Submitted: September 28, 2018
from United States District Court for the Eastern District of
Missouri - St. Louis
COLLOTON, GRUENDER, and GRASZ, Circuit Judges.
COLLOTON, Circuit Judge.
State of Missouri appeals the district court's grant of
habeas corpus relief to Joseph Harden. Harden was convicted
at a bench trial in Missouri state court of first-degree
murder, first-degree robbery, and two counts of armed
criminal action. The court sentenced him to life in prison.
The Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed Harden's
convictions on direct review, rejecting his claims of
insufficient evidence. After exhausting remedies in state
court, Harden petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus in the
district court under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. The district
court granted relief on Harden's claim that there was
insufficient evidence to support the conviction for
first-degree robbery and the corresponding conviction for
armed criminal action. The State appeals, and we conclude
that the Missouri Court of Appeals did not unreasonably apply
clearly established federal law as determined by the Supreme
Court. We therefore reverse the order granting in part
evidence at trial showed that on July 7, 2008, Harden picked
up Danny Singletary in Dyersburg, Tennessee, and brought him
to Al Harper's house in Paragould, Arkansas. Harper paid
Harden seventy dollars for this favor. Singletary recalls
Harden saying that he was "broke."
that night, the three men made their way back to Dyersburg.
While they were driving through Hayti, Missouri, in the early
morning hours, a police officer stopped the vehicle and
arrested Singletary for driving while intoxicated. The
officer released Harden and Harper.
and Harper walked to a nearby automated teller machine, where
Harper made withdrawals for $20 and $200 at 4:23 a.m. and
4:25 a.m., respectively. Surveillance video from the ATM
shows Harper making the withdrawals in Harden's presence
and giving Harden some of the cash.
between 5:30 and 6:00 a.m., a passing motorist saw two men
outside Brown's Grocery, which is located about a mile
from the ATM. One man was using a pay phone and the other man
was sitting down. Harden acknowledged at trial that he used a
pay phone outside Brown's Grocery that morning to ask a
friend to come and give a ride to him and Harper.
7:00 and 7:30 a.m., two passing motorists saw a shirtless man
walking along the highway near a farm shop that was 250 to
300 yards from Brown's Grocery. One of the motorists
observed that the man was "coming out from" the
farm shop. The other motorist, who owned the farm shop,
observed inch-tall letters tattooed across the upper part of
the man's back. Harden has his surname tattooed in large
letters across his shoulders.
the farm shop owner arrived at his business, he found
Harper's body on the ground behind the shop. Police
recovered a bloodied concrete block and knife in a field near
the farm shop. Forensic testing showed that the blood on both
items was consistent with Harper's DNA profile.
Harper's body was left with a smashed face, a cut throat,
and multiple stab wounds to the chest.
later recovered a t-shirt, hat, and blood-stained jeans that
Harden had discarded at nearby locations that morning. DNA on
the t-shirt and jeans was consistent with the DNA profiles of
both Harden and Harper. DNA on the hat was consistent with
also recovered Harper's wallet from a trash can in the
parking lot of Brown's Grocery. The wallet contained a
debit card but no cash. Harper had used the debit card ...