Lewis v. Prudden
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER re: 1 PETITION for Writ of Habeas Corpus filed by Petitioner LaMonica R. Lewis ; A separate judgment in accordance with this Memorandum will be entered this same date.. Signed by District Judge Carol E. Jackson on 6/19/13. (KKS)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
LaMONICA R. LEWIS,
No. 4:10-CV-1308 (CEJ)
This matter is before the Court on the petition of LaMonica R. Lewis for a writ
of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Respondent has filed a response in
opposition, and the issues are fully briefed.
Petitioner LaMonica R. Lewis is currently incarcerated in the Women’s Eastern
Reception Diagnostic Correctional Center in Vandalia, Missouri, pursuant to the
judgment of the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis. On May 14, 2008, petitioner pled
guilty to second-degree murder and armed criminal action. Resp. Ex. A at 15-20. On
the same date, petitioner was sentenced to concurrent terms of twenty-three years
imprisonment on the murder conviction and fifteen years imprisonment on the armed
criminal action conviction. Resp. Ex. A at 21-24.
On June 26, 2008, petitioner filed a motion for post-conviction relief under
Missouri Rule 24.035. Resp. Ex. A at 28-33. An amended motion was filed by
appointed counsel on March 18, 2009. Resp. Ex. A at 38-48. The trial court denied
petitioner’s Rule 24.035 motion without a hearing. Resp. Ex. A at 50-54. On June 8,
2010, the Missouri Court of Appeals summarily affirmed the denial of post-conviction
relief in a per curiam opinion. Lewis v. State, 312 S.W.3d 486 (Mo. App. E.D. 2010)
(Resp. Ex. D). The appeals court issued to the parties a non-precedential addendum
explaining the basis for its decision. Id.
In the instant § 2254 petition, petitioner asserts four grounds for relief: (1) trial
counsel was ineffective for failing to advise her of the availability of the defense of selfdefense or “the defense of manslaughter;” (2) petitioner was justified in using deadly
force; (3) petitioner was under the influence of drugs which impaired her judgment;
and (4) trial counsel was ineffective for advising petitioner of what she thought was
best for the case.
Federal courts may not grant habeas relief on a claim that has been decided on
the merits in state court unless that 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
resulted in a decision that was based on an unreasonable determination
of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court
28 U.S.C. § 2254 (d)(1)-(2).
A state court's decision is "contrary to" clearly established law if "it applies a rule
that contradicts the governing law set forth in [the Supreme Court's] cases, or if it
confronts a set of facts that is materially indistinguishable from a decision of [the
Supreme Court] but reaches a different result." Brown v. Payton, 544 U.S. 133, 141
(2005). "The state court need not cite or even be aware of the governing Supreme
Court cases, ‘so long as neither the reasoning nor the result of the state-court decision
contradicts them.'" Brown v. Luebbers, 371 F.3d 458, 461 (8th Cir. 2004) (citing Early
v. Packer, 537 U.S. 3, 8 (2002)). "In the ‘contrary to' analysis of the state court's
decision, [the federal court's] focus is on the result and any reasoning that the court
may have given; the absence of reasoning is not a barrier to a denial of relief." Id.
A decision involves an "unreasonable application" of clearly established law if
"the state court applies [the Supreme Court's] precedents to the facts in an objectively
unreasonable manner," Payton, 125 S. Ct. at 1439; Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362,
405 (2000), or "if the state court either unreasonably extends a legal principle from
[Supreme Court] precedent to a new context where it should not apply or
unreasonably refuses to extend that principle to a new context where it should apply."
Id. at 406. "Federal habeas relief is warranted only when the refusal was ‘objectively
unreasonable,' not when it was merely erroneous or incorrect." Carter v. Kemna, 255
F.3d 589, 592 (8th Cir. 2001) (quoting Williams, 529 U.S. at 410-11).
A state court decision involves an unreasonable determination of the facts in
light of the evidence presented in the state court proceedings only if it is shown that
the state court's presumptively correct factual findings do not enjoy support in the
record. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Ryan v. Clarke, 387 F.3d 785, 790 (8th Cir.2004).
“[T]he prisoner has the burden of rebutting the presumption of correctness by clear
and convincing evidence.” Barnett v. Roper, 541 F.3d 804, 811 (8th Cir. 2008).
Petitioner first argues that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to “discuss with
[her] the defense of self defense or the defense of manslaughter.” Because petitioner
did not raise the manslaughter defense argument in her post-conviction relief motion,
this Court will only address the self-defense issue. See Murphy v. King, 652 F.3d 845,
848-50 (8th Cir. 2011) (As a prerequisite to seeking federal habeas relief, a state
prisoner must fairly present her claims to state courts on direct appeal or in postconviction proceedings).
To prevail on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, petitioner must first
show that her attorney’s performance fell below an objective standard of
reasonableness and second that the deficient performance prejudiced the defense.
Strickland v. Washington, 446 U.S. 668, 687 (1984). To prove prejudice when a guilty
plea is entered, petitioner must show that “there is a reasonable probability that, but
for counsel’s errors, [s]he would not have pleaded guilty and would have insisted on
going to trial.” Gumangan v. United States, 254 F.3d 701, 705 (8th Cir. 2001).
