This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Jerome Wilson, petitioner,
State of Minnesota,
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 9905185
Mary M. McMahon, McMahon & Associates, Criminal Defense, Ltd., 2499 Rice Street, Suite 140, Roseville, MN 55113-3724 (for appellant)
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103; and
Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, Jean E. Burdorf, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, Suite 425, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge, Anderson, Judge, and Wright, Judge.
On the evening of December 25, 1998, appellant Terrence Wilson and his girlfriend, R.S., became involved in an argument regarding his possession of a handgun while he was consuming alcohol. During the argument, Wilson’s handgun discharged, striking R.S. in the head and killing her. R.S. was a few weeks pregnant and the unborn child also died as a result of the shooting. A.S., Wilson’s three-year-old daughter, witnessed the shooting. Wilson was indicted on January 19, 1999, for one count each of first- and second-degree murder, and one count of second-degree murder of an unborn child.
Wilson’s trial was scheduled to begin on October 26, 1999. Before testimony began, the state and Wilson reached a plea agreement in which Wilson agreed to plead guilty to second-degree murder, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.19, subd. 2(1) (1998), and second-degree murder of an unborn child, in violation of Minn. Stat § 609.2662(2) (1998). In exchange for the guilty pleas, the state dismissed the first-degree murder charge. While each second-degree murder count carried a maximum sentence of 40 years, the parties agreed that Wilson could be sentenced, without objection from the state, to a maximum of approximately 33 years.
At the plea hearing, when the district court asked Wilson whether anybody had made any “threats, promises, or other inducements,” with regard to the guilty pleas, Wilson answered in the negative. Wilson also responded affirmatively to the court’s question of whether he was pleading guilty freely and voluntarily. The district court also asked Wilson if he knew what his options were and if he understood that he had an absolute right to a jury trial. Wilson responded affirmatively to both questions.
On November 3, 1999, Wilson sent a letter to the court requesting to withdraw his guilty plea. At his November 22, 1999, sentencing hearing, Wilson told the district court that he was “pretty much coerced into taking the plea.” Wilson stated that his attorneys guaranteed he would lose at trial and would be sentenced to 47 years. Wilson also stated that “my lawyers told me to come in and lie and that’s the only way we’re going to get the deal.” The district court denied Wilson’s request to withdraw his plea. The district court then imposed consecutive sentences of 252 months (21 years) for the second-degree murder of R.S. and 150 months (12.5 years) for the second-degree murder of an unborn child.
Wilson did not pursue a direct appeal of his convictions. He petitioned the district court for postconviction relief in May 2002 and requested an evidentiary hearing. On June 11, 2002, the district court denied Wilson’s petition for postconviction relief without a hearing. This appeal followed.
On appeal from summary denial of a petition for postconviction relief, a reviewing court determines only whether there is sufficient evidence to support the postconviction court’s findings, and will not reverse the district court’s ruling absent an abuse of discretion. Scruggs v. State, 484 N.W.2d 21, 25 (Minn. 1992). A district court must grant a hearing on the issues raised in the petition “[u]nless the petition and the files and records of the proceeding conclusively show that the petitioner is entitled to no relief.” Minn. Stat. § 590.04, subd. 1 (2000). “[A]n evidentiary hearing is necessary ‘whenever material facts are in dispute that * * * must be resolved in order to determine the issues raised on the merits.’” State v. Rhodes, 627 N.W.2d 74, 86 (Minn. 2001)(quoting Hodgson v. State, 540 N.W.2d 515, 517 (Minn. 1995)). An evidentiary hearing
is not required unless the petitioner alleges such facts which, if proved by a fair preponderance of the evidence, would entitle him or her to the requested relief.
Roby v. State, 547 N.W.2d 354, 356 (Minn. 1996) (citations omitted). “The allegations raised in the petition must be more than argumentative assertions without factual support.” Id. (quotation omitted).
Wilson argues that the district court should have granted him an evidentiary hearing on two issues: whether Wilson’s attorneys coerced him into pleading guilty and whether he was denied effective assistance of counsel when his appellate attorney “denied him a right to appeal.” Wilson also argues that his trial attorneys were ineffective because they failed to interview eyewitnesses. Upon careful review of the record, we disagree.
