This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).






Victor David Sanford, petitioner,





State of Minnesota,



Filed December 5, 2000


Willis, Judge


Hennepin County District Court

File No. 88021840


J. Anthony Torres, 1401 West 76th Street, Suite 400, Richfield, MN  55423 (for appellant)


Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN  55103; and


Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, Michael Richardson, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN  55487 (for respondent)


            Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge, Crippen, Judge, and Peterson, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            Appellant challenges the denial of his petition for postconviction relief.  Because he could have challenged the district court’s jury instruction regarding defense of dwelling in his direct appeal, we affirm.


            In January 1989, appellant Victor David Sanford was convicted of two counts of second-degree murder, one count of second-degree murder of an unborn child, and one count of attempted first-degree manslaughter.  He appealed, claiming (1) insufficient evidence to support the verdict, (2) an improper jury instruction on self-defense, (3) improper sentencing, (4) denial of due process, and (5) “errors” in the grand-jury proceedings.  This court affirmed the convictions.  State v. Sanford, 450 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. App. 1990). 

In 1990, Sanford petitioned for postconviction relief, again claiming that the district court’s self-defense jury instruction was improper.  The postconviction court denied his petition, and this court affirmed the denial.  Sanford v. State, 499 N.W.2d 496 (Minn. App. 1993), review denied (Minn. May 28, 1993).

            In September 1999, Sanford again petitioned for postconviction relief, claiming that recent Minnesota caselaw shows that at his trial the court gave an improper jury instruction regarding defense of dwelling.  The postconviction court denied Sanford’s petition, and this appeal followed.


            Review of a postconviction proceeding is limited to determining whether there is sufficient evidence to sustain the postconviction court’s findings; a postconviction court’s decision will not be disturbed absent an abuse of discretion.  Black v. State, 560 N.W.2d 83, 85 (Minn. 1997).  Where there has been a direct appeal, any matters that the appellant raised or could have raised will not be considered in a subsequent proceeding for postconviction relief.  Sutherlin v. State, 574 N.W.2d 428, 432 (Minn. 1998) (citing State v. Knaffla, 309 Minn. 246, 252, 243 N.W.2d 737, 741 (1976)), cert. denied, 524 U.S. 942 (1998).  But the Knaffla rule does not apply when a petitioner’s claim is so novel that there was no legal basis for it at the time of appeal or in limited situations where fairness so requires.  Sutherlin, 574 N.W.2d at 432.

            In his direct appeal, Sanford raised the issue of an improper self-defense jury instruction, claiming that a subjective standard should have been used.  Sanford, 450 N.W.2d at 587.  He now argues that the self-defense instruction given at his trial misstated Minnesota law regarding defense of dwelling.  Specifically, Sanford argues that the district court misinformed the jury that (1) Sanford had to fear great bodily harm or death to justify the use of deadly force in defending against the commission of a felony in his home and (2) he had a duty to retreat while defending himself in his home. 

            Sanford bases his argument on two cases decided after his direct appeal.  In the first case, the Minnesota Supreme Court held that fear of great bodily harm or death is not necessary to justify the use of deadly force to defend against the commission of a felony in one’s dwelling.  State v. Pendleton, 567 N.W.2d 265, 269 (Minn. 1997).  Two years later, the supreme court held that there is no duty to retreat when defending against the commission of a felony in one’s dwelling.  State v. Carothers, 594 N.W.2d 897, 903-04 (Minn. 1999).  Sanford contends that Pendleton and Carothers represent changes in the law so that the arguments he now makes were not available to him at the time of his direct appeal, and, therefore, review of his claim is not precluded by the Knaffla rule.

But, as the postconviction court noted, because both the Pendleton and Carothers courts relied on existing law in arriving at their respective conclusions, Sanford could have made in his direct appeal the arguments he now makes.  The Pendleton court stated that its decision was “based upon the plain meaning of [Minn. Stat. § 609.065], its legislative history and the canons of statutory construction.”  Pendleton, 567 N.W.2d at 269.[1]   Similarly, the Carothers court relied on existing law.  Carothers, 594 N.W.2d at 900-01 (stating that it was settled at common law that there was no duty to retreat while in or defending one’s dwelling) (citations omitted).  Therefore, the arguments Sanford now makes were available to him at the time of his direct appeal because they “had a reasonable basis in the law at the time of his appeal.”  Ademodi v. State, 616 N.W.2d 716, 719 (Minn. 2000).  Further, we conclude that this is not one of the limited situations where fairness requires a reversal of the postconviction court’s denial of relief.

            Because the arguments Sanford now makes were available to him at the time of his direct appeal, the postconviction court did not abuse its discretion in denying his petition.



[1] Minn. Stat. § 609.065 has been in substantially the same form since 1978, with the exception of minor amendments that are not relevant here.