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Lane v. Steele

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

July 9, 2019

WILLIAM O. LANE, Petitioner,
TROY STEELE, Respondent.



         This matter is before the Court on the Petition of William O. Lane for a Writ of Habeas Corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. This cause was referred to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge for a Report and Recommendation pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 (b).

         I. Procedural History

         Lane is incarcerated at the Southeast Correctional Center (“SECC”) in Charleston, Missouri, pursuant to the Sentence and Judgment of the Circuit Court of Randolph County, Missouri. (Doc. 12-1 at 129-30.)

         After a jury trial, Lane was found guilty of first degree child molestation and incest. Id. at 236-37. The court sentenced him to life imprisonment for the child molestation charge and a concurrent seven-year term of imprisonment for the incest charge. Id.

         Lane raised four points on direct appeal of his convictions. (Doc. 9-1.) In his first two points, Lane argued that the trial court plainly erred in admitting hearsay statements of the victim. In his third point, he argued that the trial court erred in overruling his motion for judgment of acquittal and sentencing him for incest because the evidence was insufficient to support this conviction. In his final point, Lane argued that the trial court erred in refusing to submit instructions to the jury delineating specific dates on which the offenses occurred. On March 18, 2014, the Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the trial court. (Doc. 9-3.)

         Lane filed a pro se motion for post-conviction relief under Rule 29.15. (Doc. 12-4 at 6-13.) After appointment of counsel, an amended post-conviction relief motion was filed. Id. at 14-21. In his amended motion, Lane argued that he received ineffective assistance of counsel in that sentencing counsel failed to object to the court sentencing him to seven years on the incest charge on the basis that the sentence was outside the range of punishment for the offense. Lane also argued that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to move to strike all extrajudicial statements attributed to the victim. The State conceded that Lane was sentenced in excess of the allowable range of punishment for the incest charge. The motion court granted relief as to Lane's first claim, finding Lane was entitled to be resentenced with a range of punishment of 2 to 4 years for the incest charge. (Doc. 12-4 at 34.) The court denied relief as to Lane's second claim. Id. at 37.

         In his appeal from the denial of post-conviction relief, Lane argued that counsel was ineffective in failing to object to the victim's out of court statements. (Doc. 12-2.) The Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the motion court. (Doc. 9-6.)

         Lane filed his Petition on May 23, 2016, in which he raises five grounds for relief: (1) he is actually innocent; (2) the trial court erred in allowing the State to file an amended information; (3) the venire was tainted by comments from two prospective jurors; (4) his right to confrontation was violated because the victim did not testify at trial; and (5) his confession was coerced and counsel was ineffective for failing to object to its admission. (Doc. 1.)

         On October 6, 2016, Respondent filed a Response to Order to Show Cause. (Doc. 9.) Respondent argues that Lane's first ground for relief is non-cognizable; his second, third, and fifth grounds for relief are procedurally defaulted; and all of his claims are meritless. Lane filed a Traverse on December 27, 2016, in which he provides further argument in support of his claims. (Doc. 15.)

         II. Facts[1]

         In the fall of 2010, the victim, a young relative of Lane's, stayed the night with Lane's wife while Lane was on the road truck driving. Lane returned home in the middle of the night. While the victim lay on the couch, Lane positioned himself behind the victim on the couch, pulled the victim's underwear down, and rubbed his penis in the victim's buttocks until he ejaculated. Some of the seminal fluid got on the victim's underwear and near the genitalia. The victim got up, changed clothes, and got in bed with Mrs. Lane.

         Sometime later, the victim was taken to a doctor to treat a genital injury. The doctor cautioned the victim that it was not okay for a man to look at the victim's private areas without the victim's parents present. On the way home from the doctor's office, the victim reported that Lane had touched the victim's private areas with his private area. Upon hearing that, the parents called a help hotline, and then reported the incident to the police.

         A few days later, Ms. Lynne Dresner, a licensed clinical social worker, interviewed the victim to obtain the victim's account of the police investigation. The forensic interview was recorded on DVD and was observed by Detective Anthony Bowne, the lead detective in the case. The victim was later placed in counseling with Ms. Dana Carter. The police then questioned Mr. and Mrs. Lane.

         After Sergeant Kenneth Schulte interviewed him, Lane wrote a statement admitting that he “rubbed [his] penis against the backside of [the victim] until ejaculation was achieved.”

         At a pretrial hearing, the trial court heard testimony from the victim's parents, Detective Bowne, Ms. Carter, Ms. Dresner, and Mrs. Lane to determine whether the victim's statements about the incident should be adduced at trial from the victim's mother, Ms. Dresner, and the DVD of the forensic interview, pursuant to § 491.075. At the conclusion of the evidence, the trial court did not make a ruling on the reliability of the statements or the victim's unavailability. Prior to trial, Lane notified the State of his alibi for the offense, relying on a possible date provided by the victim to Ms. Carter during a counseling session.

         The victim did not testify at trial. The victim's mother and Ms. Dresner provided the victim's statements to the jury. Additionally, the court admitted the DVD of the forensic interview into evidence and played it for the jury. The court also admitted the anatomical figures used during the interview that indicated the child's terminology for her body parts and showed where she was touched. Sergeant Schulte testified to Lane's confession of the incident, and Lane's written statement was admitted into evidence.

         III. Standard of Review

         A federal court's power to grant a writ of habeas corpus is governed by 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d), which provides:

(d) An application for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a person in custody pursuant to the judgment of a State court shall not be granted with respect to any claim that was adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings unless the 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 ...

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