Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Second Division
RALPH H. CATO, Appellant,
STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent.
from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis Honorable
Paula P. Bryant
M. Hess, Presiding Judge.
Cato (Movant) appeals the motion court's judgment denying
his Rule 29.15 motion for post-conviction relief after an
evidentiary hearing. He contends the motion court clearly erred
in denying his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel
because defense counsel failed to make an offer of proof
regarding the victim's alleged gang membership and
marijuana dealing. We affirm.
November 2014, a jury convicted Movant of murder in the first
degree, two counts of assault in the first degree, and three
counts of armed criminal action stemming from a 2013 shooting
in the City of St. Louis. The evidence viewed in the light
most favorable to the judgment shows the
or June 2013, Movant became reacquainted with his former
classmates and victims, Charles Moorehead (Decedent) and
Johnathon Robinson. Mr. Robinson sold marijuana to Movant.
They had a verbal dispute over a marijuana sale. Later, in
early July 2013, Movant saw Robinson and Decedent at a gas
station. Movant got into a fist fight with Robinson resulting
in minor injuries. Movant then told Robinson he would get a
"chopper," which Robinson testified meant a pistol.
16, 2013, Robinson was at Decedent's home. Decedent
showed Robinson a photo Movant had posted to Facebook of
himself with a gun in his waistband. Robinson took the photo
as a threat. Later in the day, Robinson, Decedent, and
Decedent's cousin Kenyatia Eddy were sitting on the front
porch. A man with a gun, later identified as Movant, came out
of the alley and shot multiple times injuring Robinson and
killing Decedent. Eddy escaped the gun fire. Both Robinson
and Eddy identified Movant as the shooter.
trial, Decedent's mother Dana Dodson testified July
16th was her son's first day off from his new
job as a lifeguard and when she arrived on the scene:
It looked like he was asleep. And I knew then while they say
they was waitin' on the ambulance, I knew in my heart
that he was gone. I just couldn't understand what brought
that on. I mean, I was just talkin' to him. He never been
in no trouble. He never had a record. He hadn't been
fingerprinted at all other than a Metrolink stop that
happened when he was in the ninth grade. He never been in
trouble. He never been a problem to me or my family.
counsel Matt Waltz believed Dodson's testimony opened the
door to evidence of Decedent's character. He gave a verbal
narrative to the court about evidence that would show
Decedent had a "gang life" tattoo, possessed
marijuana that day, and was dealing marijuana at the time of
his death. The court found Dodson's testimony did not
open the door. Decedent's character evidence was
jury convicted Movant on all six counts. On January 7, 2015,
he was sentenced to life without parole on Count I, murder in
the first degree. Movant appealed, claiming the trial court
abused its discretion in overruling objections (1) to a photo
of Movant with a gun admitted into evidence and (2) to the
State's closing argument that Movant sought out the two
victims. This Court affirmed the judgment and sentence on
April 20, 2016.
timely filed his pro se motion for post-conviction
relief under Rule 29.15 on July 11, 2016. The motion court
appointed counsel for Movant on July 28, 2016. Then 152 days
after counsel was appointed, counsel untimely filed the
Amended Motion on December 27, 2016.
evidentiary hearing on March 20, 2018, Waltz testified the
defense strategy at trial was mistaken identification and
alibi. He stated a partial defense could have been a
disgruntled gang member or marijuana customer shot Decedent.
Dodson testified her son was not in a gang and did not deal
drugs. She also reported she was not on Facebook and did not
know what was on Facebook about her son. The court found
Movant's trial counsel was not ineffective for failing to
make an adequate offer of proof regarding the character of
the victim because it did not prejudice Movant and the