Wilson v. State, No. 73285

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Missouri
Writing for the CourtHIGGINS; ROBERTSON; BLACKMAR, J., dissents in separate opinion filed in which SEILER; BLACKMAR
Citation813 S.W.2d 833
Docket NumberNo. 73285
Decision Date23 July 1991
PartiesJohnny Lee WILSON, Movant-Appellant, v. STATE of Missouri, Respondent.

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813 S.W.2d 833
Johnny Lee WILSON, Movant-Appellant,
v.
STATE of Missouri, Respondent.
No. 73285.
Supreme Court of Missouri,
En Banc.
July 23, 1991.
Rehearing Denied Sept. 10, 1991.

William J. Swift, Columbia, for movant-appellant.

William L. Webster, Atty. Gen., Elizabeth L. Ziegler, Asst. Atty. Gen., Jefferson City, for respondent.

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Charles W. German, M. Elizabeth Kirkland, Kansas City, and James W. Ellis, and Barbara E. Bergman, Albuquerque, N.M., for amicus American Ass'n of Mental Retardation.

HIGGINS, Senior Judge.

Johnny Lee Wilson pleaded guilty April 30, 1987, to first degree murder, and the trial court, the Honorable L. Thomas Elliston, Judge, sentenced Wilson to life imprisonment without eligibility for probation or parole pursuant to Wilson's plea agreement. Judgment was entered accordingly. Wilson filed a motion to vacate the judgment pursuant to Rule 24.035. After an evidentiary hearing, the motion court, the Honorable C. David Darnold, Judge, denied Wilson relief and entered judgment accordingly. Wilson appealed from that judgment. The Court of Appeals, Southern District, affirmed. This Court then granted transfer. Affirmed.

I.

Wilson commenced this proceeding by filing an unverified pro se Rule 24.035 motion June 17, 1988. Pursuant to Rule 24.035(e), the motion court appointed counsel June 29, 1988, to represent Wilson. Counsel requested an extension of thirty days in which to file an amended motion, which the court granted July 28, 1988. Counsel timely filed a verified amended Rule 24.035 motion August 26, 1988. Whether the motion court had jurisdiction over Wilson's post-conviction proceedings when a timely filed, properly verified, amended motion was filed subsequent to the filing of an unverified pro se motion is an issue of first impression before this Court. Because the sole deficiency in the pro se motion, the absence of verification, was remedied by a timely filed, verified, amended motion that presented the claims litigated in this proceeding, the purpose of the verification requirement was satisfied in this case. See Kilgore v. State, 791 S.W.2d 393, 395 (Mo. banc 1990). This Court finds that the motion court had jurisdiction to proceed on the amended motion.

II.

Wilson advances three grounds for relief. He argues the motion court erred in denying him relief because the State failed to make available allegedly exculpatory evidence during the post-conviction proceeding; he contends the motion court erred in finding his guilty plea was voluntarily given; and he asserts ineffective assistance of his post-conviction counsel.

At the outset, this Court disposes of pending motions that were taken with the case. Wilson's Motion to Strike Copies of Respondent's Exhibits A-H and L-M and Motion to Deem as Before This Court in its Entirety the Transcript of Competency and Suppression Proceedings are sustained. His Motion to File a Substitute Verified Pro Se 24.035 Motion and Motion to Supplement the Record on Appeal, or in the Alternative, to Remand to the Circuit Court For a Hearing on Newly Discovered Evidence, filed with this Court on the morning of oral argument, are overruled. The subject matter of the latter motion, purported admissions by Chris Brownfield of responsibility for this crime, has no bearing on the voluntariness of Wilson's guilty plea, particularly under the motion court's finding that those statements that were before it were not credible and the cases holding that Missouri's post-conviction relief rules are not a proper vehicle for the examination of claims of newly discovered evidence. See State v. Mims, 674 S.W.2d 536, 539 (Mo. banc 1984); Westmoreland v. State, 594 S.W.2d 596, 598 (Mo. banc 1980); Beishir v. State, 480 S.W.2d 883, 885 (Mo.1972). The sole purpose of this post-conviction proceeding is to determine whether the proceedings that led to Wilson's conviction were violative of any constitutional requirements or if the judgment of conviction is otherwise void. Fields v. State, 572 S.W.2d 477, 480 (Mo. banc 1978); Wright v. State, 459 S.W.2d 370 (Mo.1970); Loewe v. State, 778 S.W.2d 331, 333 (Mo.App.1989). This proceeding is not the proper vehicle for relitigating Wilson's guilt or innocence. Fields, 572 S.W.2d at 480. Newly discovered evidence, if available, may better serve Wilson in a Petition for a Writ of Habeas

