Dawson v. Wallace
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER (See Full Order) IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Jason Lewis is substituted for Ian Wallace as proper party respondent. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Morion Dawson's petition for writ of habeas corpus 1 pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § ; 2254 is denied. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that a Certificate of Appealability will not issue in this action because petitioner has not made a substantial showing of a denial of a constitutional right. A separate Judgment is filed herewith. Signed by District Judge Catherine D. Perry on 8/9/17. (EAB)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
No. 4:14 CV 1235 CDP
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on Missouri state prisoner Morion Dawson’s
petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254. For the reasons
that follow, I will deny the petition.
Dawson is currently incarcerated at the Southeast Correctional Center
(SECC) in Charleston, Missouri, pursuant to a judgment and sentence of the
Circuit Court of St. Louis County, Missouri.1 On August 2, 2012, Dawson pled
guilty to one count of burglary first degree, two counts of robbery first degree, and
three counts of armed criminal action. With the plea, the State dismissed a
separate count of assault first degree and a related count of armed criminal action.
Because Jason Lewis is currently the warden at SECC, he will be substituted for Ian Wallace as
proper party respondent. See Rule 2(a), Rules Governing Section 2254 Cases in United States
On August 16, 2012, the court sentenced Dawson to fifteen years’ imprisonment
for burglary, and to twenty years’ imprisonment on each of the five remaining
counts, with all terms to be served concurrently. Dawson thereafter filed a motion
for post-conviction relief under Missouri Rule 24.035, arguing that he received
ineffective assistance of plea counsel for counsel’s failure to properly advise him
regarding the amount of his sentence he would be required to serve before
becoming eligible for parole. The motion court denied Dawson’s post-conviction
motion on June 20, 2013, without an evidentiary hearing. On March 4, 2014, the
Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed the motion court’s denial of post-conviction
relief. Dawson v. State, 423 S.W.3d 314 (Mo. Ct. App. 2014).
Dawson timely filed this petition for writ of habeas corpus on July 9, 2014.
In this habeas petition, Dawson claims that he received ineffective assistance
of plea counsel when counsel failed to properly inform him regarding the amount
of time he would have to serve on his sentence before becoming eligible for parole.
Specifically, Dawson claims that counsel advised him that the statute requiring that
he serve eighty-five percent of a sentence for a dangerous felony would not apply
to any of his sentences once the assault charge was dismissed. Dawson further
claims that counsel provided this misinformation in order to get Dawson to plead
guilty, so that counsel would not have to prepare for trial. Dawson avers that
counsel did not prepare for trial because he had not been paid. Dawson argues that
counsel therefore acted with a conflict of interest in his representation of Dawson,
given that counsel’s interest in getting paid conflicted with Dawson’s interest in
going to trial. Dawson claims that without counsel’s coercion to get him to plead
guilty, he would not have pled guilty and would have insisted on going to trial.
In response, respondent argues that Dawson’s claim of ineffective assistance
of counsel is procedurally defaulted to the extent Dawson contends that counsel
acted under a conflict of interest. To the extent Dawson claims that counsel was
ineffective for providing wrong information regarding parole eligibility,
respondent argues that the claim is without merit.
Standard of Review
In order to obtain federal habeas review of a claim raised in a § 2254
petition, the petitioner must have first raised the federal constitutional dimensions
of the claim in State court in accordance with State procedural rules. Duncan v.
Henry, 513 U.S. 364 (1995) (per curiam); Beaulieu v. Minnesota, 583 F.3d 570,
573 (8th Cir. 2009) (quoting Gilmore v. Armontrout, 861 F.2d 1061, 1065 (8th Cir.
1988)). If the petitioner failed to properly present the claim in State court, and no
adequate non-futile remedy is currently available by which he may bring the claim
in that forum, the claim is deemed procedurally defaulted and cannot be reviewed
by the federal habeas court “unless the [petitioner] 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.” Coleman v. Thompson, 501 U.S. 722, 750 (1991); see also
Martinez v. Ryan, 566 U.S. 1, 10-11 (2012).