A guilty plea is valid if the defendant knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily entered the plea. State v. Trott, 338 N.W.2d 248, 251 (Minn. 1983). A finding of coercion requires “actual or threatened physical harm, or * * * mental coercion overbearing the will of the defendant.” State v. Ecker, 524 N.W.2d 712, 719 (Minn. 1994) (quotation omitted). Wilson contends that his trial attorneys coerced his guilty plea by failing to accurately represent the risks associated with going to trial.
At Wilson’s guilty plea hearing, a colloquy was held pursuant to Minn. R. Crim. P. 11. Wilson’s sworn responses to questioning establish that Wilson understood that if he proceeded to trial and lost, he faced up to 47 years’ imprisonment. Wilson also acknowledged that he and his attorneys had discussed possible defenses to the case. In response to questioning by the district court, Wilson confirmed that he wanted to give up his right to a jury trial and agreed that no one had made “any threats, promises, or other inducements in order to get [him] to plead guilty.”
Three weeks later, at the sentencing hearing, Wilson moved to withdraw his guilty plea, advancing arguments similar to those raised in his postconviction petition and its subsequent appeal. Wilson stated that he “was pretty much coerced into taking the plea” and that he “was guaranteed to lose at trial and receive 47 years.” Finding no grounds to grant the motion to withdraw and no evidence that Wilson lied during the plea hearing, the district court denied Wilson’s motion.
Based on Wilson’s testimony, we conclude that Wilson’s plea was voluntary. What Wilson claims was coercion was simply his attorneys providing him a realistic view of his prospects for winning at trial, the consequences of losing at trial, and the length of his potential sentence without the benefit of a plea agreement. In light of Wilson’s sworn testimony during the plea hearing colloquy, the record is devoid of any evidence that his attorneys guaranteed he would be convicted at trial. Wilson’s claim that he was subjected to mental coercion or that his will was overborne is without factual support. Wilson’s coercion argument, therefore, did not merit an evidentiary hearing. See Roby, 547 N.W.2d at 356. In denying Wilson’s coercion claim, the district court did not abuse its discretion.
Wilson asserts that his trial attorneys were ineffective when they failed to question witnesses and conduct an in-depth investigation. Wilson also argues that he was denied a right to appeal, which, based on Wilson’s arguments in support of this claim, we also view as an allegation of ineffective assistance of counsel.
In a postconviction case, the petitioner must allege facts that show counsel’s representation did not meet an objective standard of reasonableness and “that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different.” Gates v. State, 398 N.W.2d 558, 561 (Minn. 1987) (quotation omitted). “There is a strong presumption that a counsel’s performance falls within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance.” Hodgson v. State, 540 N.W.2d 515, 518 (Minn. 1995) (quotation omitted).
As to his trial attorneys, Wilson simply makes argumentative assertions. Without any factual support, Wilson’s argument fails to identify which witness interviews and what further investigation his trial attorneys should have pursued. Wilson has failed to allege any facts that would support a finding by the district court that his trial attorneys’ representation was below an objective standard of reasonableness. The strong presumption of reasonableness, therefore, prevails. For the same reasons, Wilson’s allegations are not sufficient to require an evidentiary hearing. Roby, 547 N.W.2d at 356.
In support of his claim of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel, Wilson submits a letter he received from an Assistant State Public Defender, stating that her “office is not appealing your conviction or sentence.” We conclude that, in light of the district court record, the decision of Wilson’s appellate attorney was a reasonable exercise of professional judgment. Wilson has not attempted to show, and we glean no basis from the record to conclude, that appealing his case would have rendered a different result. See e.g. Voorhees v. State, 627 N.W.2d 642, 649 (Minn. 2001) (stating that appellant’s claim that appellate attorney was ineffective for failure to file petition for review had no merit when appellant failed to attempt to show prejudice). When it denied Wilson’s ineffective assistance of counsel claims without an evidentiary hearing, the district court did not abuse its discretion.
Wilson raises several other issues, none of which were argued before the district court. Because they are raised for the first time on appeal, we decline to address them. Roby, 547 N.W.2d at 357 (Minn. 1996) (citation omitted) (noting that this court generally will not decide issues not raised before the district court).