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Harris v. Jennings

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

August 5, 2019

JERALD HARRIS, Petitioner,



         This matter comes before the Court on Petitioner Jerald Harris's Petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody [1].

         I. BACKGROUND

         A jury, in the Circuit Court of St. Louis City, convicted Petitioner Jerald Harris of three counts of first-degree robbery, six counts of armed criminal action, one count of attempted forcible sodomy, one count of attempted first-degree robbery, one count of kidnapping, and one count of resisting arrest. Petitioner was sentenced to life imprisonment for all counts with the exception of a seven-year sentence for resisting arrest. One count of first-degree robbery runs concurrently with the rest of his sentences to run consecutively. Petitioner appealed his convictions and sentences to the Missouri Court of Appeals, which affirmed. Petitioner filed a timely Missouri Rule 29.15 post-conviction motion, which the motion court denied. He appealed this decision and the Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of post-conviction relief. Petitioner now seeks relief in this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

         The Missouri Court of Appeals described the facts of Petitioner's convictions as follows:

On January 6, 2013, S.D. was visiting her friend Julie Spychala at Spychala's apartment in the Shaw neighborhood in the City of St. Louis. A friend of theirs, Brendon Hutton came over to pick S.D. up and S.D. and Spychala went downstairs to meet him outside. The three of them stood in the street and talked for a few minutes.
As they were talking Spychala noticed a man, later identified as Defendant, [1]coming toward them. She made eye contact with him and then looked back at her friends and continued talking with them. Then Defendant came up behind them with a handkerchief over his face, holding a gun. Defendant said, “Give me your money or I'll shoot you.” Spychala did not have any money, so she threw her gloves on the ground in front of Defendant. S.D. and Hutton handed Defendant money. Defendant continued to point the gun at them. Then Defendant demanded their phones, and Spychala and S.D. both put their phones on the ground. Defendant kept demanding more money, and eventually S.D. and Hutton had given him everything out of their wallets. At one point, the bandana covering Defendant's face fell down, and Hutton was able to see Defendant's face for a few seconds.
Defendant then looked at S.D. and said, “Well, bitch, you're going to suck my d[---].” Defendant went up behind her and grabbed her butt and she froze. Spychala kept saying, “No” and “Please, sir, please.” She tried to offer Defendant her jacket, which she told him was worth $150. He started to pull off her jacket but Spychala got nervous and held her ground. Eventually Defendant stopped and said “Run to your car and don't turn around.” Defendant ran away down an alley.
The three victims got in Hutton's car and started driving. Hutton still had his phone, so he called 911. Police took them back to the scene. Their credit cards and Spychala's gloves were still on the ground, but the money and phones were gone. A K-9 police unit tracked Defendant's scent but lost it beyond the alley.

         ECF No. 6-5, pgs. 1-3.[2]

         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). 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. ยง 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 ...

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