United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
L. WHITE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the Petition of Carlos Roberts
for a Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
2254. (ECF No. 1) The Petition is fully briefed and ready for
disposition. For the reasons set forth below, the Petition
will be denied.
Carlos Roberts ("Petitioner" or
"Roberts") is currently incarcerated at the
Southeast Correctional Center ("SECC") located in
Charleston, Missouri pursuant to the judgment and sentence of
the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis, Missouri.
(Resp't's Ex. H pp. 101-04, ECF No. 5-8) On April 13,
2012, a jury found Petitioner guilty of second-degree murder,
armed criminal action, and unlawful use of a weapon.
(Id. at pp. 93-95) On May 25, 2012, the court
sentenced him to two concurrent terms of life imprisonment on
the second-degree murder and armed criminal action counts,
and a concurrent term of 4 years on the unlawful use of a
weapon count. (Id. at pp. 101-04) Petitioner filed a
direct appeal, and on December 3, 2013, the Missouri Court of
Appeals affirmed the judgment of the trial
court.(Resp't's Ex. D, ECF No. 5-4)
Petitioner then filed apro se Motion to Vacate, Set
Aside, or Correct Judgment or Sentence pursuant to Missouri
Supreme Court Rule 29.15 in June, 2014. (Resp't's Ex.
M pp. 4-9, ECF No. 5-20) Appointed counsel filed an amended
Rule 29.15 motion on October 3, 2014. (Id. at pp.
13-29) On November 17, 2014, the motion court denied
Petitioner's motion for post-conviction relief.
(Id. at pp. 30-37) The Missouri Court of Appeals
affirmed the judgment of the motion court in a decision dated
October 6, 2015. (Resp't's Ex. L, ECF No. 5-19) On
April 18, 2016, Petitioner filed the present petition for
habeas relief in federal court. (ECF No. 1)
Roberts and the victim, V.T. ("Victim") had a
common law marriage and raised six children together.
Defendant has a low IQ and history of substance abuse. Victim
ended the relationship and moved into their adult
daughter's apartment in early 2008. Defendant followed
the Victim and moved in with his daughter and the Victim, so
the Victim left. Defendant directed numerous threats toward
Victim after they separated. On March 16, 2008, the
daughter's apartment caught fire while her children were
there in Petitioner's care. Her son died in the fire, and
her daughter was taken to St. Louis Children's Hospital.
As the family gathered at the hospital the next day, a
witness heard Petitioner demand that Victim return home with
him. Victim replied that she wanted to stay at the hospital
with her daughter and granddaughter. That evening, Petitioner
and Victim left the building to smoke. Petitioner wielded a
knife and stabbed Victim about her head, neck, and chest.
Petitioner also cut his own wrists and throat. When security
officers intervened, Petitioner pointed his knife at them
until one officer drew his firearm. Police officers responded
to the scene and arrested Petitioner, who admitted that he
drank alcohol and smoked crack that day. Petitioner stated
that he did not remember what occurred but later alleged that
another man attacked the couple. The Victim did not survive,
and the State charged Petitioner with first-degree murder,
armed criminal action, and unlawful use of a weapon.
Petition, Roberts raises four grounds for federal habeas
relief. These grounds are as follows:
(1) The evidence was insufficient to find Petitioner
competent to stand trial;
(2) The evidence was insufficient to establish the requisite
mental state to convict him;
(3) Petitioner was deprived of a fair trial because a juror
was distracted; and
(4) Direct appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to
raise on direct appeal a claim that the trial court erred in
refusing to instruct the jury on a lesser included offense of
the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA),
federal courts review state court decisions under a
deferential standard. Owens v. Dormire, 198 F.3d
679, 681 (8th Cir. 1999). "[A] district court shall
entertain an application for a writ of habeas corpus ... only
on the ground that [the petitioner] is in custody in
violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the
United States." 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a). Further, a
federal court may not grant habeas relief unless the claim
adjudicated on the merits in state court '"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.'" Owens, 198 F.3d at 681 (quoting
28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1)). Findings of fact made by a
state court are presumed to be correct, and the petitioner
has the burden of rebutting this presumption by clear and
convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). See
also Gee v. Groose, 110 F.3d 1346, 1351 (8th Cir. 1997)
(state court factual findings presumed to be correct where
fairly supported by the record).
the 'contrary to' clause, a federal habeas court may
grant the writ if the state court arrives at a conclusion
opposite to that reached by [the Supreme] Court on a question
of law or if the state court decides a case differently than
[the Supreme] Court has on a set of materially
indistinguishable facts." Williams v. Taylor,
529 U.S. 362, 412-413 (2000). With regard to the
"unreasonable application" clause, "a federal
habeas court may grant the writ if the state court identifies
the correct governing legal principle from [the Supreme]
Court's decisions but unreasonably applies that principle
to the facts of the prisoner's case." Id.
at 413; see also Bucklew v. Luebbers 436 F.3d 1010,
1016 (8th Cir. 2006); Rousan v. Roper, 436 F.3d 951,
956 (8th Cir. 2006). In other words, "a federal habeas
court may not issue the writ simply because that court
concludes in its independent judgment that the relevant
state-court decision applied clearly established federal law
erroneously or incorrectly. Rather that application must also
be unreasonable." Williams, 529 U.S. at 411.
preserve a claim for federal habeas review, a petitioner must
present the claim to the state court and allow that court the
opportunity to address petitioner's claim. Moore-El
v. luebbers, 446 F.3d 890, 896 (8th Cir. 2006) (citation
instant case, Respondent asserts, while Petitioner properly
raised all claims in the state court proceedings, they are
all without merit.
first claims the evidence was insufficient to find him
competent to stand trial. Petitioner asserts that he
presented evidence of a low IQ, indicating mild mental
retardation and lack of sufficient reasoning skills to confer
with his attorney and assist in his defense. Respondent
maintains that the state court determinations that Petitioner
was competent to stand trial were reasonable.
Missouri Court of Appeals addressed Petitioner's claim of
incompetency and found:
First, Defendant contends that the evidence presented in his
pre-trial competency hearing was insufficient to support the
court's determination that Defendant was competent to
stand trial. "The trial court's determination of
competency is one of fact and must stand unless there is no
substantial evidence to support it." State v.
Anderson,79 S.W.3d 420, 433 (Mo. 2002). "In
assessing sufficiency of evidence, this Court does not
independently weigh the evidence but accepts as ...