Duckworth v. Prudden
MEMORANDUM AND ORDERIT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Willie Duckworths Petition Under 28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody (ECF No. 1) is DENIED, and that his claims are DISMISSED with prejudice. A separate Order of D ismissal will accompany this Memorandum and Order. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that because Petitioner cannot make a substantialshowing of the denial of a constitutional right, the Court will not issue a certificate of appealability. Signed by District Judge Jean C. Hamilton on 5/13/16. (CLA)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
WILLIE B. DUCKWORTH,
DOUGLAS J. PRUDDEN,1
Case No. 4:13-cv-02587-JCH
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on Petitioner Willie Duckworth’s pro se Petition Under
28 U.S.C. § 2254 for Writ of Habeas Corpus by a Person in State Custody. (Petition, ECF No.
1.) Respondent has filed a Response (ECF No. 19), and the Petition is ready for disposition.
On December 14, 2010, Petitioner pled guilty to driving while intoxicated as a chronic
offender, and was sentenced to eight years in prison. At the plea hearing, the trial court read the
charge to Petitioner:
In the amended information that’s been filed here today, it has been charged by
the state of Missouri that on or about July 30th, of 2009, at Floyd Street, in the
county of Dunklin, state of Missouri, that you operated a motor vehicle while
under the influence of alcohol. And, on or about the 12th day of April, 2006, you
had pled guilty to driving while intoxicated…in Dunklin County Circuit Court.
And, on or about the 24th day of May, 2004, you had pled guilty to driving while
intoxicated…in Dunklin County Circuit Court. And, on or about the 14th day of
August, 1996, you had pled guilty to driving while intoxicated in Dunklin County
Circuit Court. And, on or about the 3rd day of February, of 1995, you pled guilty
to driving while intoxicated in Dunklin County Circuit Court.
At the time Petitioner filed the instant Petition, he was incarcerated at the Tipton Correctional
Center in Tipton, Missouri. On March 23, 2016, Petitioner filed a document titled Change of
Address, indicating that he is no longer incarcerated. However, because Petitioner filed his
Petition while he was in the custody of the State of Missouri, and because he challenges his prior
conviction, this Court has jurisdiction to entertain his Petition. See Beets v. Iowa Dep’t of Corr.
Servs., 164 F.3d 1131, 1133 n.2 (8th Cir. 1999).
(Resp. Ex. A at 11, 13, 18-19.) The trial court then engaged in the following colloquy with
THE COURT: Now, do you understand this Class B felony charge of driving
while intoxicated that I just read to you, sir?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: And, is that the charge that you want to plead guilty to here
THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: And, by pleading guilty to that charge, are you admitting to the
Court you committed this act?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes.
THE COURT: And, by pleading guilty to that charge, are you telling the Court
that you are in fact guilty of this crime?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.
Id. at 19. The trial court found that Petitioner’s plea was entered “freely and voluntarily and with
a full understanding of [his] rights and of the consequences of th[e] plea” and not “as a result of
force or threats or promises apart from the plea agreement,” and that “there [wa]s a factual basis
for the plea…” Id. at 22.
Petitioner did not directly appeal his sentence. In January 2011, Petitioner moved for
post-conviction relief pursuant to Missouri Supreme Court Rule 24.035.
appointed counsel and thereafter filed an amended Rule 24.035 petition, which was denied. On
July 11, 2013, the Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of post-conviction relief.
(Petition at 1-3, 6; Resp. Exs. A, B, D.) In the instant Petition, Petitioner raises the following
four grounds for relief:
(1) that the trial court denied him due process by accepting his guilty plea when
no factual basis for the plea was established;
(2) that he did not enter his guilty plea voluntarily, knowingly, or intelligently
because his retained plea counsel was ineffective and coerced him to plead guilty;
(3) that his post-conviction counsel was ineffective;
(4) that his court-appointed counsel was ineffective.
(Petition at 5-12.)
Procedural Default: Grounds 2 and 4
In Ground 2 of his Petition, Petitioner asserts that that he did not enter his guilty plea
voluntarily, knowingly, or intelligently because his retained plea counsel was ineffective and
coerced him to plead guilty. (Petition at 7.) In Ground 4 of his Petition, Petitioner asserts that
his court-appointed counsel, “Brice J. Donnelly,” was also ineffective. Id. at 10.
“Ordinarily, a federal court reviewing a state conviction in a 28 U.S.C. § 2254 proceeding
may consider only those claims which the petitioner has presented to the state court in
accordance with state procedural rules.” Arnold v. Dormire, 675 F.3d 1082, 1086-87 (8th Cir.
