United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
ERNEST L. SMITH, Petitioner,
STANLEY PAYNE,  Respondent.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
CATHERINE D. PERRY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the Court on Missouri state prisoner Ernest
L. Smith's petition for writ of habeas corpus under 28
U.S.C. § 2254. I will deny the petition.
February 14, 2011, Smith was charged by criminal complaint in
the Circuit Court of St. Louis County, Missouri, with murder
second degree and armed criminal action. An amended complaint
was filed February 15, charging Smith with murder first
degree and armed criminal action. A grand jury returned a
two-count indictment on March 16, charging Smith with murder
first degree and armed criminal action. On March 4, 2013, an
information in lieu of indictment was filed, bringing the
same charges and adding Smith's status as a prior
offender. Trial on the information began that same date. On
March 6, 2013, a jury found Smith guilty of murder second
degree and armed criminal action. The court sentenced Smith
to concurrent terms of thirty years' and fifteen
years' imprisonment, respectively. The Missouri Court of
Appeals affirmed Smith's conviction and sentence.
State v. Smith, 430 S.W.3d 338 (Mo.Ct.App. 2014)
(order) (per curiam).
thereafter filed a motion for post-conviction relief under
Missouri Supreme Court Rule 29.15, which was denied after an
evidentiary hearing. On March 1, 2016, the Missouri Court of
Appeals affirmed the denial of post-conviction relief.
Smith v. State, 482 S.W.3d 825 (Mo.Ct.App. 2016)
(order) (per curiam). Mandate issued March 23, 2016.
timely filed this federal habeas petition on April 13, 2016,
raising the following grounds for relief:
1) That he was denied due process when the trial court denied
his request for mistrial and gave only an oral instruction to
the jury regarding the prosecutor's reference to a voice
stress analysis during his cross-examination of Smith;
2) That trial counsel was ineffective for failing to call
Tiara Jones and William Stewart as witnesses at trial;
3) That trial counsel was ineffective for failing to argue to
the jury that Marquan Prete did not grab the victim from
behind during the shooting; and
4) That trial counsel and direct appeal counsel were
ineffective for failing to raise a claim that his right to a
speedy trial was violated.
response, respondent avers that Smith properly raised these
claims in state court and that the Missouri Court of Appeals
determined the claims to be without merit. Respondent
contends that the court of appeals' determinations are
objectively reasonable and are thus entitled to deference.
For the following reasons, I agree.
the state court adjudicated a claim on the merits, federal
habeas relief can be granted on the claim only if 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, ” 28 U.S.C. §
2254(d)(1); or “was based on an unreasonable
determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented
in the State court proceeding, ” 28 U.S.C. §
2254(d)(2). See Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362,
379 (2000). The federal law must be clearly established at
the time petitioner's state conviction became final, and
the source of doctrine for such law is limited to the United
States Supreme Court. Id. at 380-83.
court's decision is “contrary to” clearly
established Supreme Court precedent when it is opposite to
the Supreme Court's conclusion on a question of law or
different than the Supreme Court's conclusion on a set of
materially indistinguishable facts. Williams, 529
U.S. at 412-13; Carter v. Kemna, 255 F.3d 589, 591
(8th Cir. 2001). A state court's decision is an
“unreasonable application” of Supreme Court
precedent if it “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.” Williams, 529 U.S. at
413. Merely erroneous or incorrect application of clearly
established federal law does not suffice to support a grant
of habeas relief. Instead, the state court's application
of the law must be objectively unreasonable. Id. at
409-11; Jackson v. Norris, 651 F.3d 923, 925 (8th
Cir. 2011). Finally, when reviewing whether a state court
decision involves an “unreasonable determination of the
facts” in light of the evidence presented in the state
court proceedings, a federal court must presume that state
court findings of basic, primary, or historical facts are
correct unless the petitioner rebuts the presumption with
clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1);
Rice v. Collins, 546 U.S. 333, 338-39 (2006);
Collier v. Norris, 485 F.3d 415, 423 (8th Cir.
2007). Erroneous findings of fact do not ipso facto
ensure the grant of habeas relief. Instead, the determination
of these facts must be unreasonable in light of the evidence
of record. Collier, 485 F.3d at 423; Weaver v.
Bowersox, 241 F.3d 1024, 1030 (8th Cir. 2001).
federal court is “bound by the AEDPA [Antiterrorism and
Effective Death Penalty Act] to exercise only limited and
deferential review of underlying state court
decisions.” Lomholt v. Iowa, 327 F.3d 748, 751
(8th Cir. 2003). To obtain habeas relief from a federal
court, the petitioner must show that the challenged state
court ruling “rested on ‘an error well understood
and comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for
fairminded disagreement.'” Metrish v.
Lancaster, 569 U.S. 351, 357-58 (2013) (quoting
Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102-03 (2011)).
This standard is difficult to meet. Id.
adduced at trial showed that Smith's home was burglarized
in early 2011. On February 6, 2011, Anthony Ramsey, an
acquaintance of Smith's, went to Smith's home to tell
him that Christopher “Merk” Scott was the person
who burglarized his home and that there was another plan to
rob him. Later that day, Scott arrived at Smith's house
to purchase heroin. In addition to Smith, Scott, and Ramsey,
Marquan Prete and another individual were present at the
house. While Scott was sitting on Smith's couch, Smith
grabbed a gun, hit Scott with it, and asked Scott where his
“stuff was. Smith and Scott then wrestled over the gun.
Smith fired the gun, hitting Scott in the neck. As Scott
attempted to flee, the other individual present struck him
with a broom handle and Scott fell. When Scott got up and
turned back toward Smith, Smith shot him again, striking him
in the right eye and killing him.
wrapped Scott's body in plastic and duct tape. He drove
the body to East St. Louis, Illinois, where he discarded it
next to some dumpsters, poured gasoline on it, and set it on
fire. While crossing the bridge returning to Missouri, Smith