Jackson v. State, No. 38253

CourtMissouri Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtDOWD; CLEMENS, P. J., and WEIER
Citation548 S.W.2d 624
PartiesJoseph JACKSON, Jr., Appellant, v. STATE of Missouri, Respondent. . Louis District, Division One
Decision Date08 March 1977
Docket NumberNo. 38253

Page 624

548 S.W.2d 624
Joseph JACKSON, Jr., Appellant,
v.
STATE of Missouri, Respondent.
No. 38253.
Missouri Court of Appeals, St. Louis District, Division One.
March 8, 1977.

Huck, Kasten, & LaBeaume, Graham W. LaBeaume, St. Louis, for appellant.

John Ashcroft, Atty. Gen., Preston Dean, Asst. Atty. Gen., Robert M. Sommers, Asst. Atty. Gen., Jefferson City, George A. Peach, Circuit Atty., John D. Chancellor, Asst. Circuit Atty., St. Louis, for respondent.

DOWD, Judge.

This is an appeal by movant-appellant, Joseph Jackson, Jr., from an order of the circuit court of the City of St. Louis denying without an evidentiary hearing his motion to vacate sentence pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 27.26.

On November 8, 1971, movant entered a plea of guilty to the charge of murder first degree and was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Page 625

No transcript of the plea proceeding is available due to the death of the court reporter. The trial judge, Michael F. Godfrey, noted from his own files, however, that two attorneys were appointed to represent movant, several pre-trial motions were filed, and the case was assigned for trial before movant entered his plea.

Movant filed a 27.26 motion to vacate judgment and sentence on May 17, 1976. His grounds for relief as set forth in his motion are as follows: (a) Movant was threatened by the trial court judge, Michael F. Godfrey, that unless movant were to enter a plea of guilty, he would be sentenced to death on the charge of First Degree Murder. This same threat was conveyed to movant by his court-appointed attorney, James C. Jones, III. Movant alleged that Judge Godfrey represented to him the authority of the State of Missouri and was thereby coerced into entering the plea of guilty. "Movant hereby declared his innocence of the charge."

In response to question 9 of the 27.26 form movant made no additional statements of fact and stated that his witnesses and evidence would consist of the testimony of the trial court judge and his attorney. The circuit court denied the motion to vacate without appointment of counsel and without evidentiary hearing. In its opinion the trial court held that the motion did not present a question of law or fact which required a hearing or appointment of counsel. We found the learned trial judge's detailed memorandum opinion helpful and relevant portions of it are made an appendix to this opinion.

The points raised by appellant can be consolidated into one issue: Whether the trial court erred in finding that the motion did not present a question of law or an issue of fact and could therefore be denied without an evidentiary hearing or the appointment of counsel. We agree with the trial court that the motion failed to meet the required standard for post-conviction review and therefore affirm the judgment below.

Before a movant is entitled to an evidentiary hearing, his motion must present factual allegations, not conclusions, which, if true, would entitle him to relief. Smith v. State, 513 S.W.2d 407 (Mo. Banc 1974) cert. denied, 420 U.S. 911, 95 S.Ct. 832, 42 L.Ed.2d 841 (1975). Conclusions stated without supporting facts are insufficient to raise issues and hence do not require a hearing or the appointment of counsel. State v. Miner, 498 S.W.2d 814, 815(1) (Mo.App.1973). Jackson's allegation that he was "threatened" is, in the absence of any further facts alleged to support it, a conclusion. The alleged statements of the trial judge, considered without the conclusional term "threat," are permissible statements. Even if true, allegations of such statements do not state a claim for relief.

The trial judge has the duty to advise a defendant of the consequences of his guilty plea, including the range of punishment which may result from his plea. State v. Conner, 500 S.W.2d 300, 303(3) (Mo.App.1972). At the time Jackson entered his plea, death or life imprisonment was the range of punishment for murder first degree. Inasmuch as movant referred to the imposition of the death penalty in his allegations, it is deducible that the trial judge advised movant that death was the maximum punishment for the offense with which he was charged. Movant's lawyer also should have advised him of the possibility of receiving the death penalty if he should stand trial. It should be noted that neither the judge nor movant's attorney would have been able to carry out a threat to have the death penalty imposed, since movant had no prior convictions and therefore punishment would have been fixed by the jury in the event of trial.

