This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).







Joseph David Pelawa, petitioner,





State of Minnesota,




Filed March 20, 2001


Huspeni, Judge*


Beltrami County District Court

File No. K496001213


Douglas W. Thomson, Douglas W. Thomson Ltd., Suite W-1260, First National Bank Building, 332 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for appellant)


Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Kelly O’Neill Moller, Assistant Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103; and


Timothy R. Faver, Beltrami County Attorney, 207 4th Street N.W., Bemidji, MN 56601 (for respondent)




            Considered and decided by Toussaint, Presiding Judge, Hanson, Judge, and Huspeni, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            Appellant, in seeking reversal of an order denying postconviction petition relief, argues that the negligence of the driver of the car with which appellant’s vehicle collided head-on was a superseding intervening cause of the accident, and, therefore, evidence was insufficient to prove causation in a criminal vehicular homicide conviction.  Because appellant has already raised the issue of causation on direct appeal, and because the district court did not abuse its discretion by summarily denying the postconviction petition, we affirm. 


            Appellant Joseph David Pelawa crossed over the centerline of the highway and collided head-on with another vehicle, resulting in the deaths of two individuals.  Pelawa was charged with four counts of criminal vehicular homicide; upon motion for directed verdict at trial, two counts relating to driving while under the influence were dismissed.  The jury returned guilty verdicts on the remaining two counts of criminal vehicular homicide resulting from operating a motor vehicle in a grossly negligent manner.

On direct appeal, this court affirmed Pelawa’s convictions.  State v. Pelawa, 590 N.W.2d 142 (Minn. App. 1999).  The Minnesota Supreme Court denied further review.  Pelawa’s subsequent petition for postconviction relief was denied by the district court.  This appeal follows.


            We review a postconviction proceeding to determine whether the evidence is sufficient to sustain the findings of the postconviction court.  Scruggs v. State, 484 N.W.2d 21, 25 (Minn. 1992).  Absent an abuse of discretion, a postconviction court’s decision will not be disturbed on appeal.  McMaster v. State, 551 N.W.2d 218 (Minn. 1996).

A postconviction court may summarily deny a petition “when the issues raised in it have previously been decided by the court of appeals or the supreme court in the same case.”  Minn. Stat. § 590.04, subd. 3 (2000).  In addition, where direct appeal has been taken, all matters raised therein, and all claims known but not raised, will not be considered upon a subsequent petition for postconviction relief.  Dukes v. State, 621 N.W.2d 246, 251 (Minn. 2001); Scales v. State, 620 N.W.2d 706, 708 (Minn. 2001); State v. Knaffla, 309 Minn. 246, 252, 243 N.W.2d 737, 741 (Minn. 1976).

Pelawa argues that at trial the state failed to present sufficient evidence of causation, and that there is “absolutely no doubt that King [the other driver] drove negligently in more than one respect.  This negligence certainly contributed to the cause of the accident.”  Additionally, Pelawa argues that King was found to be driving under the influence, and that his actions should have been considered a superceding intervening cause of the accident. 

The district court found that the issue of causation raised in Pelawa’s petition for postconviction relief had already been argued, and “appealed all the way to the Supreme Court and [it] is now time to put [it] * * * to rest.”  We agree with the assessment of the district court.  In Pelawa’s direct appeal, this court concluded that

[t]he evidence was sufficient for the jury to find appellant [Pelawa] guilty on two counts of causing the death of another by operating a motor vehicle in a grossly negligent manner.


Pelawa, 590 N.W.2d at 150.  Furthermore, this court noted that Pelawa’s contention that the other driver caused the accident had no merit.  Id. at n.1.  Pelawa may not re-litigate the causation claim in a subsequent petition for postconviction relief. 

Pelawa also argues that a case decided after the conclusion of his direct appeal presents new law regarding causation and entitles him to a new trial.  We note that in In re Welfare of C.P.W., 601 N.W.2d 204, 209 (Minn. App. 1999), this court did address the principle of a superceding intervening cause in a criminal vehicular homicide case.  Pelawa’s reliance on C.P.W. is misplaced, however.  There is no new statement of law in C.P.W. to aid Pelawa.  Further, King’s driving conduct and its possible contribution to the collision were argued at Pelawa’s trial.  His counsel urged, during closing argument, that

[i]f the truth were known, bearing in mind * * * the state of sobriety that he [King] was in on the night of this accident, is it not * * * as likely or more likely that he [King] was the cause of this accident and his driving conduct was the cause of this accident and not the driving conduct of my client [Pelawa].


Pelawa’s claim that there was insufficient evidence of causation has already been decided on direct appeal by this court.  Nothing in C.P.W. added to or modified existing law regarding causation.  Therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion in summarily denying Pelawa’s petition for postconviction relief.




*  Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.