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Corpus under Rule 91, see White v. State, 779 S.W.2d 571, 573 (Mo. banc 1989), in a Motion to Withdraw Guilty Plea under Rule 29.07(d), or in a request for a pardon from the governor under the Missouri Constitution. See State v. Warden, 753 S.W.2d 63, 64 n. 2 (Mo.App.1988), citing Whitaker v. State, 451 S.W.2d 11, 15 (Mo.1970). Wilson also contends the State failed to make available allegedly exculpatory evidence in the Rule 24.035 proceeding. Such evidence surfaced subsequent to Wilson's guilty plea. As previously noted, this newly discovered evidence was not cognizable in the post-conviction proceeding; hence, the motion court properly denied Wilson relief on this ground.

This Court's review of the motion court's denial of post-conviction relief is not a de novo review; rather, the findings of the motion court are presumptively correct. See Crosswhite v. State, 426 S.W.2d 67, 70 (Mo.1968). This Court's review is limited to whether the findings, conclusions and judgment of the motion court are clearly erroneous. Rule 24.035(j). Such findings and conclusions are deemed clearly erroneous only if, after reviewing the entire record, this Court is left with "the definite and firm impression that a mistake has been made." Day v. State, 770 S.W.2d 692, 695-96 (Mo. banc 1989), citing Sanders v. State, 738 S.W.2d 856, 857 (Mo. banc 1987).

Wilson contends the motion court erred in finding his guilty plea was voluntarily given. He argues his mental retardation prevented him from consulting with his attorneys "in a meaningful fashion" regarding his waiver of the constitutional rights and protections that accompany a trial. As this Court stated in Wilkins v. State, 802 S.W.2d 491, 502 (Mo. banc 1991), "[a] finding of competence to proceed to trial is tantamount to a finding that one is competent to enter a plea of guilty." To be competent to plead guilty, Wilson had to have a sufficient present ability to consult with his attorneys with a reasonable degree of rational understanding and had to have a rational and factual understanding of the proceedings against him. Dusky v. United States, 362 U.S. 402, 80 S.Ct. 788, 4 L.Ed.2d 824 (1960); Brown v. State, 485 S.W.2d 424, 429 (Mo.1972); Pulliam v. State, 480 S.W.2d 896, 903 (Mo.1972). Some degree of mental retardation does not automatically render him incapable of entering a voluntary plea of guilty. Id. at 904; State v. Lowe, 442 S.W.2d 525, 529-30 (Mo.1969). Whether Wilson understood the nature of the proceedings against him and had a sufficient present ability to consult with his attorneys in this case was one of the issues properly before the motion court for determination. Martin v. State, 558 S.W.2d 701, 704 (Mo.App.1977).

Wilson grounds his contention of motion court error in the confluence of his "impaired developmental history, [his] actions on the day at issue, the police investigation, the competency proceedings and Judge Elliston's conduct therein when reviewed in light of [Wilson's] responses and lack of responses at the plea hearing and Chris Brownfield's admissions of responsibility." Wilson contends this Court must determine whether his plea was voluntary by analyzing those factors under the "totality of the circumstances" standard that the petitioner sought to be applied in Henderson v. Morgan, 426 U.S. 637, 644, 96 S.Ct. 2253, 2257, 49 L.Ed.2d 108, 114 (1976). Wilson's reliance on Henderson is misplaced, however, because the U.S. Supreme Court did not adopt that standard; rather, the court held that "a plea cannot support a judgment of guilt unless it was voluntary in a constitutional sense" and noted that:

A plea may be involuntary either because the accused does not understand the nature of the constitutional protections that he is waiving ... or because he has such an incomplete understanding of the charge that his plea cannot stand as an intelligent admission of guilt. Without adequate notice of the nature of the charge against him, or proof that he in fact understood the charge, the plea cannot be voluntary in this latter sense.

Id. (citations omitted). The defendant in Henderson had not received notice of all the elements of the crime to which he pleaded guilty. Wilson, however, was advised

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of all the elements of the offense with which he was charged, and the defendant's mental retardation in Henderson played no part in the court's decision.

