Anderson v. Lawrence
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER re: 1 ORDERED that petitioner's petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 2254 is DISMISSED with prejudice. FURTHER ORDERED that no certificate of appealability shall issue. A separate Judgment shall accompany this Memorandum and Order.. Signed by Magistrate Judge Nannette A. Baker on 7/10/13. (CEL)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
BRADLEY HALL ANDERSON,
No. 4:11-CV-1212 NAB
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on petitioner’s petition for writ of habeas corpus
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. After reviewing the case, the Court has determined that
petitioner is not entitled to relief. As a result, the petition will be dismissed.
Petitioner was charged in the Circuit Court for the City of St. Louis with
receiving stolen property. Resp’t Ex. A at 12-13. The information further alleged that
petitioner was a prior and persistent offender. Id. On May 13, 2009, petitioner
entered a plea of guilty. Id. at 33-37.
The procedural and factual history of petitioner’s state court proceedings was
set forth by the Missouri Court of Appeals as follows:
On the day set for trial, after conferring with counsel, the court informed
[petitioner] that he had several options. First, he could have a jury trial
because the case was assigned for trial, and a jury could be available that
afternoon. Second, he could plead guilty and be sentenced immediately.
Or third, he could plead guilty and be sentenced after a pre-sentence
report. The court asked [petitioner] what he wanted to do. [Petitioner]
responded that he was “afraid of a blind plea,” because he did not know
how much time he would get. After more discussion, the court again
asked [petitioner] if he wanted to plead guilty or go to trial. [Petitioner]
Well, I don’t want to go to trial, so – I probably couldn’t
win at trial and I’d probably get fifteen years or something.
You know, I’d like to resolve this today if I just had some
understanding on what I could get. That’s all I’m asking
The court then took a recess so [petitioner] could discuss his options with
defense counsel. Afterwards, [petitioner] informed the court that he
wanted to proceed with a guilty plea.
At the change of plea proceeding, [petitioner] testified that he wanted to
plead guilty, he had had enough time to talk with defense counsel, and
he did not have any questions for defense counsel or the court before
entering his plea. He confirmed that he understood that he did not have
to plead guilty, that he was entitled to a jury trial, and that he understood
the rights to a jury trial that he waived by pleading guilty, including the
right to present witnesses. After a factual basis for the plea was
established, [petitioner] confirmed that no one had threatened him or
promised him anything to induce his guilty plea. The state
recommended a sentence of fifteen years, and [petitioner] affirmed that
he still wanted to plead guilty. The court questioned [petitioner] about
defense counsel’s representation. [Petitioner] affirmed that counsel had
done everything that he had asked him to do, that he had thoroughly
discussed his case with counsel, and that he did not have any complaints
about counsel’s service. The court asked defense counsel about his
representation, and defense counsel responded:
Your Honor, we have worked together over an extended
period of time on this case. My client, as he expressed in
our earlier on the record exchange, is extremely frightened
of what he faces right now. Other than his fear of potential
punishment that he is to receive, we’ve had a good working
relationship and I think everything has gone well in
The court accepted [petitioner]’s guilty plea as voluntary and found that
he understood what he was doing.
[Petitioner] waived a pre-sentence investigation, and defense counsel
made a detailed argument explaining why a three-year sentence would
be more appropriate than the fifteen-year sentence recommended by the
state. The court found that [petitioner] was a prior and persistent
offender and sentenced him to four years imprisonment, to be served
concurrently with an unrelated sentence that [petitioner] was then
The court advised [petitioner] of his post-conviction rights and again
inquired about defense counsel’s representation. [Petitioner] confirmed
that he had had enough time at each stage of the case to discuss the
charges with counsel, that counsel had answered all of his questions, that
counsel had done what [petitioner] had asked counsel to do, that counsel
had fully explained [petitioner]’s rights to him, that he did not have any
complaints about counsel, and that he thought counsel had done a good
job for him. [Petitioner] affirmed that he had no reason to think that
counsel had not represented him to the best of counsel’s ability.
Thereafter, [petitioner] filed a timely pro se Rule 24.035 motion for postconviction relief, and appointed counsel filed a timely amended motion
and request for an evidentiary hearing. In his amended motion,
[petitioner] alleged that counsel had coerced him into pleading guilty
because counsel thought [petitioner] had not chance of success at trial
and counsel had not prepared for trial. He also alleged that counsel
coerced him into pleading guilty because he was scheduled to go to trial
that day and counsel had not discussed possible defenses and trial
strategies with him. The amended motion did not set out any other
grounds, incorporated the pro se motion, or pray for relief on the
grounds set out in the pro se motion. However, a photocopy of
[petitioner]’s pro se motion was physically attached to or filed with the
amended motion. As relevant to th[e] appeal, the pro se motion
contained an allegation that counsel was ineffective for failing to
investigate and call three witnesses.
The motion court entered Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and
Order denying the motion and request for an evidentiary hearing. The
motion court found that [petitioner] failed to allege facts that were not
refuted by the record.
Resp’t Ex. D at 2-4 (italics in original).
On appeal from the denial of postconviction relief, petitioner raised two points
of error: that the motion court erred (1) in denying his claim that counsel was
ineffective because counsel refused to prepare a defense and coerced him into
pleading guilty and (2) in failing to address the claims in petitioner’s pro se motion,
which included a claim that counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate three
witnesses. Resp’t Ex. B at 12-13; Resp’t Ex. D at 2.
The Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed the motion court’s decision. Resp’t
Ex. D. The appellate court found that petitioner’s claim of ineffective assistance of
counsel was refuted by petitioner’s sworn statements on the record to the contrary.
