United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Central Division
ALYSSA D. BUSTAMANTE, Petitioner,
ANGELA MESMER, et al., Respondents.
C. WIMES UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
August 1, 2016, Petitioner filed the instant motion for
habeas relief in this Court. (Doc. #1). Respondents Angela
Mesmer and Eric Schmitt 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
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
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.
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.
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).
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;”
(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 ...