Shockley v. State

Decision Date16 April 2019
Docket NumberNo. SC 96633,SC 96633
Citation579 S.W.3d 881
Parties Lance C. SHOCKLEY, Appellant, v. STATE of Missouri, Respondent.
CourtMissouri Supreme Court

579 S.W.3d 881

Lance C. SHOCKLEY, Appellant,
STATE of Missouri, Respondent.

No. SC 96633

Supreme Court of Missouri, en banc.

Opinion issued April 16, 2019
Rehearing Denied September 3, 2019

Shockley was represented by William J. Swift of the public defender’s office in Columbia, (573) 777-9977.

The state was represented by Daniel N. McPherson of the attorney general’s office in Jefferson City, (573) 751-3321.

George W. Draper III, Judge

Lance Shockley (hereinafter, "Movant") was found guilty by a jury of one count of first-degree murder for the death of Missouri highway patrolman Sergeant Carl DeWayne Graham, Jr. (hereinafter, "Victim"). The jury found the facts required by law to impose a death sentence, but it was unable to agree whether to recommend a sentence of death or life imprisonment. Pursuant to section 565.030.4, RSMo 2000,1 the circuit court conducted an independent review of the facts and imposed a death sentence. This Court affirmed Movant’s conviction and sentence. State v. Shockley , 410 S.W.3d 179 (Mo. banc 2013).

Movant appeals the motion court’s judgment overruling his Rule 29.15 motion after an evidentiary hearing. This Court has exclusive jurisdiction over this appeal because a death sentence was imposed. Mo. Const. art. V, sec. 10 ; see also Standing Order, June 16, 1988 (effective July 1, 1988). This Court affirms the motion court’s judgment.

Factual and Procedural History2

On November 26, 2004, Movant was involved in a motor vehicle accident resulting in the death of his passenger. Over the next several months, Victim conducted the investigation of the accident, which criminally implicated Movant.

On March 20, 2005, at approximately 12:20 p.m., Movant borrowed his grandmother’s red Pontiac Grand Am (hereinafter, "the red car"), which had a bright yellow sticker on the trunk near the driver’s side. Between 1:45 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. that afternoon, various witnesses noticed a red car with a bright yellow sticker affixed to the driver’s side of the trunk parked on the wrong side of the road a few hundred feet from Victim’s residence.

At 4:03 p.m. that day, Victim returned home, backed his patrol car into his driveway, and radioed dispatch he was ending his shift. As Victim exited his vehicle, he was shot from behind with a high-powered rifle that penetrated his Kevlar vest. The bullet severed Victim’s spinal cord at the neck, immediately paralyzing him. Victim fell backward and suffered fractures to his skull and ribs upon impact with the pavement. The killer then approached Victim, who was still alive, and shot him twice

579 S.W.3d 891

more with a shotgun into his face and shoulder. The recovered rifle bullet was deformed, but ballistics experts determined it belonged to the .22 to .24 caliber class of ammunition that would fit a .243 caliber rifle. Investigators later learned that, around 7 p.m. on the evening of Victim’s murder, Movant’s wife gave Movant’s uncle a box of .243 caliber bullets and stated, "[Movant] said you'd know what to do with them."

Movant returned the red car to his grandmother between 4:15 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. that same day. Investigators calculated it took approximately eighteen minutes to drive from Movant’s grandmother’s house to the location where the red car with the yellow sticker had been parked near Victim’s home.

Two highway patrol investigators interviewed Movant at his residence that evening. Movant immediately denied killing Victim and stated he spent all day working around his house with his neighbor, Sylvan Duncan (hereinafter, "Sylvan").3 The next day, Movant again met with investigators and elaborated on the alibi. Movant claimed he was visiting relatives, including his grandmother, and he watched from his living room as Sylvan pushed brush. Movant stated he knew Victim was investigating him for the fatal accident and, without prompting, declared he did not know where Victim lived.

Later that day, Movant visited his grandmother and instructed her to tell the police he had been home all day the day Victim was shot. When his grandmother told Movant she would not lie for him, he put his finger over her mouth and said, "I was home all day."

