Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Bustamante v. Mesmer

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Central Division

September 30, 2019

ALYSSA D. BUSTAMANTE, Petitioner,
v.
ANGELA MESMER, et al., Respondents.

          OPINION

          BRIAN C. WIMES UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Petitioner Alyssa D. Bustamante's Petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus by Person in State Custody. (Doc. #1). The Court, being duly advised of the premises, denies said petition for habeas relief.

         BACKGROUND

         On February 8, 2012, Petitioner was sentenced in the Circuit Court of Cole County, Missouri to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole, with a consecutive custodial sentence of thirty years. This sentence is based on Petitioner's guilty plea to second-degree murder and armed criminal action.

         On October 21, 2009, Petitioner, who was fifteen years old at the time, strangled and stabbed to death another minor. Petitioner then buried the minor victim's body in a shallow grave that Petitioner had dug five days before. In November 2009, the Cole County, Missouri juvenile office filed a petition asking the juvenile court to relinquish jurisdiction to allow the State of Missouri (“the State”) to prosecute Petitioner as an adult. The juvenile court granted the petition to transfer Petitioner's case to a court of general jurisdiction. After transfer, the State charged Petitioner with first-degree murder and armed criminal action. Attorneys Donald Catlett and Charles Moreland from the Capital Division of the State Public Defender's Office entered their appearances on Petitioner's behalf, and trial was scheduled for January 26, 2012.

         On January 10, 2012, Petitioner appeared before the Circuit Court, with counsel, to plead guilty to a substitute information charging Petitioner with the lesser included offense of second-degree murder and armed criminal action. At the time of the guilty plea, Petitioner was seventeen years old. During the plea hearing, Petitioner acknowledged that her guilty plea was not pursuant to any particular sentence; rather, the Circuit Court would determine the sentence.

         On February 6 and 8, 2012, the Circuit Court held a sentencing hearing. After hearing evidence, the Circuit Court sentenced Petitioner to a life sentence in state custody, with the possibility of parole, for second-degree murder, to be followed by a consecutive 30-year custodial sentence for armed criminal action. Petitioner did not file a direct appeal.[1]

         On August 3, 2012, Petitioner timely filed a pro se motion for post-conviction relief. Counsel Gary Brotherton filed an amended motion for post-conviction relief (“PCR”) on Petitioner's behalf, asserting five claims for relief under Missouri Supreme Court Rule 24.035, as follows: (1) Mo. Rev. Stat. § 565.020 is unconstitutional as applied to juveniles; (2) Petitioner's sentence of life plus 30 years, with the possibility of parole, is unconstitutional for a juvenile because the possibility of parole is “virtually nonexistent”; (3) ineffective assistance of counsel because Petitioner would not have pleaded guilty but for trial counsel's failure to consult with her about the pendency of Miller v. Alabama, 132 S.Ct. 2455 (2012); (4) ineffective assistance of counsel because trial counsel was deficient in investigating Petitioner's mental health; and (5) ineffective assistance of counsel for trial counsel's failure to seek remand of Petitioner's case back to juvenile court. (“PCR motion”). On March 6, 2014, after an evidentiary hearing, the Circuit Court denied Petitioner's PCR motion.

         Counsel Elizabeth Unger Carlyle filed an appeal of the Circuit Court's denial decision on the PCR motion. Petitioner's PCR appeal raised three grounds: (1) ineffective assistance of counsel for trial counsel's failure to consult regarding Miller, such that Petitioner's guilty plea was not knowing and voluntary; (2) violation of Petitioner's rights to due process of law and to be free from cruel and unusual punishment because Petitioner was a juvenile charged under Mo. Rev. Stat. § 565.020 with first degree murder, which carries a penalty of death, or life without the possibility of parole, such the statute does not contain a constitutional penalty for juveniles after Miller; and (3) ineffective assistance of counsel for trial counsel's failure to challenge the juvenile court's determination that Petitioner should be certified as an adult.

         On September 29, 2015, the Court of Appeals for the Western District of Missouri denied Petitioner's PCR appeal and affirmed the Circuit Court's denial of PCR relief on all points raised. On October 27, 2015, the Court of Appeals denied Petitioner's motion for rehearing and/or motion to transfer to the Missouri Supreme Court. On January 27, 2016, the Missouri Supreme Court denied Petitioner's application to transfer from the Court of Appeals. (Doc. #10-16).

         On August 1, 2016, Petitioner filed the instant motion for habeas relief in this Court. (Doc. #1). Respondents Angela Mesmer and Eric Schmitt[2] filed a responsive brief (Doc. #10), and Petitioner filed a traverse (Doc. #16). Petitioner presents the following claims under 28 U.S.C. § 2254:

Ground 1: Petitioner was denied due process of law because the State charged her under a statute without a constitutional penalty for offenders under the age of 18.
Ground 2: Petitioner was denied effective assistance of trial counsel when she was advised to plead guilty without knowledge that Miller was pending before the United States Supreme Court.
Ground 3: Petitioner was denied effective assistance of trial counsel when trial counsel failed to challenge the juvenile court's decision to try Petitioner as an adult.
Ground 4: Petitioner was denied effective assistance of trial counsel when counsel failed to present evidence of Petitioner's traumatic childhood and mental illness during the sentencing hearing.
Ground 5: Petitioner was denied effective assistance of trial counsel when counsel failed to file a motion to disqualify the trial judge from hearing the sentencing proceedings because the same judge was aware of suppressed evidence.
Ground 6: Petitioner's guilty plea was not knowing and voluntarily made because she had been held in solitary confinement for the prior nine months preceding the plea hearing.
Ground 7: Petitioner was denied effective assistance of trial counsel when counsel advised her to plead guilty despite the existence of a suppression issue relating to the way in which the victim's body was found.
Ground 8: Withdrawn.
Ground 9: Petitioner was denied due process and equal protection of law when during the sentencing hearing, the sentencing court allowed, over objection, witnesses to testify that Petitioner was a “monster” who should spend the rest of her life in prison.
Ground 10: Petitioner was denied effective assistance of trial counsel when counsel advised her to plead guilty despite the existence of a suppression issue relating to Petitioner's diary.
Ground 11: Petitioner was denied effective assistance of trial counsel when counsel failed to present to the sentencing court the impact Petitioner's immature brain had on her behavior.
Ground 12: Petitioner was denied due process of law when the State failed to disclose that the victim's mother, who testified during the sentencing hearing, intended to file a civil suit for wrongful death against Petitioner and others.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         A prisoner in state custody may petition a federal court for a writ of habeas corpus “only on the ground that [s]he is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

         “Sections 2254(b) and (c) provide that a federal court may not grant such applications unless, with certain exceptions, the applicant has exhausted state remedies.” Cullen v. Pinholster, 563 U.S. 170, 181 (2011).

         Section 2254(d) sets forth an additional limit “[i]f an application includes a claim that has been adjudicated on the merits in State court proceedings.” Id. A federal court may not grant habeas relief on a claim that has been ruled on the merits by a state court unless one of the following conditions are present:

(1) the state court adjudication “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) the state court adjudication “resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.