2012) (quotation and citation omitted). “In Missouri, a claim must be presented at each step of
the judicial process in order to avoid default.” Id. at 1087 (quotation and citation omitted).
To avoid defaulting on a claim, a petitioner must have “fairly presented the substance of
the claim to the state courts…thereby affording such courts fair opportunity to apply controlling
legal principles to the facts bearing upon [the] claim.” Wemark v. Iowa, 322 F.3d 1018, 1020-21
(8th Cir. 2003) (quotation and citation omitted). “A claim has been fairly presented when a
petitioner has properly raised the same factual grounds and legal theories in the state courts
which he is attempting to raise in his federal habeas petition.” Id. at 1021 (quotations and
citations omitted). A section 2254 applicant’s failure to raise a claim in state court results in
procedural default. See Wooten v. Norris, 578 F.3d 767, 777 (8th Cir. 2009).
“When a habeas petitioner defaults his federal claims in state court…federal habeas
review of his claims is barred unless he ‘can demonstrate cause for the default and actual
prejudice as a result of the alleged violation of federal law, or demonstrate that failure to
consider the claims will result in a fundamental miscarriage of justice.’” Morgan v. Javois, 744
F.3d 535, 538 (8th Cir. 2013) (quoting Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 750-51 (1991)),
cert. denied, 134 S. Ct. 1882 (2014). “Cause must be something external to the petitioner,
something that cannot fairly be attributed to him.” Arnold, 675 F.3d at 1087 (quotation and
citations omitted). To establish actual prejudice, the petitioner “must show that the errors of
which he complains ‘worked to his actual and substantial disadvantage, infecting his entire trial
with error of constitutional dimensions.’” Ivy v. Caspari, 173 F.3d 1136, 1141 (8th Cir. 1999)
(quoting United States v. Frady, 456 U.S. 152, 170 (1982)). To establish that a fundamental
miscarriage of justice would result, the petitioner must “present new evidence that affirmatively
demonstrates that he is innocent of the crime for which he was convicted.” Murphy v. King, 652
F.3d 845, 850 (8th Cir. 2011) (quotation and citation omitted).
Upon review of the record, the Court finds that Petitioner procedurally defaulted the
claims in Grounds 2 and 4, as he did not raise any claim of ineffective assistance of counsel in
the state courts in his amended Rule 24.035 petition or on appeal from the denial of postconviction relief. In addition, he has not attempted to show cause for this default, and he has not
made a properly supported claim of actual innocence.2 See Weeks v. Bowersox, 119 F.3d 1342,
Although Petitioner indicates in his Petition that he did not file any other post-conviction
petitions in the state courts concerning his conviction, he also asserts therein that he presented
the claims in Grounds 2 and 4 in a subsequent petition for writ of habeas corpus before the
Circuit Court of Moniteau County, and on appeal before the Missouri Court of Appeals Western
District. (ECF No. 1 at 3-5, 7-8, 10-11.) Even assuming Petitioner had properly raised his
claims before the state courts, Petitioner cannot show that counsels’ performances were
constitutionally deficient. See Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687-694 (1984) (to
prevail on ineffective assistance claim, petitioner must show that counsel’s performance was
deficient, and that deficient performance prejudiced defense (i.e., there is reasonable probability
that, but for counsel’s professional errors, result of proceeding would have been different)).
Here, the record demonstrates that Mr. Donnelly did not represent Petitioner at the plea hearing,
and the plea transcript refutes Petitioner’s allegations that plea counsel, Mr. Mann, among other
things, coerced him to plead guilty, failed to negotiate a plea deal on his behalf, and promised
1352-53 (8th Cir. 1997) (quotation and citation omitted) (petitioner’s “bare, conclusory assertion
that he is actually innocent is not sufficient to invoke the [fundamental miscarriage of justice]
exception”). Therefore, the Court cannot reach the merits of these claims.
Grounds 1 and 3
A. Ground 1
In Ground 1 of his Petition, Petitioner asserts that the trial court denied him due process
by accepting his guilty plea when no factual basis for the plea was established. Petitioner
presented this claim in his amended Rule 24.035 petition and on appeal, and the state courts
considered the claim on the merits. (Resp. Exs. A, B, D.)
“In the habeas setting, a federal court is bound by the [Antiterrorism and Effective Death
Penalty Act of 1996 (‘AEDPA’)] to exercise only limited and deferential review of underlying
state court decisions.”