And the state court found that the motion court did not err in failing to address
petitioner’s pro se motion because it was not properly included or incorporated into
the amended motion and because the claim regarding failing to investigate witness
was not cognizable in light of petitioner’s guilty plea. Id. at 4-10.
Petitioner filed the instant petition for writ of habeas corpus on July 7, 2011.
Petitioner has served his sentence and has been released from incarceration.
Grounds for Relief
Plea counsel was ineffective because he failed to prepare a defense and
coerced petitioner to plead guilty.1
The motion court erred in failing to address the claims in petitioner’s pro
se motion, which included a claim that counsel was ineffective for failing
to investigate three witnesses.
“In the habeas setting, a federal court is bound by the AEDPA to exercise only
limited and deferential review of underlying state court decisions.” Lomholt v. Iowa,
327 F.3d 748, 751 (8th Cir. 2003). Under this standard, a federal court may not grant
relief to a state prisoner unless the state court’s adjudication of a claim “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 “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).
Petitioner frames this issue as motion court error for not holding an evidentiary
hearing before dismissing his Rule 24.035 motion. This claim is not cognizable in
federal habeas proceedings. However, the underlying claim is ineffective assistance,
and the Court gives this ground a construction that might allow for habeas relief, if
A state court decision is contrary to clearly established Supreme Court
precedent if “the state court arrives at a conclusion opposite to that reached by [the]
Court on a question of law or . . . decides a case differently than [the] Court has on a
set of materially indistinguishable facts.” Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 413
(2000). A state court decision is an unreasonable application of clearly established
federal law if it “correctly identifies the governing legal rule but applies it
unreasonably to the facts of a particular prisoner’s case.” Id. at 407-08. Finally, 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).
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
In ground one of the petition, petitioner argues that plea counsel was ineffective
because he failed to prepare a defense and coerced petitioner to plead guilty.
Respondent argues that petitioners claim is refuted by the record.
“To prevail on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel where there has been
a guilty plea, petitioner must show that counsel’s representation fell below an
objective standard of reasonableness, and that ‘there is a reasonable probability that,
but for counsel’s errors, 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)
(quoting Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 59 (1985)). “[C]ounsel is strongly presumed
to have rendered adequate assistance and made all significant decisions in the exercise
of reasonable professional judgment.” Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 690
“[O]nce a person has entered a guilty plea any ‘subsequent presentation of
conclusory allegations unsupported by specifics is subject to summary dismissal, as
are contentions that in the face of the record are wholly incredible.’” Tran v.
Lockhart, 849 F.2d 1064, 1068 (8th Cir. 1988) (quoting Blackledge v. Allison, 431
U.S. 63, 74 (1976)).
Petitioner testified during his plea hearing that no one threatened him to get him
to plead guilty, that his lawyer did everything petitioner asked him to do, that he had
no complaints about his representation, that he had no reason to think that counsel had
done anything other than represent petitioner to the best of counsel’s ability, and that
counsel did a “good job” for him. Resp’t Ex. A at 34, 36, 45. Petitioner has not
pointed to anything in the record that might refute his sworn testimony. Petitioner’s
allegations of coercion and incompetence are conclusory and are refuted by the record.
As a result, the state appellate court did not err, and petitioner is not entitled to relief
on ground one of the petition.
Motion Court Error
In ground two of the petition, petitioner argues that the motion court erred in
failing to address the claims in petitioner’s pro se motion, which included a claim that
counsel was ineffective for failing to investigate three witnesses. Respondent argues
that the alleged failure of the state court to follow its procedural rules is not a
cognizable ground for habeas relief. Respondent alternatively argues that petitioner’s
claim fails on the merits.
Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254(a), a district court may only entertain a petition for writ
of habeas corpus if the petitioner “is in custody in violation of the Constitution or laws
or treaties of the United States.” In other words, grounds that do not state a
constitutional issue are not cognizable in a federal habeas petition. E.g. Gee v.
Groose, 110 F.3d 1346, 1351-52 (8th Cir. 1997).
Whether the motion court
committed a procedural error does not rise to the level of a constitutional or federal
error and is not cognizable in these proceedings.
Moreover, petitioner has not alleged that the Missouri Court of Appeals erred
legally or factually when it addressed this claim both on procedural grounds and on
the merits. As a result, ground two fails to state a claim for relief.
Even if petitioner had properly alleged that counsel was ineffective for failing
to call three witnesses, his claim would still fail. Once again, petitioner’s claim is
refuted by the record; petitioner testified that his counsel had done everything asked
of him. Resp’t Ex. A at 36. “By entering a plea of guilty, the accused is not simply
stating that he did the discrete acts described in the indictment; he is admitting guilt
of a substantive crime.” United States v. Broce, 488 U.S. 563, 570 (1989). By
pleading guilty, petitioner admitted his guilt to the substantive crime charged and the
requisite acts necessary to support that charge. Id. Therefore, petitioner cannot show
that a more thorough investigation by counsel would have given him reason to go to
trial instead of pleading guilty. As a result, petitioner is not entitled to relief on
ground two of the petition.
For these reasons, petitioner is not entitled to federal habeas relief.
Furthermore, petitioner has failed to make a substantial showing of the denial of a
constitutional right, which requires a demonstration “that jurists of reason would find
it debatable whether the petition states a valid claim of the denial of a constitutional
right.” Khaimov v. Crist, 297 F.3d 783, 785 (8th Cir. 2002) (quotation omitted).
Thus, the Court will not issue a certificate of appealability. 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c).
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that petitioner’s petition for writ of habeas corpus
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 is DISMISSED with prejudice.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that no certificate of appealability shall issue.
28 U.S.C. § 2253.
A separate Judgment shall accompany this Memorandum and Order.
Dated this 10th day of July, 2013.
/s/ Nannette A. Baker
NANNETTE A. BAKER
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
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