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Leigh v. State

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, First Division

May 29, 2018

CHRISTOPHER D. LEIGH, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Saint Francois County Honorable Sandra Martinez

          KURT S. ODENWALD, Judge

         Introduction

         The issue presented on appeal focuses on a recurring issue of the filing deadline for a motion for post-conviction relief in situations where an individual receives a suspended execution of sentence, serves a short period of time in the Missouri Department of Corrections ("DOC") as a requirement of probation, is released from the DOC and continued on probation, but is later returned to the DOC to serve the remainder of the suspended sentence when the probation is revoked.

         Christopher D. Leigh ("Leigh") appeals from the motion court's dismissal of his Rule 24.035[1] motion for post-conviction relief. On appeal, Leigh argues that the motion court clearly erred in dismissing his Rule 24.035 motion without reviewing his substantive allegations because the motion was timely filed and properly contested Leigh's underlying convictions and sentences. Because the trial court's findings and conclusions that Leigh's motion was not a proper challenge to his underlying convictions and sentences are clearly erroneous, we reverse. We further remand this matter to the motion court, with instructions to proceed on the merits.

         Factual and Procedural History

         The State charged Leigh with four counts of aggravated stalking. Leigh pleaded guilty to the charged offenses. The plea court sentenced Leigh to four-year consecutive terms in prison for each of the counts, totaling sixteen years. The plea court suspended Leigh's sentences and placed him on probation for five years.

         Leigh subsequently violated his probation. The plea court imposed a court ordered detention sanction, pursuant to Section 559.036, [2] and ordered Leigh to participate in a 120-day program with the DOC. On December 19, 2016, Leigh was delivered to the DOC. Leigh completed the 120-day program, and the DOC released Leigh back on probation.

         Leigh filed a pro se motion for post-conviction relief (the "Motion") on April 28, 2017. Within the Motion, Leigh alleged that he received ineffective assistance of counsel, entered his guilty plea under duress, and did not commit the charged offenses. The motion court appointed counsel.

         The State moved to dismiss the Motion, before an amended motion was filed. On May 23, 2017, the motion court dismissed Leigh's Motion, finding that Leigh challenged a condition of his probation, which is not cognizable in post-conviction proceedings under Rule 24.035. Leigh now appeals.

         Point on Appeal

         In his sole point on appeal, Leigh alleges that the motion court clearly erred when it dismissed the Motion because the motion court incorrectly characterized his Motion as a challenge to his confinement pursuant to the court ordered detention sanction, and not a challenge to his underlying convictions and sentences. Leigh argues that he timely filed and properly challenged his convictions and sentences in his Motion.

         Standard of Review

         We will overturn the motion court's disposition in a Rule 24.035 motion if its findings of fact and conclusions of law are clearly erroneous. Hall v. State. 528 S.W.3d 360, 361 (Mo. banc 2017); Rule 24.035(k). The motion court's findings are clearly erroneous when, after reviewing the entire record, we are "left with the definite and firm impression that a mistake has been made." Stanley v. State, 420 S.W.3d 532, 539 (Mo. banc 2014) (internal citations omitted). The motion court's findings and ...


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