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Weaver v. Steele

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

October 28, 2019

MARCUS WEAVER, Petitioner,
v.
TROY STEELE, Respondents.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          STEPHEN R. CLARK, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on Petitioner Marcus Weaver's Petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody [1].

         I. BACKGROUND

         In 2013, a jury in the Circuit Court of St. Louis City convicted Weaver of three counts of statutory sodomy in the first degree, four counts of statutory sodomy in the second degree, one count of felony child molestation in the first degree, four counts of felony of incest, and two counts of misdemeanor child molestation in the second degree.[1] The circuit court sentenced Weaver to a total of 75 years of imprisonment comprised of: three consecutive terms of 20 years for the four counts of statutory sodomy in the first degree, a consecutive term of 15 years for the one count of felony child molestation in the first degree, concurrent terms of seven years for the four counts of statutory sodomy in the second degree, concurrent terms of four years for the four counts of incest, and concurrent terms of one year for the two counts of misdemeanor child molestation in the second degree. Weaver appealed his convictions and sentences to the Missouri Court of Appeals. The appellate court affirmed. Weaver filed a motion for postconviction relief pursuant to Missouri Supreme Court Rule 29.15 in the Circuit Court of St. Louis City. The circuit court denied Weaver's motion. He appealed this denial to the Missouri Court of Appeals, which affirmed the circuit court's denial of Weaver's motion. Weaver now seeks relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 in federal court.

         II. STANDARD

         “A state prisoner who believes that he is incarcerated in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States may file a petition for writ of habeas corpus in federal court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.” Osborne v. Purkett, 411 F.3d 911, 914 (8th Cir. 2005). In order for a federal court to grant an application for a writ of habeas corpus brought by a person in custody by order of a state court, the petitioner must show that the state court decision:

(1) 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) resulted in a decision that 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)(1)-(2). A district court presumes a determination of a factual issue made by a state court is correct unless the petitioner successfully rebuts the presumption of correctness by clear and convincing evidence. Id. at § 2254(e)(1).

         A state court's decision is “contrary to” clearly-established Supreme Court precedent “if the state court either ‘applies a rule that contradicts the governing law set forth in [Supreme Court] cases' or ‘confronts a set of facts that are materially indistinguishable from a decision of [the] Court and nevertheless arrives at a result different from [the] precedent.'” Penry v. Johnson, 532 U.S. 782, 792 (2001) (citing Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 405-406 (2000)). An unreasonable application of clearly-established Supreme Court precedent is found where the state court identifies the correct governing legal principle but unreasonably applies that principle to the facts of the case. Ryan v. Clark, 387 F.3d 785, 790 (8th Cir. 2004). Finally, a state court decision may be considered an unreasonable determination of the facts “only if it is shown that the state court's presumptively correct factual findings do not enjoy support in the record.” Id.

         III. DISCUSSION

         Weaver asserts four grounds in his Petition. First, he argues he received ineffective assistance of counsel when his trial counsel failed to negotiate a plea deal for a 25-year sentence. Second, he claims the postconviction relief (“PCR”) motion court clearly erred in denying his PCR motion without issuing findings of fact and conclusions of law for all claims raised. Third, he contends he received ineffective assistance of counsel because his trial counsel allegedly assured him if he proceeded to trial, the trial court would not sentence him to more than 12 years imprisonment. Finally, he argues he received ineffective assistance of counsel when his trial counsel decided to argue at trial that no sexual behavior occurred between him and the victim despite the fact that Weaver previously admitted in a recording that oral sex had occurred.

         A. Ground One

         In his first ground for relief, Weaver argues he received ineffective assistance of counsel when his trial counsel failed to negotiate a plea deal for a 25-year sentence. Weaver raised this claim in his Amended PCR motion ...


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