Police arrested Movant on March 23, 2005, for leaving the scene of the car accident that resulted in his passenger’s death. The state subsequently charged Movant with leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident, first-degree murder for Victim’s death, and armed criminal action. The state proceeded to trial only on the first-degree murder charge and sought the death penalty. Movant was represented initially by several public defenders, including Thomas Marshall (hereinafter, "Marshall" and, collectively, "the first trial team"). Movant later obtained private counsel and was represented at trial by Brad Kessler (hereinafter, "Kessler"), David Bruns (hereinafter, "Bruns"), and Mollyanne Henshaw (hereinafter, "Henshaw" and collectively, "trial counsel").

The state theorized Movant killed Victim to stop the fatal car accident investigation. Movant’s defense was it was ridiculous for him to believe, simply by killing Victim, law enforcement would halt its investigation into the accident. Trial counsel also argued the police improperly directed all their investigative attention toward him rather than pursuing other possible perpetrators.

After a five-day guilt phase proceeding, the jury found Movant guilty of first-degree murder. During the penalty phase, the state submitted four statutory aggravators pursuant to section 565.032.2: (1) Victim was a "peace officer" and the "murder was committed because of the exercise of his official duty;" (2) Movant was depraved of mind when he killed Victim and, "as a result thereof, the murder was outrageously and wantonly vile, horrible, and inhuman;" (3) Victim was murdered "for the purpose of avoiding ... or preventing a lawful arrest;" and (4) Victim was a

579 S.W.3d 892

"potential witness in [a] past or pending investigation ... and was killed as a result of his status as a ... potential witness."

The jury found the first, third, and fourth statutory aggravators were proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The jury did not find unanimously the circumstances in mitigation outweighed those in aggravation. However, the jury was unable to agree which punishment to recommend. After overruling Movant’s motion for new trial, the circuit court imposed a death sentence pursuant to section 565.034.4.

Movant appealed and raised nine points of error. This Court affirmed the circuit court’s judgment and conducted an independent proportionality review pursuant to section 565.035.3. Movant filed a timely Rule 29.15 motion for post-conviction relief, alleging several claims of ineffective assistance of trial and appellate counsel. After an evidentiary hearing, the motion court issued findings of fact and conclusions of law, made credibility determinations, and denied Movant relief. Movant now appeals, raising seventeen claims of error.

Standard of Review

This Court reviews the denial of post-conviction relief to determine whether the motion court’s findings of fact and conclusions of law are clearly erroneous. Rule 29.15(k). "A judgment is clearly erroneous when, in light of the entire record, the court is left with the definite and firm impression that a mistake has been made." Swallow v. State , 398 S.W.3d 1, 3 (Mo. banc 2013). The motion court’s findings are presumed correct. Johnson v. State , 406 S.W.3d 892, 898 (Mo. banc 2013). "This Court defers to ‘the motion court’s superior opportunity to judge the credibility of witnesses.’ " Barton v. State , 432 S.W.3d 741, 760 (Mo. banc 2014) (quoting State v. Twenter , 818 S.W.2d 628, 635 (Mo. banc 1991) ).

To be entitled to post-conviction relief for ineffective assistance of counsel, a movant must show by a preponderance of the evidence his or her trial counsel failed to meet the Strickland test to prove his or her claims. Strickland v. Washington , 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984). Under Strickland , Movant must demonstrate: (1) trial counsel failed to exercise the level of skill and diligence reasonably competent trial counsel would in a similar situation, and (2) he was prejudiced by that failure. Id. at 687.

Movant must overcome the strong presumption trial counsel’s conduct was reasonable and effective. Johnson , 406 S.W.3d at 899. To overcome this presumption, a movant must identify "specific acts or omissions of counsel that, in light of all the circumstances, fell outside the wide range of professional competent assistance." Zink v. State , 278 S.W.3d 170, 176 (Mo. banc 2009). Trial strategy decisions may be a basis for finding ineffective assistance of counsel only if that decision was unreasonable. Id. "[S]trategic choices made after a thorough investigation of the law and the facts relevant to plausible opinions are virtually unchallengeable...." Dorsey v. State , 448 S.W.3d 276, 287 (Mo. banc 2014) (quoting Strickland , 466 U.S. at 690, 104 S.Ct. 2052 ).

"To establish relief under Strickland , a movant must prove prejudice." Johnson , 406 S.W.3d at 899. Prejudice occurs when "there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different." Deck v. State , 68 S.W.3d 418...

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