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Chatman v. State

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Third Division

June 19, 2018


          Appeal from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis Honorable Robert H. Dierker, Jr.


          ANGELA T. QUIGLESS, J.

         Christopher Chatman ("Movant") appeals pro se from the motion court's denial of his Rule 29.15[1] motion for post-conviction relief due to abandonment, and the denial of his motion for change of judge. In Point I, Movant argues the motion court clearly erred in denying his motion for post-conviction relief due to a conflict of interest in which abandonment resulted, without an abandonment hearing. In Point II, Movant argues the motion court abused its discretion in denying his motion for change of judge due to an inherent conflict of interest and/or meeting of the minds between the judge and post-conviction counsel. We affirm the judgment as to Point I. We dismiss Point II for failure to comply with the mandatory briefing requirements of Rule 84.04.

         Factual and Procedural History

         Following a jury trial, Movant was convicted of first-degree assault, in violation of Section 565.050;[2] armed criminal action, in violation of Section 571.015; and victim tampering, in violation of Section 575.270.2. Movant was sentenced to consecutive terms of thirty years for the assault conviction, thirty years for the armed criminal action conviction, and seven years for the victim tampering conviction. This Court affirmed the convictions and sentences on direct appeal. State v. Chatman, 149 S.W.3d 544 (Mo. App. E.D. 2004).

         On January 26, 2005, Movant filed a pro se Rule 29.15 motion for post-conviction relief[3] On April 5, 2005, post-conviction counsel entered her appearance and requested additional time to file an amended motion, which the motion court granted. One month later, post-conviction counsel timely filed a statement in lieu of filing an amended motion along with a request for an evidentiary hearing. The statement provided, in relevant part:

Undersigned counsel has reviewed the record in St. Louis City Cause Number 021-2396, including the transcript and legal file, as well as information supplied by Movant;
Undersigned counsel has investigated all allegations raised by Movant, in addition to those in Movant' spro se motion, and concluded, prior to the date that Movant's amended motion would be due, that there are no additional cognizable grounds to raise before this Court;
Undersigned counsel has consulted Movant, and Movant wishes to proceed on his pro se motion[.]

         The statement included Movant's signature. Thereafter, the motion court granted post-conviction counsel's request for an evidentiary hearing on the following claims: failure to call Movant's girlfriend as an alibi witness, failure to obtain discovery of prior convictions of witnesses for the State, and a purported conflict of interest regarding defense counsel and Movant's girlfriend. The motion court denied an evidentiary hearing as to Movant's remaining claims.

         On the day of the evidentiary hearing, post-conviction counsel filed a memorandum waiving the three claims for which the motion court granted the evidentiary hearing and submitting the Movant's remaining claims as pled in his pro se motion for post-conviction relief. Thereafter, the motion court entered its findings of fact and conclusions of law, denying Movant's post-conviction relief motion. This Court affirmed the motion court's judgment on appeal. Chatman v. State, 242 S.W.3d 445 (Mo. App. E.D. 2007).

         On August 8, 2017, Movant filed a motion for post-conviction relief due to abandonment pursuant to Rule 29.15 based on an actual conflict of interest in which abandonment resulted. Movant alleged post-conviction counsel, "without movant's knowledge and voluntary consent filed a motion with this court waiving the exact claims that movant was subsequently granted a hearing on." Thus, Movant was abandoned by post-conviction counsel because he was deprived of a meaningful review of his claims. Movant alleged post-conviction counsel's actions were motivated by "[m]aybe hatred of movant, numerous disagreements, the fact that [post-conviction counsel] didn't want to be on movant's case anymore, and even counsel's desire to leave the state." Additionally, Movant filed a motion for change of judge, arguing there was an "[inherent] conflict of interest and meeting of the minds" between post-conviction counsel and the motion court judge because the judge allowed post-conviction counsel to waive the claims without questioning counsel's actions or inquiring into Movant's knowledge of the waiver.

         The motion court subsequently entered the following judgment and order: "Movant-defendant's successive motion for relief under Rule 29.15 on the ground of abandonment is denied and dismissed with prejudice. The Court file conclusively refutes the claim of abandonment based on counsel's submitting pro se claims without evidentiary hearing." The motion court also ordered:

Movant Chatman has filed a motion to recuse the Court, apparently by way of attacking the statement in lieu of amended motion and waiver of evidentiary hearing on Chatman's motion under Rule 29.15, filed in 2005, heard and disposed by this Court in 2006, with affirmance by the Court of Appeals in 2008. There are no grounds whatever for recusal and movant is not entitled to an automatic change of ...

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