The trial court conducted a mental competency hearing April 15, 1987, and found Wilson competent to proceed to trial. The evidence presented at the hearing included a report from Dr. Jayaratna, M.D., the psychiatrist who reported on the mental examination of Wilson at the Fulton State Hospital; the testimony and report of Dr. Foster, Ph.D., a psychologist who reviewed and analyzed Jayaratna's psychological testing and results; and the testimony and report of Dr. Logan, M.D., a psychiatrist who conducted a mental examination of Wilson subsequent to Jayaratna's examination. The trial court, after conducting a guilty plea hearing April 30, 1987, also found Wilson competent to plead guilty. Based upon the record created by those two hearings and Wilson's testimony and conduct before the motion court, the motion court found:

that movant does have a mental defect, but even with the mental defect, he was able to assist counsel in his defense, understood the proceedings against him, and was able to assist in his own defense and evaluate the various options open to him in addition to pleading guilty. The court further finds that movant's plea of guilty was made voluntarily and intelligently, with a...

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148 practice notes
  • State v. Skillicorn, No. 78864
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • April 29, 1997
    ...Once the time within which to file a motion for new trial has expired, a remedy no longer lies through direct appeal. Wilson v. State, 813 S.W.2d 833, 834-35 (Mo. banc 1991). Moreover, we find nothing in Nicklasson's letter that is particularly exculpatory for Skillicorn. Although the state......
  • Edwards v. State, No. SC 86895.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • August 8, 2006
    ...that a mistake was made." Id. The motion court's findings of fact and conclusions of law are presumed to be correct. Wilson v. State, 813 S.W.2d 833, 835 (Mo. banc 1991). Exclusion of evidence of accomplice's sentence Edwards' first point on appeal is that his appellate counsel was ineffect......
  • Johnson v. State, No. SC 97330
    • United States
    • Missouri Supreme Court
    • July 16, 2019
    ...disability does not automatically render a defendant incapable of knowingly and voluntarily pleading guilty. Wilson v. State , 813 S.W.2d 833, 835 (Mo. banc 1991) ; see also Pulliam v. State , 480 S.W.2d 896, 904 (Mo. 1972) ; Evans v. State , 467 S.W.2d 920, 923 (Mo. 1971) ; State v. Lowe ,......
  • State v. Kelley, Nos. 19988
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • July 17, 1997
    ...claims of newly discovered evidence are not cognizable in a postconviction relief case as the motion court stated. See Wilson v. State, 813 S.W.2d 833, 834 (Mo.banc 1991). He insists, however, that his claim falls within the purview of DeClue v. State, 579 S.W.2d 158 (Mo.App.1979). The DeCl......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
148 cases
  • State v. Skillicorn, No. 78864
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • April 29, 1997
    ...Once the time within which to file a motion for new trial has expired, a remedy no longer lies through direct appeal. Wilson v. State, 813 S.W.2d 833, 834-35 (Mo. banc 1991). Moreover, we find nothing in Nicklasson's letter that is particularly exculpatory for Skillicorn. Although the state......
  • Edwards v. State, No. SC 86895.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • August 8, 2006
    ...that a mistake was made." Id. The motion court's findings of fact and conclusions of law are presumed to be correct. Wilson v. State, 813 S.W.2d 833, 835 (Mo. banc 1991). Exclusion of evidence of accomplice's sentence Edwards' first point on appeal is that his appellate counsel was ineffect......
  • Johnson v. State, No. SC 97330
    • United States
    • Missouri Supreme Court
    • July 16, 2019
    ...disability does not automatically render a defendant incapable of knowingly and voluntarily pleading guilty. Wilson v. State , 813 S.W.2d 833, 835 (Mo. banc 1991) ; see also Pulliam v. State , 480 S.W.2d 896, 904 (Mo. 1972) ; Evans v. State , 467 S.W.2d 920, 923 (Mo. 1971) ; State v. Lowe ,......
  • State v. Kelley, Nos. 19988
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • July 17, 1997
    ...claims of newly discovered evidence are not cognizable in a postconviction relief case as the motion court stated. See Wilson v. State, 813 S.W.2d 833, 834 (Mo.banc 1991). He insists, however, that his claim falls within the purview of DeClue v. State, 579 S.W.2d 158 (Mo.App.1979). The DeCl......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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