Where the State court adjudicated a claim on the merits, federal habeas relief
can be granted on the claim only if the State court 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,”
28 U.S.C. § 2254(d)(1); 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)(2). See Williams v. Taylor, 529 U.S. 362, 379 (2000). The federal law
must be clearly established at the time petitioner’s State conviction became final,
and the source of doctrine for such law is limited to the United States Supreme
Court. Id. at 380-83.
A State court’s decision is “contrary to” clearly established Supreme Court
precedent when it is opposite to the Supreme Court’s conclusion on a question of
law or different than the Supreme Court’s conclusion on a set of materially
indistinguishable facts. Williams, 529 U.S. at 412-13; Carter v. Kemna, 255 F.3d
589, 591 (8th Cir. 2001). A State court’s decision is an “unreasonable application”
of Supreme Court precedent if it “identifies the correct governing legal principle
from [the Supreme Court’s] decisions but unreasonably applies that principle to the
facts of the prisoner’s case.” Williams, 529 U.S. at 413. Merely erroneous or
incorrect application of clearly established federal law does not suffice to support a
grant of habeas relief. Instead, the State court’s application of the law must be
objectively unreasonable. Id. at 409-11; Jackson v. Norris, 651 F.3d 923, 925 (8th
Cir. 2011). Finally, when reviewing whether a State court decision involves an
“unreasonable determination of the facts” in light of the evidence presented in the
State court proceedings, a federal court must presume that State court findings of
basic, primary, or historical facts are correct unless the petitioner rebuts the
presumption with clear and convincing evidence. 28 U.S.C. § 2254(e)(1); Rice v.
Collins, 546 U.S. 333, 338-39 (2006); Collier v. Norris, 485 F.3d 415, 423 (8th
Cir. 2007). Erroneous findings of fact do not ipso facto ensure the grant of habeas
relief. Instead, the determination of these facts must be unreasonable in light of the
evidence of record. Collier, 485 F.3d at 423; Weaver v. Bowersox, 241 F.3d 1024,
1030 (8th Cir. 2001).
The federal court is “bound by the AEDPA [Antiterrorism and Effective
Death Penalty Act] to exercise only limited and deferential review of underlying
State court decisions.” Lomholt v. Iowa, 327 F.3d 748, 751 (8th Cir. 2003). To
obtain habeas relief from a federal court, the petitioner must show that the
challenged State court ruling “rested on ‘an error well understood and
comprehended in existing law beyond any possibility for fairminded
disagreement.’” Metrish v. Lancaster, 133 S. Ct. 1781, 1786-87 (2013) (quoting
Harrington v. Richter, 562 U.S. 86, 102-03 (2011)). This standard is difficult to
meet. Id. at 1786.
Dawson claims that his plea counsel purposely provided misinformation
regarding eligibility for parole because he was acting under a conflict of interest in
that he had not been paid for his legal services. Although Dawson raised a claim
of ineffective assistance of plea counsel in his post-conviction proceedings, he did
not pursue the claim on this particular basis – that counsel was acting under a
conflict of interest when advising him.
A claim must be presented at each step of the judicial process in State court
in order to avoid procedural default. Jolly v. Gammon, 28 F.3d 51, 53 (8th Cir.
1994). To be fairly presented, the claim in State court must contain the same
factual grounds and legal theories as asserted in the federal habeas petition. Picard
v. Connor, 404 U.S. 270 (1971); Abdullah v. Groose, 75 F.3d 408, 411 (8th Cir.
1996). Mere similarity in claims is insufficient. Abdullah, 75 F.3d at 412 (citing
Duncan v. Henry, 513 U.S. 364 (1995) (per curiam)). Broadening an ineffective
assistance of counsel claim in a federal habeas proceeding to include factual bases
not raised before the State court is impermissible. See Ward v. Norris, 577 F.3d
925, 935 (8th Cir. 2009).
