Laney v. Prudden et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER: IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Petitioner's Petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody (ECF No. 1 ) is DENIED, and his claim is DISMISSED with prejudice. A separate Order of Dis missal will accompany this Memorandum and Order. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that because Petitioner cannot 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), cert. denied, 525 U.S. 834 (1998). Signed by District Judge Jean C. Hamilton on 3/4/13. (TRC)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
JAMES HOWARD LANEY,
Case No. 4:10CV2119 JCH
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on Missouri State prisoner James Howard Laney’s pro se
petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The matter is fully briefed and ready
Petitioner was convicted of aggravated rape in 1984, and sentenced as a persistent offender
to thirty years imprisonment without the possibility of probation or parole. Rentschler v. Nixon, 311
S.W.3d 783, 785 (Mo. 2010). At the time of Petitioner’s sentence the conditional release statute,
Mo.Rev.Stat. § 558.011 (1978), did not explicitly exclude violent felons from consideration for
conditional release. Id. The Missouri General Assembly amended § 558.011 in 1990, removing
conditional release eligibility for inmates convicted of certain dangerous felonies, including forcible
rape. Id., citing Mo.Rev.Stat. § 558.011 (Supp. 1990). Petitioner filed suit in Missouri state court,
claiming this amendment violated both the Missouri and United States Constitutions. Upon denial
of his claims in state court, Petitioner filed the instant § 2254 petition for writ of habeas corpus on
September 9, 2010, claiming the denial of his alleged right to conditional release violated the ex post
facto clause of the United States Constitution. (ECF No. 1).
As stated above, Petitioner raised his claim before the Missouri state courts, and the Circuit
Court of Cole County, Missouri denied the claim in relevant part as follows:
Petitioner was sentenced in 1984, as a persistent offender, to serve a thirty
year term for rape pursuant to the then version of § 558.018 RSMo. That version of
the statute provided that a persistent offender convicted of rape must serve a term of
not less than thirty years, which term shall be served without probation or parole.
Petitioner now looks at § 558.011.4 RSMo and says “why am I not entitled
to a conditional release for this conviction?” Petitioner points to the version of §
558.011.4 RSMo which was in effect in 1984 and notes that the current exclusion for
dangerous felonies did not then appear in the law. Petitioner argues that it is an
unconstitutional, retrospective application of the law to deny him conditional release
based upon a later dated statute. These arguments fail.
First, the statute under which Petitioner was sentenced was specific to his
conviction and says, no release on probation or parole. When the General Assembly
has addressed a specific issue, one cannot rely upon a general statute to get a different
Second, the conditional release is time served on parole as explained by the
Comment to 1973 Proposed Code, § 558.011 RSMo (1999). The General Assembly
has specifically denied release on probation or parole for persistent sexual offender.
It did not carve out an exception like seen in § 217.690.6 RSMo. It follows that
conditional release would not be permitted for a persistent sexual offender as it
would have the same effect as the granting of parole.
Third, the current version of § 558.011 specifically excludes conditional
release for dangerous felonies such as rape. The fact that the statute, § 558.011
RSMo. has been changed does not create a retroactive application of law. This issue
was considered in Cooper v. Holden, 189 S.W.3d 614 (Mo. App. 2006) wherein the
same argument was made and rejected. Plaintiff has no conditional release date
established in 1994. As in Cooper procedural changes do not affect substantive
rights and do not offend the retroactive application of laws provision of the Missouri
None of the subsequent statutory amendments have removed or changed the
fact that when Petitioner was sentenced and still to this date, persistent sexual
offenders are not eligible for probation or parole. They must serve out the full
There is no ambiguity created by the statutes. Petitioner is not entitled to
probation or parole or any other form of conditional release, on his 30 year sentence
for rape as he was found to be a persistent offender.
(Petitioner’s Exh. C, PP. 1-3). Petitioner advanced the claim on appeal, and the Missouri Supreme
Court denied the claim as follows:
Laney argues that the amendment to section 558.011 is an ex post facto law.
The federal and Missouri constitutions prohibit ex post facto laws. U.S. Const. art.
I, sec. 10, cl. 1; Mo Const. art 1, sec 13. However, ex post facto laws only affect
criminal matters--in this case, the sentence that [Laney] received. See Galvan v.
Press, 347 U.S. 522, 74 S.Ct. 737, 98 L.Ed. 911 (1954); See Mahler v. Eby, 264 U.S.
32, 44 S.Ct. 283, 68 L.Ed. 549 (1924). Section 558.011 specifically bifurcates a
conviction into “a sentence term” (which would be germane to an ex post facto
consideration) and “a conditional release term” (which is not germane).
Any modification of the conditional term cannot affect the sentence term
originally imposed against Laney....Laney’s sentence term before and after the 1990
amendment was 30 years in prison. Nothing in the amendment to section 558.011
changes [that] sentence term, so there can be no violation of the ex post facto
clause. Point denied.
Rentschler, 311 S.W.3d at 788.
Upon consideration, this Court notes the Missouri courts found Petitioner was ineligible for
conditional release both before and after the 1990 statutory modification. As a federal habeas court,
this Court must defer to the state court’s interpretation of state law. See, e.g., Ellis v. Norris, 232
F.3d 619, 622 (8th Cir. 2000), cert. denied, 532 U.S. 935 (2001); Travis v. Lockhart, 925 F.2d 1095,
1097 (8th Cir. 1991) (citation omitted) (“the interpretation of state crediting statutes is a matter of
state concern and not a proper function of a federal court under its habeas corpus jurisdiction”). The
state courts’ determination thus effectively ends the matter, as the ex post facto clause is not violated
by a statutory amendment that neither retroactively alters the definition of the crime nor increases
the punishment therefor. See, e.g., Weaver v. Graham, 450 U.S. 24, 28, 101 S.Ct. 960, 67 L.Ed.2d
17 (1981) (footnote and citations omitted) (“The ex post facto prohibition forbids the Congress and
the States to enact any law ‘which imposes a punishment for an act which was not punishable at the
time it was committed; or imposes additional punishment to that then prescribed.’”); Williams v.
Hobbs, 658 F.3d 842 (8th Cir. 2011); Collins v. Youngblood, 497 U.S. 37, 110 S.Ct. 2715, 111
L.Ed.2d 30 (1990). Petitioner’s petition for writ of habeas corpus must therefore be denied.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Petitioner’s Petition under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of
Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody (ECF No. 1) is DENIED, and his claim is
DISMISSED with prejudice. A separate Order of Dismissal will accompany this Memorandum and
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that because Petitioner cannot 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), cert. denied, 525 U.S. 834 (1998).
Dated this 4th day of March, 2013.
/s/Jean C. Hamilton
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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