Lomholt v. Iowa, 327 F.3d 748, 751 (8th Cir. 2003) (citing
28 U.S.C. § 2254). Under the AEDPA, a federal court may not grant relief to a state prisoner
unless the state court’s adjudication of a claim:
(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 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
him he would receive probation in exchange for his guilty plea. See Sansoucie v. Mesmer, No.
4:12-CV-1531 (CEJ), 2015 WL 5157515, at *3 (E.D. Mo. Sep. 2, 2015) (“A claim of attorney
coercion is properly rejected when contradicted by a defendant’s statements made to the court
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) (citations omitted). If the state
court’s decision is not “contrary to” clearly established law, the remaining question is whether
the state court’s determination was “unreasonable.” Williams v. Roper, 695 F.3d 825, 831 (8th
Cir. 2012). This standard is “difficult to meet, and even a strong case for relief does not mean
the state court’s contrary conclusion was unreasonable.” Id. (quotation and citation omitted).
“[A] state court’s decision involves an unreasonable application of Supreme Court precedent
when the state court identifies the correct governing legal rule from [the Supreme] Court’s cases
but unreasonably applies it to the facts of the particular state prisoner’s case, or 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.” Moore v. Purkett, 275 F.3d 685, 688 (8th Cir. 2001) (quotations and citation
“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) (quotation and citations omitted).
A state court’s 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.” Ryan v. Clarke, 387
F.3d 785, 790 (8th Cir. 2004) (quotation and citations omitted). “[A] determination of a factual
issue made by a State court shall be presumed to be correct,” unless the petitioner rebuts the
determination with “clear and convincing evidence.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1). The presumption
of correctness of findings of fact applies to the factual determinations made by a state court at
either the trial or appellate levels. See Smulls v. Roper, 535 F.3d 853, 864-65 (8th Cir. 2008) (en
In his amended Rule 24.035 petition, Petitioner asserted that the trial court “did not
establish the dates for which the prior driving while intoxicated (“DWI”) offenses took place, the
cause numbers assigned to the four cases, and if [Petitioner] was represented by counsel or had
waived counsel in writing.” (Resp. Ex. A at 50.) Petitioner further asserted that, “The state was
allowed to use four prior pleas [of] guilty to charge [Petitioner] with the class B felony of driving
while intoxicated as a chronic offender without presenting any evidence to prove he actually pled
guilty in those cases.” Id.
In denying Petitioner’s claim, the motion court found that there was a sufficient factual
basis for Petitioner’s plea, reasoning as follows:
At the time of the plea, the [trial court] read the charge to Defendant…which
included the dates of the prior DWI findings of guilt, together with the jurisdiction
in which those findings occurred…
The [trial court] then inquired of Movant/Defendant whether he admitted those
facts, to which the defendant acknowledged that he did…
Missouri courts have long held that a guilty plea waives the requirement of
evidentiary proof of all non-jurisdictional facts of a charge. Berry v. State, 214
S.W.3d 413 (Mo.App.2007) and State v. Sexton, 75 S.W.3d 304 (Mo.App. 2002).
Further, it has been held that the particular details of prior DWI convictions
necessary to enhance the felony DWI to a Chronic Offender level comes within
this general provision.
See, e.g., Moore v. State, 288 S.W.3d 810
(Mo.App.S.D.2009), a Dunklin County case where the same claim was made and
denied by the trial court and affirmed by the Southern District…
The Court finds that the trial court found a sufficient factual basis for
Defendant/Movant’s guilty plea, and that Movant’s Motion fails to assert any
claim upon which relief may be granted.
Id. at 56-58. The Missouri Court of Appeals upheld the motion court’s denial of post-conviction
relief. (Resp. Ex. D.)
As an initial matter, the Court finds that Petitioner’s claim is not cognizable.
conducting habeas review, a federal court is limited to deciding whether a conviction violated the
Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.” Estelle v. McGuire, 502 U.S. 62, 68 (1991)
(citations omitted). While a factual basis is required under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure
11(b)(3) to support a guilty plea, this requirement “derives only from the Federal Rules of
Criminal Procedure, and not from the Constitution.” Moore v. McGuire, No. 4:09CV1342 RWS,
2012 WL 4479115, at *3 (E.D. Mo. July 16, 2012) (quotation and citation omitted). However,
“[e]stablishment of a factual basis may be constitutionally required when the guilty plea is
accompanied by claims of innocence.” Wabasha v. Solem, 694 F.2d 155, 157 (8th Cir. 1982).
Admissions made under oath during the guilty plea hearing provide an ample factual basis for a
guilty plea. See Cummings v. United States, 831 F.2d 779, 781 (8th Cir. 1987); see also United
States v. Carr, 271 F.3d 172, 179 (4th Cir. 2001) (“It is also settled that the judge may establish
the factual basis for the guilty plea through questioning in open court, documents, or other
evidence in the record.”).
