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Lee v. Cassady

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

April 20, 2018

JAMES LEE, Petitioner,
v.
JAY CASSADY, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM

          DAVID D. NOCE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This action is before the court upon the petition of Missouri state prisoner James Lee for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Doc. 1). The parties have consented to the exercise of plenary authority by the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). For the reasons set forth below, the petition for a writ of habeas corpus is denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In November 2009, petitioner James Lee was accused of shooting into a car with two individuals inside, injuring one of them. (Doc. 8, Ex. 3). The state of Missouri charged petitioner with two counts of first-degree assault, as well as two counts of armed criminal action and unlawful use of a weapon. (Doc. 8, Ex. 3). In June 2010, he pled guilty to all five crimes in the Circuit Court for the City of St. Louis. (Doc. 8, Ex. 3 at 24). On August 20, 2010, he received an aggregated sentence of 30 years: 30 years for first-degree, Class A assault; 15 years for first-degree, Class B assault; 3 years for each armed criminal action; and 4 years for the unlawful use of a weapon, each sentence to run concurrently. (Doc. 1 at 1; Doc. 8, Ex. 3 at 5). Petitioner subsequently moved for post-conviction relief and appealed the denial of his post-conviction relief in state courts. He filed the instant petition for a writ of habeas corpus on May 13, 2015. (Doc. 1).

         II. PETITIONER'S GROUNDS FOR FEDERAL HABEAS RELIEF

         Petitioner raises four grounds for relief:

(1) Petitioner's plea counsel rendered constitutionally ineffective assistance by informing petitioner that he would receive a fifteen to twenty year sentence, thereby inducing him to plead guilty.
(2) Petitioner's plea counsel rendered constitutionally ineffective assistance by failing to investigate and obtain all available discovery, which would have revealed that petitioner suffers from a mental disease or defect.
(3) Petitioner's plea counsel rendered constitutionally ineffective assistance in failing to raise the defense of mental disease or defect and in failing to request a mental evaluation of petitioner.
(4) Petitioner's plea counsel rendered constitutionally ineffective assistance in that counsel failed to raise every claim known to petitioner for vacating, setting aside, or correcting petitioner's sentence and judgment.

(Doc. 1 at 6-8).

         Respondent contends that the arguments in Grounds 2, 3, and 4 are procedurally defaulted and Ground 1, which was addressed by Missouri state courts, was not decided contrary to established federal law. (Doc. 8).

         IV. TIMELINESS

         Congress provides a one-year window, calculated from the conclusion of direct state review, in which a habeas applicant may file a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(1). Direct review concludes when the time limit for seeking further review expires. Gonzales v. Thaler, 132 S.Ct. 641, 653-54 (2012). Under Missouri Supreme Court Rules 30.01 and 81.04, the time limit for filing a notice of appeal expires ten days after sentencing. The trial court sentenced petitioner on August 20, 2010, and on August 31, 2010, the one-year limitation period began to run.

         However, a pending state post-conviction action or other state collateral review tolls the one-year statute of limitation. 28 U.S.C. § 2244(d)(2). On February 9, 2011, or 163 days later, petitioner timely filed a motion for post-conviction relief, tolling the one-year clock. (Doc. 8, Ex. 3 at 45). Petitioner claimed his trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective, because he failed to sufficiently investigate the case or perform discovery, failed to evaluate or present a mental disease or defect defense, and failed to inform petitioner of the state's proposed plea bargain. (Doc. 8, Ex. 3 at 51). Appointed counsel filed an amended motion alleging that plea counsel was ineffective for affirmatively misrepresenting that petitioner would receive a sentence in the range of 15 to 20 years. (Doc. 8, Ex. 3 at 62-79). On December 31, 2012, petitioner's motion for post-conviction relief was denied. (Doc. 8, Ex. 3 at 46). Petitioner appealed, raising only one point: that his plea counsel was ineffective for predicting that petitioner would receive a sentence of 15-20 years, which induced him to plead guilty. (Doc. 8, Ex. 6 at 19). The Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment, issuing its mandate on March 19, 2014. (Doc. 8, Ex. 8 at 1-8). On March 20, 2014, the one-year clock resumed, and it expired 202 days later, on October 8, 2014. Petitioner did not file his petition until May 13, 2015. (Doc. 1). He does not offer any excuse for his late filing. Therefore, petitioner's federal habeas corpus petition is untimely. The court has nevertheless considered the merits of petitioner's grounds for relief.

         IV. EXHAUSTION AND PROCEDURAL BAR

         Congress also requires that state prisoners exhaust their state law remedies for claims made in federal habeas corpus petitions filed in district court under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254(b)(1)(A). A state prisoner has not exhausted his remedies “if he has the right under the law of the State to raise, by any available procedure, the question presented.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(c).

         It is not sufficient for a petitioner simply to have no remaining procedure for bringing a claim to the state court. Anderson v. Harless, 459 U.S. 4, 6 (1982) (per curiam). Rather, a petitioner must have fairly presented the substance of each federal ground to the trial and appellate courts. Id. To preserve issues for federal habeas review, a state prisoner must fairly present his or her claims to state courts during direct appeal or during post-conviction proceedings. Sweet v. Delo, 125 F.3d 1144, 1149 (8th Cir. 1996). “If a petitioner fails to exhaust state remedies and the court to which he should have presented his claim would now find it procedurally barred, there is a procedural default”. Sloan v. Delo, 54 F.3d 1371, 1381 (8th Cir. 1995) (citing Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 735 n. 1 (1991)).

         A petitioner may overcome the procedural bar if he can demonstrate legally sufficient cause for the default and actual prejudice resulting from it, or that failure to review the claim would result in a fundamental miscarriage of justice. Coleman, 501 U.S. at 750. To establish cause for a procedural default, petitioner must “show that some objective factor external to the defense impeded” his “efforts to comply with the State's procedural rule.” Id. at 753. To establish actual prejudice, petitioner “must show that the errors of which he complains worked to his actual and substantial ...


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