Dawson failed to assert the conflict-of-interest basis of his claim in his postconviction proceedings. This basis for his claim of ineffective assistance of
counsel is therefore procedurally barred from review by this Court unless Dawson
can show cause for his default and actual prejudice resulting from the alleged
unconstitutional conduct, or demonstrate that failure to consider the claim will
result in a fundamental miscarriage of justice. Coleman, 501 U.S. at 731-32, 750.
Dawson neither asserts nor shows cause for his failure to raise this aspect of his
claim in State court. Nor has Dawson presented any new evidence of actual
innocence or shown that a constitutional violation has probably resulted in the
conviction of one who is actually innocent. Abdi v. Hatch, 450 F.3d 334, 338 (8th
Cir. 2006); Weeks v. Bowersox, 119 F.3d 1342, 1352-53 (8th Cir. 1997).
Therefore, my refusal to entertain this procedurally defaulted portion of Dawson’s
claim will not result in a fundamental miscarriage of justice.
Accordingly, Dawson’s claim that plea counsel acted under a conflict of
interest when advising him about parole eligibility is procedurally barred from
federal habeas review and will be denied.
To the extent Dawson argues that plea counsel was ineffective for providing
misinformation regarding parole eligibility, a review of the record shows that
Dawson properly raised this claim in State court and that the Missouri Court of
Appeals, upon review of the merits of the claim, denied relief. I therefore turn to
the merits of this claim, exercising limited and deferential review of the underlying
State court decision as required by the AEDPA.
At the time Dawson’s conviction became final, the law was clearly
established that the Sixth Amendment guarantees a criminal defendant the right to
effective assistance of counsel. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687
(1984). In Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52 (1985), the Supreme Court held that a
defendant who pled guilty upon the advice of counsel may challenge the
voluntariness of that plea through a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. Id.
To be entitled to habeas relief on this claim, Dawson must show that his
attorney’s performance was not within the range of competence demanded of
attorneys in criminal cases. Hill, 474 U.S. at 56-57. The standard to be applied in
assessing counsel’s performance is that set out in Strickland. Id. at 58.
Accordingly, Dawson must demonstrate that: 1) his counsel’s performance was
deficient, and 2) the deficient performance prejudiced his defense. Strickland, 466
U.S. at 687. To establish prejudice in the context of a guilty plea, Dawson must
show a reasonable probability that but for counsel’s error, he would not have pled
guilty and would have insisted on going to trial. Hill, 474 U.S. at 59.
The Missouri Court of Appeals found that Dawson sufficiently allowed that
counsel’s performance was deficient because he alleged that counsel affirmatively
misrepresented that the Missouri statute that required service of eighty-five percent
of a sentence for a dangerous felony did not apply to Dawson in the circumstances
of his case. Dawson, 423 S.W.3d at 317. The court of appeals determined,
however, that Dawson was not prejudiced by this deficient performance and thus
could not obtain relief on his claim of ineffective assistance. Id. For the following
reasons, this decision was neither contrary to, nor involved an unreasonable
application of, clearly established federal law. Dawson’s habeas claim therefore
Dawson pled guilty to six counts of the indictment, including two counts of
robbery first degree. At the plea proceeding, the prosecutor stated on the record
that the range of punishment for robbery first degree was a minimum of ten years
to thirty years, to life imprisonment. (Resp. Exh. A at 35.) The prosecutor then
stated that Dawson would have to serve eighty-five percent of his sentences for
each count of first degree robbery: “Your Honor, Counts 5 and 7, Robbery First
Degree Counts, Class A Felonies, have a statutory requirement that the defendant
serve a minimum, or at least 85 percent of any sentence he receives under Counts 5
and 7, Robbery First Degree Counts[.]” (Id. at 35-36.) When the trial court asked
Dawson if he understood that the court could impose any sentence within any
range of punishment permitted by law, Dawson said that he did. (Id. at 35.)
Dawson also stated that no promises had been made regarding what his sentence
would be. (Id.) At the conclusion of the proceeding, the court asked Dawson if he
had any questions, and Dawson stated that he did not. (Resp. Exh. A at 36.)
