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Neubauer v. Sachse

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

June 25, 2019




         This matter is before the Court on Petitioner Charles Neubauer's (“Neubauer” or “Petitioner”) pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. (Doc. 1). Respondent filed a response to the Petition. (Doc. 9). Neubauer filed a traverse. (Doc. 10). Also before the Court is Petitioner's pro se Motion to Vacate and Remand for New Trial (Doc. 25), which the Court is interpreting as a request to rule on the pending habeas petition. The parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1). (Doc. 5). For the reasons set forth below, Neubauer's petition for writ of habeas corpus will be denied.

         I. Background

         Neubauer is currently an inmate at the Missouri Eastern Correctional Center in Pacific, Missouri. He was charged with two counts of statutory sodomy in the first degree with a victim less than fourteen years of age, and to one count of statutory sodomy in the second degree. On October 2, 2012, Petitioner pleaded guilty in the Circuit Court of Lincoln County, Missouri, pursuant to a plea bargain, to these counts. The plea agreement provided that the state would not recommend sentences higher than fifteen years on counts one and two, even though the offenses were potentially punishable under Missouri law by life imprisonment, and no more than seven years on count three, which was the statutory maximum sentence. Petitioner admitted at his plea hearing that he had deviate sexual intercourse with C.A.B. (“Victim”) by placing Victim's penis in Petitioner's mouth, and by placing Petitioner's penis in Victim's anus. The court examined Neubauer, found that his plea was knowing and voluntary, and subsequently sentenced him to concurrent sentences of fifteen years on counts one and two, and seven years on count three.

         Neubauer filed a pro se motion for post-conviction relief pursuant to Missouri Supreme Court Rule 24.035, in which he challenged only his guilty plea to the second-degree offense for which he received the seven year sentence. (Doc. 9-2 at 56). On June 2, 2014, through counsel, Neubauer filed his amended motion for post-conviction relief. Id. Neubauer asserted that his guilty plea was not knowing and voluntary because the court failed to require that a sufficient factual basis existed to support his plea to the charge of statutory sodomy in the second degree. Id. at 64. That motion was subsequently denied. Id. at 71. Neubauer appealed to the Missouri Court of Appeals, (Doc. 9-3), which affirmed the motion court's ruling and denied Neubauer's appeal. (Doc. 9-5).

         Neubauer subsequently filed a pro se petition for writ of habeas corpus in this Court, raising seven claims: Ground One, that his trial counsel was ineffective for “misleading” Neubauer into pleading guilty;[1] Ground Two, that Lincoln County had no jurisdiction and was not the proper venue; Ground Three, that plea bargaining is inherently unconstitutional; Ground Four, that Neubauer was “arrested, questioned, charged, and jailed” based on the improperly inefficient and biased performance of the police officers who investigated the charges against him; Ground Five, that Neubauer perjured himself when he pleaded guilty; Ground Six, that his plea counsel violated attorney-client privilege by sharing some unspecified confidential information with the court and prosecutor when arguing for a lighter sentence; and Ground Seven, that the prosecutor should be presumed to have been vindictive toward Neubauer because he allegedly would have pursued a life sentence had the case proceeded to trial. (Doc. 1).

         II. Standard of Review

          A. Standard for Reviewing Habeas Corpus Claims on the Merits

         A federal judge may issue a writ of habeas corpus freeing a state prisoner, if the prisoner is “in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). However, the judge may not issue the writ if an adequate and independent state-law ground justified the prisoner's detention, regardless of the federal claim. See Wainwright v. Sykes, 433 U.S. 72, 81-88 (1977).

         Federal habeas review exists only “as ‘a guard against extreme malfunctions in the state criminal justice systems, not a substitute for ordinary error correction through appeal.'” Woods v. Donald, 135 S.Ct. 1372, 1376 (2015) (per curiam) (quoting Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102-03 (2011)). Accordingly, “[i]n the habeas setting, a federal court is bound by the AEDPA [the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act] to exercise only limited and deferential review of underlying state court decisions.” Lomholt v. Iowa, 327 F.3d 748, 751 (8th Cir. 2003) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254). Under the AEDPA, a federal court may not grant relief to a state prisoner with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in the state court proceedings unless the state court's adjudication of the claim “(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).

         A state court decision is “contrary to” clearly established Supreme Court precedent “if the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the United States Supreme] Court on a question of law or if the state court decides a case differently than [the United States Supreme] Court has on a set of materially indistinguishable facts.” Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 412-13 (2000). “[A] state court decision involves an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the state court proceedings only if it is shown that the state court's presumptively correct factual findings do not enjoy support in the record.” Jones v. Luebbers, 359 F.3d 1005, 1011 (8th Cir. 2004) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted); see also Rice v. Collins, 546 U.S. 333, 338-39 (2006) (noting that state court factual findings are presumed correct unless the habeas petitioner rebuts them through clear and convincing evidence) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1)).

         B. Procedural Default

         To preserve a claim for federal habeas review, a state prisoner must present that claim to the state court and allow that court the opportunity to address the claim. Moore-El v. Luebbers, 446 F.3d 890, 896 (8th Cir. 2006) (citing Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 731-32 (1991)). “Where a petitioner fails to follow applicable state procedural rules, any claims not properly raised before the state court are procedurally defaulted.” Id. The federal habeas court will consider a procedurally defaulted claim only “where the petitioner can establish either cause for the default and actual prejudice, or that the default will result in a fundamental miscarriage of justice.” Id. (citing Sawyer v. Whitley, 505 U.S. 333, 338-39 (1992) and Abdullah v. Groose, 75 F.3d 408, 411 (8th Cir. 1996) (en banc)). “The procedural default doctrine and its attendant ‘cause and prejudice' standard are ‘grounded in concerns of comity and federalism,' Coleman, 501 U.S. at 730, and apply alike whether the default in question occurred at trial, on appeal, or on state collateral attack. Murray v. Carrier, 477 U.S. 478, 490-92 (1986).

         To demonstrate cause, a petitioner must show that “some objective factor external to the defense impeded [the petitioner's] efforts to comply with the State's procedural rule.” Id. at 488. To establish prejudice, a petitioner must demonstrate that the claimed errors “worked to his actual and substantial disadvantage, infecting his entire trial with error of constitutional dimensions.” United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 170 (1982). Lastly, in order to assert the fundamental miscarriage of justice exception, a petitioner must “‘present new evidence that affirmatively demonstrates that he is ...

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