Williams v. State, 72746

Decision Date18 December 1990
Docket NumberNo. 72746,72746
Citation800 S.W.2d 739
PartiesRobert A. WILLIAMS, Movant-Appellant, v. STATE of Missouri, Respondent.
CourtMissouri Supreme Court

Janet M. Thompson, Craig Johnston, Columbia, for movant-appellant.

William L. Webster, Atty. Gen., Andrea K. Spillars, Asst. Atty. Gen., Jefferson City, Philip M. Koppe, Asst. Atty. Gen., Kansas City, for respondent.

BLACKMAR, Chief Justice.

The defendant pleaded guilty to four charges, two of rape and two of forcible sodomy. The trial judge advised him as follows:

* * * * * *

THE COURT: Do you understand that under the law any Court is compelled to run sentences consecutively in these cases?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.

THE COURT: Do you understand that?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.

THE COURT: And it is not within the privilege of any Court to run the sentences concurrently?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.

THE COURT: Do you understand that the minimum sentence in each of these cases is ten years? Am I correct in that?

MR. FERRELL: That's correct, Your Honor.

THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.

THE COURT: Do you understand that the minimum sentence in each of these counts is ten years?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.

THE COURT: Therefore, do you understand that the minimum sentence this Court can impose in imposing the minimum would be four ten-year sentences, and that this Court must order them to run consecutively or which would be total of forty years?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.

THE COURT: Have you thoroughly discussed that with your attorney?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.

THE COURT: Understanding that do you still believe that it is to your selfish interest to enter these pleas of guilty today?

THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.

* * * * * *

The judge carefully questioned the defendant as to whether he understood the consequences of pleading guilty, and ascertained that the plea was voluntary. He then sentenced him to four consecutive ten-year sentences, suspending execution on the last count.

The defendant then proceeded under Rule 24.035, arguing that the trial court misconstrued § 558.026.1, RSMo 1986, reading as follows:

Multiple sentences of imprisonment shall run concurrently unless the court specifies that they shall run consecutively; except that, in the case of multiple sentences of imprisonment imposed for the felony of rape, forcible rape, sodomy, forcible sodomy or an attempt to commit any of the aforesaid and for other offenses committed during or at the same time as that rape, forcible rape, sodomy, forcible sodomy or an attempt to commit any of the aforesaid, the sentences of imprisonment imposed for the other offenses may run concurrently, but the sentence of imprisonment imposed for the felony of rape, forcible rape, sodomy, forcible sodomy or an attempt to commit any of the aforesaid shall run consecutively to the other sentences.

* * * * * *

The trial court denied the relief sought. The court of appeals reviewed the apparently conflicting decisions of the Eastern and Western Districts of the Missouri Court of Appeals and transferred the case here. The cases from the Eastern District are consistent with the views expressed by the trial court and the motion court in the present case. Cases from the Western District find ambiguity in the statute, and opt for a "rule of lenity."

We agree that there is ambiguity in the statute. The language makes it clear that sentences for "rape, forcible rape, sodomy, forcible sodomy, or attempt to commit any of the aforesaid" must be run consecutively to "other sentences," which are defined as "multiple sentences of imprisonment ... for other offenses committed during or at the same time...." The statute establishes two kinds of offenses for sentencing purposes--the listed offenses and "other offenses." It states clearly what the court must do if the defendant is convicted of an offense in each class. It does not, however, say in explicit language what must be done if there are multiple convictions of those offenses listed. We believe that the ambiguity must be resolved, not so much through a "rule of lenity" as in favor of according the trial court maximum discretion.

The respondent argues that such a construction is illogical, and that the legislature obviously did not intend such an illogical result. It is not for us to say whether the statute is logical or not. What we say is that the statute does not clearly circumscribe the discretion which trial judges usually have in sentencing.

The state argues that the trial judge, before pronouncing sentence, clearly advised the defendant of the sentence he was to receive, and so the defendant has no complaint. We quite agree that there is no basis for allowing the defendant to withdraw his guilty plea. The trial judge's remarks, however, indicate that he felt that he had pronounced the minimum sentence. We cannot say that the judge might not have pronounced a less severe sentence if he thought he had discretion to do so. The appropriate remedy is to remand for resentencing.

The defendant also argues that his guilty plea should be vacated because his counsel promised him that he would receive only one ten-year sentence. The trial judge's questioning of the defendant, as set out above, demonstrates that this contention is frivolous.