Here, the record reflects that Petitioner did not assert claims of innocence at any time
during the plea hearing, but instead affirmed that he was in fact guilty of the crime charged,
along with the prior convictions which rendered him a chronic offender. Thus, the claim in
Ground 1 does not raise a constitutional claim and is not cognizable in this federal habeas matter.
See Moore, 2012 WL 4479115, at *3.
Even if Petitioner’s claim was cognizable, the Court would nevertheless find that
Petitioner’s claim lacks merit. “Determinations of state law by the Missouri Court of Appeals
are binding.” Crump v. Caspari, 116 F.3d 326, 327 (8th Cir. 1997) (citation omitted). Under
A factual basis is established where the information or indictment clearly charges
the defendant with all of the elements of the crime, the nature of the charge is
explained to the defendant, and the defendant admits guilt.... Every element of a
crime to which a defendant pleads guilty need not be explained as long as the
defendant understands the nature of the charge.... Furthermore, as long as the
basis exists on the record as a whole, the factual basis need not be established by
the defendant’s words or by an admission of the facts recited by the State.... If the
guilty plea is made voluntarily and with understanding and is unequivocal as to
the factual requisites necessary to establish each element of an offense, the plea
itself forms a factual basis for the guilty plea.
Fee v. State, 283 S.W.3d 296, 298 (Mo. Ct. App. 2009) (citations omitted).
At the plea hearing, the trial court read the charge to Petitioner, which included the dates
of the four prior DWI convictions, and Petitioner confirmed that he was guilty of the crime and
that he was pleading guilty on his “own freewill.” (Resp. Ex. A at 18-19, 21.) Based upon
Petitioner’s testimony, the trial court found that Petitioner had entered his guilty plea “freely and
voluntarily and with a full understanding of [his] rights and the consequences of th[e] plea.” Id.
at 22. Thus, under Missouri law, Petitioner’s guilty plea formed the factual basis for his plea as a
chronic offender. See Moore v. State, 288 S.W.3d 810, 811-12 (Mo. Ct. App. 2009) (petitioner’s
knowing and voluntary guilty plea waived any need to better prove his prior convictions, and all
other non-jurisdictional issues; person with four DWIs is chronic offender).
In view of the foregoing, the Court finds that the application of state law with regard to
Petitioner’s guilty plea was a reasonable application of, and was not contrary to, clearly
established federal law. See United States v. Cook, 447 F.3d 1127, 1128 (8th Cir. 2006) (“a
defendant who explicitly and voluntarily exposes himself to a specific sentence may not
challenge that punishment on appeal”). In addition, the state courts’ decisions did not involve
unreasonable determinations of fact. Therefore, Petitioner’s claim in Ground 1 should be denied.
B. Ground 3
In Ground 3 of his Petition, Petitioner asserts that he received ineffective assistance of
post-conviction counsel. Petitioner specifically alleges as follows:
Counsel would not file information that Petitioner ask of her in his amend motion.
Petitioner requested counsel to visit with him because there were valueable
informations we needed to discuss concerning Petitioner case that could not be
discuss on phone or written on paper and she stated that she would but, never did.
Counsel avoided phone calls and when we did speak, she stated that she was busy
doing someone else motion as if Petitioner was not concern about his’s.
Petitioner had disagreements with counsel about a phone conference taking place
instead of Petitioner evidentiary hearing. Counsel was not concern about
Petitioner case taking nearly (two) years with negative result and stated her hands
were tied as if someone had her neglecting my case. [sic].
(Petition at 8.)
Section 2254(i) states, “[t]he ineffectiveness or incompetence of counsel during Federal
or State collateral post-conviction proceedings shall not be a ground for relief in a proceeding
arising under section 2254.” 28 U.S.C. § 2254(i); see also Martinez v. Ryan, 132 S. Ct. 1309,
1320 (2012) (pursuant to § 2254(i) ineffective assistance of post-conviction counsel is not
independent ground for relief); Simpson v. Norris, 490 F.3d 1029, 1033-34 (8th Cir. 2007) (“a
state’s decision to grant a right to counsel in post-conviction proceedings does not give rise to a
due process claim if counsel performs deficiently.”)
Therefore, Petitioner’s claim is not
cognizable under section 2254 and should be denied.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Willie Duckworth’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 that his
claims are DISMISSED with prejudice. A separate Order of Dismissal 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).
Day of May, 2016.
/s/_______Jean C. Hamilton____________
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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