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Deen v. State

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Third Division

May 29, 2018

DESMOND O. DEEN, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent.

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

          Before Victor C. Howard, Presiding Judge, Cynthia L. Martin, Judge and Gary D. Witt, Judge.

          Cynthia L. Martin, Judge.

         Desmond Deen ("Deen") appeals from the denial of his Rule 24.035 motion following an evidentiary hearing. Deen argues that the motion court clearly erred in denying his claims that counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate his mental capacity at the time of his offenses and at the time of his guilty plea. Finding no error, we affirm.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         In February 2012, Deen was charged by indictment with domestic assault in the second degree, resisting arrest, and misdemeanor assault of a law enforcement officer in the third degree. These charges arose after Deen threw a beer bottle at his mother's head and then resisted the ensuing arrest by brandishing a table leg with a protruding screw at law enforcement officers. Deen pleaded guilty to all three charges in July 2012. The trial court sentenced Deen to concurrent four-year terms of imprisonment for domestic assault and resisting arrest, and a one-year term of imprisonment for assaulting a law enforcement officer. The trial court suspended the execution of Deen's sentences and placed him on probation for five years. But in 2015, after Deen struck a public defender with whom he met for another matter, the trial court revoked Deen's probation and executed his sentences.

         Deen filed a timely pro se motion for post-conviction relief. Post-conviction counsel filed a timely amended motion in July 2016. The amended motion asserted three claims for post-conviction relief, all based on an alleged ineffective assistance of counsel. The amended motion claimed (i) that plea counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate Deen's mental capacity at the time of his offenses, which could have established that Deen was not responsible for his criminal conduct because of mental disease or defect under section 552.030;[1] (ii) that plea counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate Deen's mental capacity at the time of his guilty plea to possibly establish that Deen lacked the capacity to understand the plea hearing or assist in his own defense pursuant to section 552.020; and (iii) that counsel at Deen's probation violation hearing was ineffective for failing to investigate Deen's mental capacity to possibly establish that Deen lacked the capacity to understand his probation hearing or assist in his own defense pursuant to section 552.020.

         The motion court held an evidentiary hearing on these claims in October 2016. At the hearing, Deen presented testimony from his mother, his brother, and a psychiatrist named Dr. Muskinni Salau ("Dr. Salau"), who performed a psychiatric evaluation of Deen. Deen's mother and brother testified that Deen was originally from Sierra Leone, and that Deen came to the United States in 2011. Dr. Salau discussed the medical and psychiatric records he reviewed and detailed Deen's mental health history, including his mental competency at the time of the offenses and at the time of his guilty plea. Dr. Salau concluded that Deen suffered from a mental disease or defect at the time of his offenses that rendered him incapable of knowing the nature, quality, or wrongfulness of his conduct. Dr. Salau also concluded that Deen lacked the mental capacity at the time of his guilty plea to understand the proceeding or assist in his own defense. Dr. Salau made the same conclusion about Deen's mental capacity at the time of his probation hearing.

         Deen's plea counsel also testified at the evidentiary hearing. Plea counsel stated that he knew Deen was from Sierra Leone because that was a "big part" of the work he did on the case, specifically referring to immigration issues. Plea counsel testified that Deen did not like the United States, that Deen wanted to go home to Sierra Leone, and that Deen wanted to go home "the fastest way." As a result, plea counsel focused his investigation on Deen's immigration status. Deen cooperated with this strategy by giving plea counsel information regarding deportation that counsel could then pass along to the appropriate authority. Additionally, during Deen's plea and sentencing hearings, plea counsel confirmed that he and Deen discussed Deen's immigration status in accordance with Padilla v. Kentucky, which requires defense counsel to provide advice about the possibility of deportation arising from a guilty plea. 559 U.S. 356, 369 (2010); Chaidez v. United States, 568 U.S. 342, 344 (2013).

         Plea counsel further testified at the evidentiary hearing that he discussed the possibility of incarceration with Deen. Deen relayed to plea counsel that he remembered what he did for each offense and told counsel that he was guilty. Plea counsel recalled that Deen stated he wanted to plead guilty. During his interactions with Deen, plea counsel did not observe anything about Deen's behavior that alerted him to issues regarding Deen's mental competency, and it was plea counsel's view that Deen understood the proceedings.

         Following the evidentiary hearing, the motion court entered judgment denying all of Deen's post-conviction claims. In denying the claims relating to Deen's mental capacity at the time of his offenses and guilty plea, the motion court cited plea counsel's testimony that he had advised Deen of the potential consequences a guilty plea could have on his immigration status and that Deen wanted to return to Sierra Leone.

         This timely appeal followed.

         Standard of Review

         Appellate review of the denial of post-conviction relief "is limited to a determination of whether the motion court's findings of fact and conclusions of law are clearly erroneous." Roberts v. State,276 S.W.3d 833, 835 (Mo. banc 2009). "The motion court's findings and conclusions are clearly erroneous only if, after review of the record, the appellate court is left with the definite and firm impression that a mistake has been made." Id. We presume that the motion court's findings are correct, and we defer to the motion court on matters of credibility. Simmons v. State,502 S.W.3d 739, 741 (Mo. ...


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