The judgment denying postconviction relief is reversed. The sentence, but not the conviction, is vacated. The case is remanded with directions to resentence the defendant on his plea of guilty.

ROBERTSON, COVINGTON and HOLSTEIN, JJ., concur.

RENDLEN, J., dissents in separate opinion filed.

HIGGINS and BILLINGS, JJ., dissent and concur in dissenting opinion of RENDLEN, J.

RENDLEN, Judge, dissenting.

Though this is a postconviction proceeding, the majority treats the cause as if on direct appeal from the original criminal trial and mistakenly fails to address the specific claim raised by appellant in his Rule 24.035 motion. Appellant contends "his trial attorney was ineffective for failing to correct the trial judge, who at the close of the hearing on the guilty plea stated that under the law, he was 'compelled to run sentences consecutively in these cases.' " Defense counsel was not required to so "correct" the trial judge, who accurately assessed his duty under the law extant at the time of sentencing in February 1986. It cannot be said that counsel was ineffective nor that his service to defendant rendered the plea involuntary.

Appellant was sentenced on his guilty plea February 19, 1986, and at that time, the only Missouri cases construing the applicable statutes on the issue of consecutive sentencing for multiple simultaneous sex offenses were Eastern District cases, including State v. Toney, 680 S.W.2d 268 (Mo.App.1984), and Adams v. State, 688 S.W.2d 401 (Mo.App.1985), which squarely held consecutive sentencing was mandated under § 558.026.1 in such instances. State v. Webb, 737 S.W.2d 197 (Mo.App.1987), the first Western District case construing § 558.026.1 as urged by appellant, was not decided until October 7, 1987. Counsel cannot be deemed ineffective for failing to prophesy reversals of positions and contrary statutory interpretation that may be announced in later years. Indeed, the Western District so held in the case of State v. Laney, 783 S.W.2d 425 (Mo.App.1989), which is directly apposite to the case at bar in that the appellant, sentenced before Webb was announced as the law in the Western District, claimed counsel was ineffective because § 558.026.1 was erroneously interpreted, and the Laney court correctly affirmed the trial court's denial of the appellant's 24.035 motion.

Further, if we condemn counsel for insufficient clairvoyance, Strickland v. Washington requires that in order to succeed on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, not only must counsel's performance be substandard, but appellant must demonstrate that actual prejudice...

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32 cases
  • State v. Cruz-Basurto
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • March 26, 2019
    ...an ambiguity existed relating to its application in cases involving multiple convictions involving the listed offenses. See Williams v. State , 800 S.W.2d 739 (Mo. banc 1990). The Court explained:The language [of section 558.026.1] makes it clear that sentences for "rape, forcible rape, sod......
  • State v. Lachterman
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • May 28, 1991
    ...statute. We are unable to discern, and defendant does not suggest, how this fact invokes any of the elements of estoppel. In Williams v. State, 800 S.W.2d 739 (Mo. banc 1990) and State v. Burgess, 800 S.W.2d 743 (Mo. banc 1990), our Supreme Court ruled that § 558.026 does not mandate consec......
  • State v. Scott
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • August 31, 2011
    ...not abuse its discretion in giving this instruction. Point denied.Sentencing Claim In his final point, Defendant claims, citing Williams v. State, 800 S.W.2d 739 (Mo. banc 1990), that the trial court plainly erred in ordering his sentences to run consecutively because the trial court was un......
  • Dawson v. State
    • United States
    • Missouri Court of Appeals
    • July 14, 2020
    ...misapprehension or misapplication of the law in sentencing the defendant. See Wraggs v. State , 549 S.W.2d 881 (Mo banc 1977) ; Williams v. State , 800 S.W.2d 739 (Mo. banc 1990) ; Pettis , 212 S.W.3d 189. That said, no Missouri court has presumed prejudice in such a post-conviction claim o......
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1 books & journal articles
  • Section 27.23 Concurrent or Consecutive Sentences
    • United States
    • The Missouri Bar Criminal Practice Deskbook Chapter 27 Sentencing
    • Invalid date
    ...Section 558.026.1. For cases interpreting whether sentences are mandated to be consecutive or concurrent, see: · Williams v. State, 800 S.W.2d 739 (Mo. banc 1990) · Roller v. State, 84 S.W.3d 525 (Mo. App. S.D. 2002) · State v. Taylor, 67 S.W.3d 713 (Mo. App. S.D. 2002) If a defendant who i......

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