On August 16, 2012, the court sentenced Dawson to concurrent terms of
imprisonment aggregating twenty years, including a twenty-year term of
imprisonment on each count of first degree robbery. (Resp. Exh. A at 38.)
Dawson testified at the proceeding that the sentence imposed was what he
expected under his plea agreement with the State, and that his counsel did not
make any promises to induce him to enter a guilty plea. (Id. at 41.) At no time did
Dawson raise any question about the prosecutor’s statement made at the plea
proceeding that he was required by statute to serve eighty-five percent of his
sentences for first degree robbery.
The Missouri Court of Appeals determined that Dawson’s plea was not
rendered involuntary by counsel’s alleged misinformation regarding the eighty-five
percent rule because Dawson failed to show any prejudice. The court noted that
Dawson was advised during the guilty plea proceeding that he would be required to
serve eighty-five percent of his sentences for first degree robbery, stated to the
court that he understood, and had no questions regarding his potential sentence.
Dawson, 423 S.W.3d at 318. A petitioner’s statements made in open court
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indicating that he understood what he was doing “‘carry a strong presumption of
verity.’” Porter v. Lockhart, 925 F.2d 1107, 1111 (8th Cir. 1991) (quoting
Blackledge v. Allison, 431 U.S. 63, 74 (1976)).
After being provided with this information, Dawson proceeded with the plea
and expressly pled guilty to each of the first degree robbery charges. By
continuing with his plea after expressly acknowledging the potential range of
punishment and that he was required to serve eighty-five percent of the sentences
imposed for first degree robbery, Dawson cannot show that he was prejudiced by
counsel’s misinformation that the statute did not apply to him. See Premachandra
v. United States, 101 F.3d 68, 69 (8th Cir. 1996) (trial counsel’s misinformation
that movant would not serve lengthy prison term insufficient to show involuntary
guilty plea because, in relevant part, movant expressly acknowledged at plea
proceeding the potential sentence he faced); United States ex rel. Dean v. Wyrick,
426 F. Supp. 1195, 1201 (E.D. Mo. 1976) (petitioner cannot succeed on claim that
counsel promised a lesser sentence where record showed court advised petitioner
of the terms of sentence and petitioner stated he understood). See also United
States v. Has No Horses, 261 F.3d 744, 749 (8th Cir. 2001). Because Dawson
cannot show prejudice on account of counsel’s deficient performance, he has failed
to establish that ineffective assistance of counsel rendered his guilty plea
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The Missouri Court of Appeals’ determination that counsel’s misinformation
regarding parole eligibility did not render Dawson’s plea involuntary was not
contrary to nor an unreasonable application of Supreme Court precedent. Nor has
Dawson demonstrated that the decision was based on an unreasonable
determination of the facts in light of the evidence presented in the State court
proceeding. Accordingly, Dawson’s claim that ineffective assistance of counsel
rendered his guilty plea involuntary is denied.
Certificate of Appealability
Under 28 U.S.C. § 2253, an appeal may not be taken to the court of appeals
from the final order denying habeas relief in a § 2254 proceeding unless a circuit
justice or judge issues a Certificate of Appealability. 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(1)(A).
To grant such a certificate, the justice or judge must find a substantial showing of
the denial of a federal constitutional right. 28 U.S.C. § 2253(c)(2); see Tiedeman
v. Benson, 122 F.3d 518, 522 (8th Cir. 1997). A substantial showing is a showing
that issues are debatable among reasonable jurists, a court could resolve the issues
differently, or the issues deserve further proceedings. Cox v. Norris, 133 F.3d 565,
569 (8th Cir. 1997). I find that reasonable jurists could not differ on Dawson’s
claim of ineffective assistance of plea counsel, so I will deny a Certificate of
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IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Jason Lewis is substituted for Ian
Wallace as proper party respondent.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Morion Dawson’s petition for writ of
habeas corpus  pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 is denied.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that a Certificate of Appealability will not
issue in this action because petitioner has not made a substantial showing of a
denial of a constitutional right.
A separate Judgment is filed herewith.
CATHERINE D. PERRY
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated this 9th day of August, 2017.
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