Even if statements by the judge or his attorney caused movant to feel coerced in entering his plea of guilty, by warning him of the possibility that the death sentence would be imposed following trial, his plea was not therefore involuntary. It is by now well established that a plea of guilty entered to avoid the possibility of the death penalty is not thereby rendered

Page 626

involuntary. Brady v. United States, 397 U.S. 742, 755, 90 S.Ct. 1463, 25 L.Ed.2d 747 (1970); Taylor v. State, 539 S.W.2d 589, 590(1) (Mo.App.1976); State v. Clay, 520 S.W.2d 172, 176(3) (Mo.App.1975). Movant's dilemma in his decision whether to plea guilty in the expectation that he would receive a life sentence or stand trial and risk the death penalty, does not amount to coercion that renders a plea of guilty involuntary, even where the defendant protests his innocence. North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25, 31, 91 S.Ct. 160, 27 L.Ed.2d 162 (1970); Wells v. State, 504 S.W.2d 96, 97(1) (Mo.1974).

By merely labeling otherwise permissible statements threats, movant cannot, without other supporting facts, state a ground for relief. Taylor v. State, 539 S.W.2d 589, 590(1) (Mo.App.1976); Smith v. State, 513 S.W.2d 407, 411(2) (Mo. banc 1974), cert. denied, 420 U.S. 911, 95 S.Ct. 832, 42 L.Ed.2d 841 (1975); Ross v. State, 517 S.W.2d 185, 187(3) (Mo.App.1974). We therefore approve the trial court finding that movant's motion did not present a question of law or fact and that therefore the trial court did not err in failing to hold an evidentiary hearing.

We also find it significant that movant waited 41/2 years to file his motion. The trial court properly considered this fact in overruling the motion. While Rule 27.26 provides that a motion may be filed at anytime the defendant is in custody, it should be filed within a reasonable length of time, and delay is a relevant factor in consideration of the motion on...

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3 practice notes
  • Hayes v. State, No. 15439
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • 29 July 1988
    ...conviction relief must be filed within a reasonable length of time; Miller v. State, 603 S.W.2d 29 (Mo.App.1980); ... Jackson v. State, 548 S.W.2d 624 3. Where the motion and records of a case show that the Movant is not entitled to relief, no evidentiry [sic] hearing is necessary; Flowers ......
  • Rolfes v. State, No. 39842
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • 5 December 1978
    ...144(1-3) (Mo.App.1975). Rule 25.04 requires that a defendant be advised of the Consequences of his plea of guilty. Jackson v. State, 548 S.W.2d 624(3) (Mo.App.1977), and State v. Connor, 500 S.W.2d 300(3) (Mo.App.1973), relying on State v. Blaylock, 394 S.W.2d 364, l.c. 367 (Mo.1965). Here ......
  • Taylor v. State, No. 55408
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • 2 May 1989
    ...went to trial." We note initially that fear of the death penalty alone does not render a guilty plea involuntary. Jackson v. State, 548 S.W.2d 624, 625 (Mo.App.1977). If movant's contention is that the timing of counsel's discussion of the death penalty caused his plea to be involuntary, we......
3 cases
  • Hayes v. State, No. 15439
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • 29 July 1988
    ...conviction relief must be filed within a reasonable length of time; Miller v. State, 603 S.W.2d 29 (Mo.App.1980); ... Jackson v. State, 548 S.W.2d 624 3. Where the motion and records of a case show that the Movant is not entitled to relief, no evidentiry [sic] hearing is necessary; Flowers ......
  • Rolfes v. State, No. 39842
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • 5 December 1978
    ...144(1-3) (Mo.App.1975). Rule 25.04 requires that a defendant be advised of the Consequences of his plea of guilty. Jackson v. State, 548 S.W.2d 624(3) (Mo.App.1977), and State v. Connor, 500 S.W.2d 300(3) (Mo.App.1973), relying on State v. Blaylock, 394 S.W.2d 364, l.c. 367 (Mo.1965). Here ......
  • Taylor v. State, No. 55408
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • 2 May 1989
    ...went to trial." We note initially that fear of the death penalty alone does not render a guilty plea involuntary. Jackson v. State, 548 S.W.2d 624, 625 (Mo.App.1977). If movant's contention is that the timing of counsel's discussion of the death penalty caused his plea to be involuntary, we......

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