Harris v. Adams, 4:17-cv-00842 PLC

CourtUnited States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Missouri)
Writing for the CourtPATRICIA L. COHEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
PartiesJAMES HARRIS, Petitioner, v. RICHARD ADAMS, [1] Respondent.
Decision Date08 December 2021
Docket Number4:17-cv-00842 PLC

JAMES HARRIS, Petitioner,
v.

RICHARD ADAMS, [1] Respondent.

No. 4:17-cv-00842 PLC

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

December 8, 2021


MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

PATRICIA L. COHEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

James Harris (“Petitioner”), a Missouri state prisoner, pursues this habeas corpus proceeding under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”), 28 U.S.C. § 2254. In addition to seeking habeas relief from a state court conviction and sentence after a jury trial [ECF No. 1], Petitioner moves for: (1) a “stay and abeyance” of this habeas proceeding (“motion for stay”) [ECF No. 29]; (2) leave to supplement his petition pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15 (“motion to supplement”) [ECF No. 40]; (3) appointment of counsel under 28 U.S.C. Section 1915(e) (“motion for appointed attorney”) [ECF No. 41]; and (4) in forma pauperis status under 28 U.S.C. § 1915 [ECF No. 42]. Respondent Richard Adams filed opposition to Petitioner's petition and motion for stay. [ECF Nos. 14, 35] Petitioner filed a reply supporting his petition. [ECF No. 22] For the following reasons, Petitioner's motions and petition are denied.[2]

I. Background

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The State charged Petitioner with one count of first-degree statutory sodomy of A.R., a female younger than twelve years old (Count I); two counts of attempted first-degree statutory sodomy of A.B.W. (Counts II and III); and, as an alternative to Count III, one count of enticement of a child (Count IV), alleging the offenses occurred between July 1, 2006, and February 2, 2009, in the City of St. Louis.[3] [ECF No. 17-5] The evidence at trial was that, over the course of the alleged time period, the victims lived at residences on Folsom, McRee, and Shenandoah Avenues[4] with their mother J.L.W., their siblings, and Petitioner. [ECF No. 17-1, 17-2] At various times, Brittany Jones, who has two children with Petitioner, and Cierra Hogan, Petitioner's girlfriend, also resided in the home and acted as the victims' babysitters. [Id.]

A.R., who was ten years old at the time of trial, testified that when they were living together, Petitioner wanted A.R. to touch his penis with her mouth on more than one occasion, and it would occur in either the living room or behind the closed door of her mother's room. [Id.] A.R. stated she would be sitting while Petitioner was standing, with his pants off or lowered, and he would tell her what to do, like “suck my [penis], ” and A.R. would do it. [Id.] Although Petitioner told A.R. not to tell anyone, A.R. eventually told people about the abuse, including J.L.W. [Id.]

Prior to the start of trial, A.R. received text messages from Jones that discussed A.R. going to court. A.R. testified Jones instructed A.R. in the messages to testify that Hogan told A.R. to make the allegations of abuse. A.R. testified Petitioner's conduct “happened” and Hogan did not tell her to accuse Petitioner. During cross-examination, Petitioner's attorney asked

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whether A.R. had sent Jones certain text messages and A.R. acknowledged she had. A.R. admitted sending a message to Jones stating Hogan told A.R. to accuse Petitioner of abuse because Hogan was angry with Petitioner and wanted to get him into trouble. [Id.]

A.B.W., who was seven years old at the time of trial, testified that, on more than one occasion, while the three of them were behind the closed door of her mother's room she saw A.R. sucking Petitioner's “privates” with her mouth and hands. [Id.] She described A.R. as performing while clothed and sitting on her knees, after Petitioner, who was standing and clothed, took “his private part out of his pants and his drawers.” [Id.] A.B.W. testified she refused Petitioner's repeated request that she do the same despite his threats to punish her, to not give her Christmas presents, and to “rape and kill” her if she did not comply. [Id.]

In May 2008, A.R. disclosed the abuse to Adora Keen, a friend of Hogan. [Id.] Keen first reported the allegations to Hogan, and then Keen and Hogan, in A.R.'s presence, reported the abuse to J.L.W. [Id.] Keen testified A.R. was crying during the conversation, and Keen described J.L.W. as reacting as though she did not believe A.R., which upset Keen. [Id.]

In January 2009, Hogan told Telisha Wagner, A.R.'s aunt, about the abuse. [Id.] Wagner called A.R. and asked if Petitioner “was messing around with her, ” and A.R. responded, “Yes.” [Id.] Next, Wagner asked A.R. if Petitioner was “making her suck his dick, ” and A.R. said, “Yes, ” while sounding “real scared.” [Id.] After the call, Wagner reported the information to a child abuse hotline. [Id.]

