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Thomas v. Steele

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

July 5, 2018

JOHN SCOTT THOMAS, III, Petitioner,
v.
TROY STEELE, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          E. RICHARD WEBBER, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Petitioner John Scott Thomas, III's Pro Se Petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Petitioner John Scott Thomas, III (“Petitioner”) pled guilty to eight counts of first-degree statutory sodomy and one count of first-degree statutory rape on November 27, 2012. The circuit court sentenced Petitioner to thirty years imprisonment, and Petitioner did not file a direct appeal of his sentence. Petitioner filed a timely motion for post-conviction relief pursuant to Missouri Supreme Court Rule 24.035. His motion was denied, and Petitioner did not appeal the state court's denial of this motion. On February 16, 2017, Petitioner filed the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. On March 1, 2017, this court issued an Order to Show Cause as to why his petition should not be dismissed as time-barred [5].

         II. STANDARD

         “A state prisoner who believes that he is incarcerated in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States may file a petition for writ of habeas corpus in federal court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.” Osborne v. Purkett, 411 F.3d 911, 914 (8th Cir. 2005). In order for a federal court to grant an application for a writ of habeas corpus brought by a person in custody by order of a state court, the petitioner must show that the state court decision:

(1) 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; or (2) resulted in a decision that 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)(1)-(2). A determination of a factual issue made by a state court is presumed to be correct unless the petitioner successfully rebuts the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence. Id. at § 2254(e)(1).

         A state court's decision is “contrary to” clearly established Supreme Court precedent “if the state court either ‘applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in [Supreme Court] cases' or ‘confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision of [the] Court and nevertheless arrives at a result different from [the] precedent.'” Penry v. Johnson, 532 U.S. 782, 792 (2001) (citing Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-406 (2000)). An unreasonable application of clearly established Supreme Court precedent is found where the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the case. Ryan v. Clark, 387 F.3d 785, 790 (8th Cir. 2004). Finally, a state court decision may be considered an unreasonable determination of the facts “only if it is shown that the state court's presumptively correct factual findings do not enjoy support in the record.” Id.

         III. DISCUSSION

         Petitioner asserts four claims in his petition for writ of habeas corpus. First, he alleges ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to investigate coercion used by law enforcement. Second, Petitioner alleges ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to protect his constitutional rights. Third, Petitioner alleges ineffective assistance of counsel for failing to investigate whether his victim's mother had a sexually transmitted disease. Finally, Petitioner asserts plea hearing counsel conspired to coerce him to plead guilty and sign a post-conviction waiver of rights.

         A. Timeliness

         This Court assessed the timeliness of Petitioner's habeas petition in the Order to Show Cause and found 915 days elapsed between the date the state court judgment in the state post-conviction case became final and the filing of the instant petition on February 16, 2017 [5]. The Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”) provides a one-year statute of limitations for writs of habeas corpus filed under 28 U.S.C. § 2254, which begins running on the date judgment becomes final. Williams v. Bruton, 299 F.3d 981, 982 (8th Cir. 2002). The AEDPA's one-year limitation period is tolled, however, while “a properly filed application for State post-conviction or other collateral review ... is pending.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(2).

         Here, Petitioner filed a motion for post-conviction relief on August 13, 2013, which the circuit court denied on July 7, 2014. This Court concluded, when it issued the show cause order, that tolling is not warranted for the 180 days between the date Petitioner's sentence became final, February 15, 2013, and August 13, 2013, the date Petitioner filed his post-conviction relief in state court. See Bear v. Fayram, 650 F.3d 1120, 1125 (8th Cir. 2011) (holding that the limitations period is not tolled prior to the filing of the state application for relief). This Court found the limitations period was tolled for 368 days, beginning August 13, 2013 and ending August 16, 2014 (the time during which he could have appealed the court's adverse ruling). See Williams, 299 F.3d 981 at 981-82 (noting the limitations period is tolled during time that state prisoner could have appealed lower court's adverse ruling); Mo. Sup. Ct. R. 81.04 (petitioner has 10 days to appeal after dismissal of post-conviction relief becomes final); Mo. Sup. Ct. R. 81.05 (judgment becomes final 30 days after its entry, unless an authorized after-trial motion is filed).[1] No appeal of the denial was filed, and Petitioner did not file the instant ...


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