United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
RICHARD WEBBER SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on Petitioner Eugene
Burrell's Petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ
of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody. ECF No. 1.
2011, Petitioner Eugene Burrell (“Petitioner”)
was convicted by a jury of Murder in the Second Degree, Armed
Criminal Action, and Unlawful Use of a Weapon. Tr. Pg.
756:4-14.Petitioner was sentenced to 30 years on
Count 1 of Murder, 30 years on Count 2 of Armed Criminal
Action, and 4 years on Count 3 of Unlawful Use of a Weapon,
all to run concurrently. Tr. pg. 775:1-6. Petitioner appealed
his convictions to the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern
District, and his convictions were affirmed. See State v.
Burrell, 377 S.W.3d 615 (Mo. App. E.D. 2012). Petitioner
filed a post-conviction relief (“PCR”) motion
pursuant to Missouri Supreme Court Rule 29.15. ECF No. 1-3 at
pgs. 34-44. The PCR motion court denied Petitioner's
claims and the court's decision was affirmed by the
appellate court. Petitioner subsequently filed a PCR motion
pursuant to Missouri Supreme Court Rule 91. ECF No. 12-11.
The PCR motion court denied Petitioner's claim.
Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, described
Petitioner's convictions as follows:
. . . on the night of August 25, 2010, Movant and Justin
Young (Victim) were involved in an altercation outside of
Movant's house. The two men exchanged words and a fist
fight ensued. Police arrived, spoke with the men, and told
everyone to go home. A short time later, Victim walked back
to Movant's house and threw a brick at his window,
breaking it. Immediately thereafter, Movant came out the
front door armed with a .357 Rossi revolver and fired several
shots at Victim, striking him three times in the abdomen and
hip. Victim staggered backwards across the street and
collapsed on the ground. Movant then walked over to where the
victim was lying motionless on the ground and struck him
twice on the head with the gun, causing a skull fracture.
Victim died a short time later from his injuries.
ECF No. 12-10 at pgs. 2-3.
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
(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
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.”
asserts the following nine claims in his petition: (1) the
trial court abused its discretion in granting the State's
motion in limine to exclude Petitioner's evidence of the
prior criminal history of the victim; (2) the trial court
erred in precluding Petitioner from introducing his
videotaped statement to police at trial; (3) the trial court
erred in precluding Petitioner from introducing his 911 call
at trial; (4) Petitioner was denied due process and effective
assistance of counsel when his trial counsel failed to offer
an instruction for voluntary manslaughter; (5) Petitioner was
denied due process and effective assistance of counsel when
his trial counsel failed to offer a modified version of the
self-defense jury instruction; (6) Petitioner was denied due
process and effective assistance of counsel when his trial
counsel failed to make an offer of proof to admit
Petitioner's videotaped police statement into evidence at
trial; (7) Petitioner was denied due process and effective
assistance of counsel when his trial counsel failed to make
an offer of proof to admit Petitioner's 911 call into
evidence at trial; (8) Petitioner was denied due process and
effective assistance of counsel when his trial counsel failed
to inform him of a letter regarding plea negotiations; and
(9) Petitioner was denied due process and effective
assistance of counsel when his PCR counsel failed to raise
the issue Petitioner's trial counsel had a conflict of
interest which violated his Sixth Amendment rights. The Court
will address each claim as follows.
Non-Cognizable Claims - Claims 1, 2, and 3
first three claims, Petitioner asserts the trial court
improperly failed to admit three pieces of evidence: (1) the
victim's past criminal acts; (2) Petitioner's
videotaped statement to police; and (3) Petitioner's 911
call regarding the incident. All three are questions rooted
in state evidentiary law.
United States Supreme Court held “federal habeas corpus
relief does not lie for errors of state law” and
“it is not [the] province of a federal habeas court to
reexamine state-court determinations on state-law
questions.” Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62,
67-68 (1991) quoting (Lewis v. Jeffers, 497 U.S.
764, 780 (1990)) and citing (Pulley v. Harris, 465
U.S. 37, 41 (1984)). Because the admission or exclusion of
evidence is primarily a question of state law, an evidentiary
determination rarely gives rise to a federal question
reviewable in a habeas petition. Scott v. Jones, 915
F.2d 1188, 1190-91 (8th Cir. 1990); Johnson v.
Steele, No. 4:11CV01022 SNLJ, 2014 WL 4627174, at *7
(E.D. Mo. Sept. 12, 2014). Federal courts “may not
review evidentiary rulings of state courts unless they
implicate federal constitutional rights.” Evans v.
Luebbers, 371 F.3d 438, 443 (8th Cir. 2004) citing
(Estelle, 502 U.S. at 68).
state court's evidentiary ruling is a matter of state
law, and we may examine the ruling in a habeas petition only
to determine whether the asserted error denied due
process.” Bailey v. Lockhart, 46 F.3d 49, 50
(8th Cir. 1995). “A state court's evidentiary
rulings can form the basis for habeas relief under the due
process clause only when they were so conspicuously
prejudicial or of such magnitude as to fatally infect the
trial and deprive the defendant of due process.”
Osborne, 411 F.3d at 917 quoting (Parker v.
Bowersox, 94 F.3d 458, 460 (8th Cir. 1996)). To
constitute a due process violation, an evidentiary mistake
must be “so egregious that [it] fatally infected the
proceedings and rendered [petitioner's] entire trial
fundamentally unfair.” Anderson v. Goeke, 44
F.3d 675, 679 (8th Cir. 1995). The Supreme Court recognized,
the Constitution guarantees criminal defendants a meaningful
opportunity to present a complete defense. Lannert v.
Jones, 321 F.3d 747, 754-55 (8th Cir. 2003) citing
(Crane v. Kentucky,476 U.S. 683, 690 (1986)).
However, the right to introduce favorable evidence is not