The Missouri Children's Division and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD) both investigated the January 19, 2009 hotline call. [Id.] Joshua Fantroy, an investigator for the Children's Division, immediately responded to the hotline report. [Id.] A.R. told Fantroy “she had to suck [Petitioner]'s private” and it had happened more than three times in

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that residence within approximately the three months before Christmas and that A.B.W. “had turned down [Petitioner] for doing the same act.” [Id.] Fantroy stated that, at one point, A.R. was “hysterical” and begged him not to “do anything” because she did not want to get into trouble. [Id.] Fantroy testified A.B.W. reported seeing A.R. “sucking the front” of Petitioner and Petitioner “had asked her to, but . . . she said no.” [Id.] A.B.W. also said Petitioner “had threatened to take away Christmas from her”; and that this had happened at their current residence on Shenandoah Avenue as well as the residence on Folsom Avenue. [Id.] After speaking with the victims, Fantroy advised J.L.W. that Petitioner could not have any contact with the victims until Fantroy investigated the allegations. [Id.] Fantroy gave J.L.W. the choice of requiring Petitioner to leave the home or the children. J.L.W. chose to have Petitioner leave the home. [Id.] Fantroy called Petitioner and explained the situation and advised Petitioner that he was prohibited from having contact with the children. [Id.]

Heather Taylor, a sergeant with the SLMPD, also investigated the January 2009 hotline call. [Id.] During her investigation, Sergeant Taylor learned from Keen that Petitioner abused A.R. in 2008 at the Folsom Avenue residence. [Id.] Sergeant Taylor, reviewed Ameren UE utility records, and confirmed that J.L.W. and her children lived on Folsom Avenue from July 2006 until approximately November 2008. [Id.]

Beverly Tucker, a forensic interview specialist for the Children's Advocacy Center of Greater St. Louis interviewed A.R. and A.B.W. in February 2009. [Id.] A.R., who was nine years old at the time, denied any sexual abuse had occurred. [Id.] Tucker testified that during the interview with then five-year-old A.B.W., A.B.W. stated she witnessed A.R.'s mouth on Petitioner's “front private[.]” [Id.] A.B.W. stated Petitioner asked her to participate and described what to do but she refused. A.B.W. also demonstrated for Tucker what she had

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observed by getting on her knees and making hand movements. [Id.] Tucker videotaped her interview with A.B.W. [Id.]

On February 2, 2009, Fantroy received a hotline call advising that Petitioner and the children were at the residence on Shenandoah Avenue. [Id.] Fantroy responded to the residence with Detective Mickey Owens and another police officer. When they arrived at the residence, Detective Owens stated to Petitioner that they were there to check on A.R. and A.B.W., and asked Petitioner if the children were home. [Id.] Petitioner said the children were not at the residence. Based on information Petitioner provided, Detective Owens tried several telephone calls to locate the children. [Id.] When the children were not located, Fantroy and the officers searched the home, and found four children including A.R. and A.B.W. and Jones in the basement. Detective Owens testified A.R. told him that Petitioner had been living at the residence for “a long time[.]” Detective Owens and Fantroy took the children into emergency protective custody.

Petitioner presented the testimony of Jones and Hogan at trial. Jones testified she dated Petitioner at the same time Petitioner was dating J.L.W. and that she babysat A.R. and A.B.W. at the Folsom, McRee, and Shenandoah Avenue residences. Jones testified she did not live at the Folsom Avenue residence but lived at the McRee and Shenandoah residences. Jones stated the children were never alone with Petitioner when she babysat. Both sides questioned Jones about specific text messages sent from and received on her cell phone between October 2, 2010, and October 10, 2010. Some of the messages Jones received from A.R. state that Hogan told A.R. to make allegations against Petitioner because Hogan was angry with Petitioner and she “wanted [Petitioner] all to herself[.]”

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Hogan testified that she had a sexual relationship with Petitioner between 2007 and August 2008. Hogan stated she babysat the victims in April and May 2008, when she lived at the Folsom Avenue residence with J.L.W., her children, and Petitioner. Hogan testified Petitioner was never alone with the children when she babysat the children and that A.R. stated that she “hated” Petitioner “because . . . he's taking . . . mama away from” her. Hogan testified that in May 2008, Keen approached Hogan and told her to talk to A.R. When Hogan asked A.R. what was going on, A.R. started crying and “repeating she was going to be in trouble.” Hogan hugged A.R. and asked her again what was going on and A.R. responded Petitioner “made me suck his dick.” Specifically, A.R. told Hogan it happened when A.R. “got in trouble at school and [Petitioner] took her away from the house” in the car; A.R. said Petitioner “made me suck his dick in the car.” Hogan encouraged A.R. to tell J.L.W. about the incident. Hogan testified that, after hearing A.R.,...

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