Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
In 2018, petitioner was convicted of first-degree premediated murder and sentenced to life in prison. His conviction was affirmed on direct appeal. In this appeal, petitioner challenged the District Court’s denial of his second petition for postconviction relief. Petitioner presented several arguments, including numerous claims of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel, that the District Court abused its discretion in denying a motion to compel discovery and a motion for a hearing on juror misconduct, and that the District Court abused its discretion in denying an evidentiary hearing on his second postconviction petition.
The Supreme Court held that (1) none of petitioner’s ineffective assistance of appellate counsel claims satisfy the requirements articulated in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984); (2) the District Court did not abuse its discretion by denying petitioner’s postconviction motion to compel discovery; (3) the District Court did not abuse its discretion by denying petitioner’s postconviction motion for a hearing on alleged juror misconduct; and (4) the District Court did not abuse its discretion by dismissing petitioner’s postconviction petition without an evidentiary hearing. Affirmed.
Sufficiency of the Evidence
Defendant appealed convictions of first-degree premeditated murder and second-degree intentional murder following a jury trial. Defendant argued that the evidence was insufficient to prove the element of premeditation for the first-degree murder offense and that he was deprived of a fair trial because the District Court committed reversible error in managing the trial and the jury instructions.
The Supreme Court held that (1) the State presented sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant committed premeditated murder; (2) the District Court did not violate defendant’s constitutional right to confront witnesses by preventing defense counsel from telling the jury that before accepting a plea agreement, the testifying codefendant faced a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of release, when the District Court allowed extensive cross-examination about other aspects of the plea agreement and sufficiently communicated the potential bias of the codefendant; (3) although the District Court may have erred by not identifying the testifying codefendant as an accomplice in its jury instructions, the unobjected-to error did not affect defendant’s substantial rights; (4) the District Court did not abuse its discretion by giving a jury instruction that limited the jury’s use of evidence that was admitted to test the thoroughness of the investigation conducted by law enforcement; (5) because defendant failed to establish more than one trial error, his cumulative effect argument fails; and (6) the District Court erred by entering a judgment of conviction for second-degree intentional murder because this offense is a lesser-included offense of first-degree premeditated murder, an offense for which defendant was also convicted. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
Jennifer L. Casanova-Roers was reinstated to the practice of law.