“Further, after entry of a guilty plea, the effectiveness of counsel is relevant only to the
extent that it affects the voluntariness of the plea.” Williams v. Bowesox, 2011 WL
3880539, *6 (E.D. Mo. Aug 31, 2011) (citing Porter v. State, 678 S.W.2d 2, 3 (Mo.
The Missouri Court of Appeals rejected petitioner’s claim after reviewing the
transcript of the guilty plea proceeding. During that proceeding, petitioner stated
under oath that she understood the charges and potential punishment, that she had
sufficient time to discuss her case with counsel, that counsel had explained her legal
rights and the State’s evidence against her, that counsel discussed with her all
defenses available, and that she was satisfied with counsel’s performance. Petitioner
further stated that she understood that she was giving up her right to a jury trial and
that she was not being threatened or forced to plead guilty. Petitioner’s “[s]olemn
declarations in open court carry a strong presumption of veracity.” Smith v. Lockhart,
921 F.2d 154, 157 (8th Cir. 1990). The appeals court found that petitioner’s testimony
refuted a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel and that petitioner did not satisfy
the Strickland standard because she entered her guilty pleas knowingly and
voluntarily. See Resp. Ex. D at 3-4.
Having reviewed the record, the Court cannot say that the appeals court
misapplied federal law or that its decision was based on an unreasonable
determination of the facts. Therefore, petitioner’s first claim is denied.
In support of her second ground, petitioner states: “The justification of deadly
force this wasn’t [a] planned act and it was during an act of physical violence against
me that I acted as I did. My life was endangered.” Petitioner refers to Mo. Rev. Stat.
§ 563.031.1, which addresses the defense of justification.
As discussed above, petitioner voluntarily and intelligently pled guilty to seconddegree murder and armed criminal action and, therefore, waived her right to an
assertion of self-defense. However, if petitioner is attempting to argue that her
conviction was in violation of Mo. Rev. Stat. § 563.031.1, such an argument is not
appropriate for federal habeas review. See Higgins v. Smith, 991 F.2d 440, 442 (8th
Cir. 1993) (interpretation and application of state law is not cognizable for federal
review). Petitioner’s second claim is denied.
Grounds 3 and 4
For her third ground, petitioner states that she suffers from “multiple mental
health disorders,” including bipolar disorder, depression, borderline personality
disorder, and post traumatic stress syndrome. She states that she was not on any
prescription medication when she committed the crimes, but that she was under the
influence of illegal drugs which impaired her judgment. Petitioner’s fourth ground is
that her attorney was ineffective by making “a personal decision to advise [petitioner]
of what she thought would be best[.]”
Petitioner did not raise either of these claims in her post-conviction relief motion
and she has not shown cause, prejudice, or actual innocence to excuse her failure to
exhaust state court remedies. Thus, these claims are procedurally barred from review
under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. See Murphy, 652 F.3d at 848-50; Coleman v. Thompson,
501 U.S. 722, 750 (1991); Battle v. Delo, 19 F.3d 1547, 1552 (8th Cir. 1994); U.S.
v. Moss, 252 F.3d 993, 1001 (8th Cir. 2001).
Even if these claims were not procedurally barred, they would still fail. By
pleading guilty, petitioner waived her right to assert a defense based on mental illness.
In fact, petitioner stated during the change of plea hearing that neither her mental
health condition nor her medication affected “her ability to understand what she was
doing at the plea hearing.” Resp. Ex. A, pp. 17, 50. Additionally, defense counsel
stated that the psychological evaluations of the petitioner did not support a finding that
petitioner was incapable of proceeding or support a defense of not guilty by reason of
mental disease or defect. Resp. Ex. A, p 17.
Additionally, petitioner’s claim that counsel advised her of what she thought best
does not demonstrate conduct falling below an objective standard of reasonableness.
See Strickland, 446 U.S. at 687. It is neither unusual nor inappropriate for an attorney
to give a client her opinion about the best course to take in a case. Even if defense
counsel did so in this case, it is clear that her opinion was not the basis for petitioner’s
decision to plead guilty. The record establishes that petitioner was thoroughly advised
of and understood the charges and the consequences of pleading guilty. Petitioner
stated that she was “entering the . . . pleas of guilty on [her] own freewill [sic],” and
that she was not being forced by her attorney to plead guilty. Resp. Ex. A, p. 19.
Petitioner is not entitled to relief on grounds 3 and 4.
For the reasons discussed above, the Court finds that petitioner has failed to
establish that he is entitled to relief based on state court proceedings that were
contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law or based
upon an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in
state court proceedings. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(d). Because petitioner has failed to make
a substantial showing of the denial of a constitutional right, the Court will not issue a
certificate of appealability.
See Cox v. Norris, 133 F.3d 565, 569 (8th Cir. 1997).
A separate judgment in accordance with this Memorandum will be entered this
CAROL E. JACKSON
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated this 19th day of June, 2013.
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