Courtney Little v. State, ED110063

CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)
Writing for the CourtKURT S. ODENWALD, Judge
PartiesCOURTNEY LITTLE, Appellant, v. STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondents.
Docket NumberED110063
Decision Date13 September 2022

COURTNEY LITTLE, Appellant,
v.

STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondents.

No. ED110063

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Second Division

September 13, 2022


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cape Girardeau County Honorable Scott A. Lipke

KURT S. ODENWALD, Judge

Introduction

Courtney Little ("Little") appeals from the motion court's denial of his Rule 29.15[1]amended motion for post-conviction relief. In his sole point on appeal, Little argues the motion court clearly erred in entering judgment without issuing specific findings of fact and conclusions of law for each of the six claims raised in the amended motion as required by Rule 29.15(j). We do not reach the merits of Little's appeal because the record shows the motion court did not rule on post-conviction counsel's requests to extend the time in which to file the amended motion until after the deadline to file the amended motion passed. Because a motion court has no discretion to grant an extension to file an amended motion out of time without conducting an abandonment inquiry, Little's amended motion was untimely filed. Accordingly, we must reverse and remand the judgment for the motion court to conduct an abandonment inquiry.

1

Factual and Procedural History

Because we do not reach the merits of Little's point on appeal, we briefly summarize the relevant post-conviction timeline.

In February 2019, a jury convicted Little on three counts of statutory sodomy in the second degree, and the trial court sentenced Little to a total of fourteen years in prison. Little directly appealed from his conviction and sentence, and this Court affirmed in State v. Little, 600 S.W.3d 851 (Mo. App. E.D. 2020).

Little timely filed his pro se Rule 29.15 motion for post-conviction relief on September 4, 2020. The motion court appointed post-conviction counsel to represent Little on September 14, 2020. Post-conviction counsel entered his appearance on September 23, 2020 and, on the same day, requested a thirty-day extension in which to file the amended motion. The motion court did not grant or deny the extension request.

On December 10, 2020, post-conviction counsel requested a second thirty-day extension. The motion court had not yet ruled on the initial request for extension filed on September 23, 2020. The record shows that the motion court granted the second extension request on December 17, 2020 and subsequently granted the initial extension request on January 7, 2021. Post-conviction counsel filed the amended motion on January 13, 2021. The motion court entered its judgment denying Little's Rule 29.15 motion without an evidentiary hearing on June 14, 2021. Little now appeals.

Discussion

Before reviewing the merits of an appeal from a motion court's denial of post-conviction relief, we are obligated to examine the timeliness of the amended motion. Jones v. State, 643 S.W.3d 918, 920 (Mo. App. E.D. 2022) (internal citation omitted); Earl v. State, 628 S.W.3d 695, 699 (Mo. App. E.D. 2021) (citing Moore v. State, 458 S.W.3d 822, 825-26 (Mo. Banc 2015)).

2

Under the version of Rule 29.15 applicable to Little's motion,[2] when the movant has filed a direct appeal from his conviction and sentence, Rule 29.15(g) requires post-conviction counsel to file the amended motion for post-conviction relief "within [sixty] days of the earlier of the date both the mandate of the appellate court is issued and: (1) [c]ounsel is appointed, or (2) [a]n entry of appearance is filed by any counsel that is not appointed but enters an appearance on behalf of [the] movant." Rule 29.15(g) permits the motion court to "extend the time for filing the amended motion or statement in lieu of an amended motion, with no extension exceeding [thirty] days individually and the total of all extensions not to exceed [sixty] days."

"When post-conviction counsel is appointed to an indigent person, an amended motion seeking post-conviction relief filed beyond the deadline can constitute the 'abandonment' of the movant." Jones, 643 S.W.3d at 920 (internal quotation omitted); see also Watson v. State, 536 S.W.3d 716, 719 (Mo. banc 2018) (internal citation...

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