny the petition.

         Procedural History

         On June 14, 2011, Blackmon pled guilty in the Circuit Court of Butler County, Missouri, to one count of Class B Arson First Degree. In accordance with the plea agreement, the court sentenced Blackmon to a term of twelve years' imprisonment but suspended execution of sentence and placed Blackmon on a five-year term of supervised probation. On June 11, 2013, the court revoked Blackmon's probation and ordered that the twelve-year sentence be executed. Blackmon thereafter filed a motion for post-conviction relief under Missouri Supreme Court Rule 24.035, which the trial court denied after an evidentiary hearing. On April 21, 2015, the Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's denial of post-conviction relief.

         Blackmon timely filed this habeas petition on July 28, 2015, in which he raises one claim for relief: that plea counsel was ineffective for incorrectly advising him that the offense to which he pled guilty was not a “dangerous” felony as defined under Missouri law. Blackmon claims that because he pled guilty to a dangerous felony, he is required to serve 85% of his sentence before being eligible for parole. Blackmon argues that had he been properly advised, he would not have pled guilty to a dangerous felony and would have insisted on going to trial. Blackmon raised this claim in his post-conviction motion and on appeal of the denial of the motion. Upon review of the merits of the claim, the Missouri Court of Appeals denied relief.

         For the reasons that follow, Blackmon's claim also fails here.

         Legal Standard

         Where the state court adjudicated a claim on the merits, federal habeas relief can be granted on the claim only if the state court adjudication “resulted in a decision that was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States, ” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1); or “was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court proceeding, ” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2). See Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 379 (2000). The federal law must be clearly established at the time petitioner's state conviction became final, and the source of doctrine for such law is limited to the United States Supreme Court. Id. at 380-83.

         A state court's decision is “contrary to” clearly established Supreme Court precedent when it is opposite to the Supreme Court's conclusion on a question of law or different than the Supreme Court's conclusion on a set of materially indistinguishable facts. Williams, 529 U.S. at 412-13; Carter v. Kemna, 255 F.3d 589, 591 (8th Cir. 2001). A state court's decision is an “unreasonable application” of Supreme Court precedent if it “identifies the correct governing legal principle from [the Supreme Court's] decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the prisoner's case.” Williams, 529 U.S. at 413. Merely erroneous or incorrect application of clearly established federal law does not suffice to support a grant of habeas relief. Instead, the state court's application of the law must be objectively unreasonable. Id. at 409-11; Jackson v. Norris, 651 F.3d 923, 925 (8th Cir. 2011). Finally, when reviewing whether a state court decision involves an “unreasonable determination of the facts” in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceedings, a federal court must presume that state court findings of basic, primary, or historical facts are correct unless the petitioner rebuts the presumption with clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Rice v. Collins, 546 U.S. 333, 338-39 (2006); Collier v. Norris, 485 F.3d 415, 423 (8th Cir. 2007). Erroneous findings of fact do not ipso facto ensure the grant of habeas relief. Instead, the determination of these facts must be unreasonable in light of the evidence of record. Collier, 485 F.3d at 423; Weaver v. Bowersox, 241 F.3d 1024, 1030 (8th Cir. 2001).

         The federal court is “bound by the AEDPA [Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act] to exercise only limited and deferential review of underlying state court decisions.” Lomholt v. Iowa, 327 F.3d 748, 751 (8th Cir. 2003). To obtain habeas relief from a federal court, the petitioner must show that the challenged state court ruling “rested on ‘an error well understood and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded disagreement.'” Metrish v. Lancaster, 569 U.S. 351, 357-58 (2013) (quoting Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102-03 (2011)). This standard is difficult to meet. Id.

         Discussion

         At the time Blackmon's conviction became final, the law was clearly established that the Sixth Amendment guarantees a criminal defendant the right to effective assistance of counsel. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984). In Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52 (1985), the Supreme Court held that a defendant who pled guilty upon the advice of counsel may challenge the voluntariness of that plea through a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. Id. at 56-57.

         To be entitled to habeas relief on his claim of ineffective assistance of plea counsel, Blackmon must show that his attorney's performance was not within the range of competence demanded of attorneys in criminal cases. Hill, 474 U.S. at 56-57. The standard to be applied in assessing counsel's performance is that set out in Strickland. Id. at 58. Accordingly, Blackmon must demonstrate that: 1) his counsel's performance was deficient, and 2) the deficient performance prejudiced his defense. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 687. To establish prejudice in the context of a guilty plea, Blackmon must show a reasonable probability that but for counsel's error, he would not have pled guilty and would have insisted on going to trial. Hill, 474 U.S. at 59.

         On post-conviction appeal, the Missouri Court of Appeals summarized the circumstances of ...


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