This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).






William Pettit, petitioner,


State of Minnesota,


Filed July 13, 2004


Stoneburner, Judge


Ramsey County District Court

File No. K3981044


William Pettit, Minnesota Correctional Facility Rush City, 7600 525th Street, Rush City, MN 55069 (pro se appellant)


Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Suite 1800, NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2134; and


Susan Gaertner, Ramsey County Attorney, Darrell C. Hill, Assistant County Attorney,  Melissa M. Saterbak, Certified Student Attorney, Ramsey County Government Center West, Suite 315, 50 West Kellogg Boulevard, St. Paul, MN 55102 (for respondent)


            Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge; Schumacher, Judge; and Stoneburner, Judge.



U N P U B L I S H E D  O P I N I O N




            William Pettit appeals the denial of his petition for postconviction relief, arguing that he should be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea because, due to mental illness, he did not understand the plea, and, in the alternative, his sentence was the result of bias and should be reduced.



Pettit was charged with second-degree murder in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.19, subd. 1(1), for killing a sleeping person by striking him on the head with a rock.  Pettit entered into an agreement to plead guilty in exchange for a sentence that would be half of the difference between the sentence for intentional murder and felony murder. 

            At the plea hearing, Pettit testified that he had reviewed the written plea petition and signed it prior to the hearing and that he understood the information as he went through the petition line-by-line with his attorney.  Pettit further testified that he understood the terms of the plea agreement as placed on the record and as written in paragraph 20 of the plea petition and that he had no questions about the plea agreement.  Pettit was questioned about, and indicated his understanding of, the rights associated with trial that would be waived by pleading guilty.  Pettit testified that he felt that he understood everything that was happening at the plea hearing.  He lucidly answered questions about his personal history and about the crime, admitting that he struck the sleeping victim with a rock more than twice, with the intent to kill him.  Pettit did not dispute the medical examiner’s conclusion that his actions caused the victim’s death.  Pettit apologized to the victim’s family, stating, “I lost my self control and I did something stupid and I’m prepared to pay for it.”

            At the sentencing hearing, held approximately six weeks after the plea hearing, Pettit initially raised a pro se challenge to the constitutionality of Minn. Stat. § 609.19, arguing that the statute does not contain an “enacting clause” and that because the statute book is copyrighted, the statutes are the sole property of the person who copyrighted them and cannot be the laws of Minnesota.  The district court rejected his argument as “absurd . . . almost . . . delusional.”  Asked by the district court twice if he intended to go forward with his plea of guilty, Pettit responded affirmatively both times.  Relatives of the victim read statements into the record, and Pettit’s attorney spoke in support of the plea agreement.  Urged by the court to address the victim’s family members, who were not present at the plea hearing, Pettit said:

I’m sorry.  You know. I wish I could take the rock back because every day I have to live with the fact that I did something wrong and I’m going to have to pay for it the rest of my life.  No matter what anybody says.  I have to live with the fact of what I did the rest of my life and it hurts, it really does.


The district court engaged in quite a bit of dialogue with Pettit about his history and stated:  “You have a bizarre family background, Mr. Pettit, whether it is your mother or yourself, very bizarre.  And I’m not sure I should even accept the plea of guilty.  I see you as an extremely, extremely dangerous person who when he gets out will probably do exactly the same thing again to somebody who p***** him off.  Is there anything you would like to tell me about that?”  Pettit responded that he does not see himself as a dangerous person but as someone who loses his temper and gets mad sometimes.  He stated:  “But I know I will never do this again; I know in my heart because I control my actions and I know what I will do.”

The district court told Pettit that his 228 months in prison “will be hell on earth for you . . . and your punishment there will not be just the time that I’m imposing on you, but probably your relationships with the other inmates there.  You will be lucky if you come out of St. Cloud alive.  Is there anything more you would like to say?”  Pettit responded: “Sounds like a threat to me, Your Honor . . .  I would just like to state for the record that my name is William Richard Pettit, Jr., upper and lower case, and just the fact that the criminal complaint is riddled with error.[1]  That is all.”

            The district court specifically noted on the record that “it is apparent that you are perfectly competent to proceed” but “it is also very clear to me that you are a mentally ill person . . . and I would strongly suggest that when you are in prison, you take advantage of all the psychological and psychiatric services that the state prison system offers.”  The district court accepted the guilty plea and sentenced Pettit pursuant to the plea agreement, stating on the record factors that supported the downward departure. 

            After sentence was imposed, the district court again asked Pettit if he wanted to say anything.  He said, “Yeah, but you’ll just laugh at me. . . . I’m not a subject of Great

Britain’s laws.  That is all I would like to say.”  The district court then questioned Pettit to ensure that he was aware that he was in the United States and that the laws of Great Britain have no application to his case.  Asked why he referred to Great Britain’s laws, Pettit responded, “Just to have it on the record. . . .  Just from information that I have received that it’s good to have it on record for the appeals.”

            More than five years after sentencing, Pettit petitioned for postconviction relief.  The district court denied the petition.  This appeal followed.



I.          Plea was intelligently entered

            On appeal, this court reviews a postconviction decision to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to support the district court’s findings and whether the district court abused its discretion.  State v. Christopherson, 644 N.W.2d 507, 509-10 (Minn. App. 2002).  A criminal defendant has no absolute right to withdraw a guilty plea.  Perkins v. State, 559 N.W.2d 678, 685 (Minn. 1997).  “[A] defendant may withdraw a guilty plea after sentencing ‘upon a timely motion and proof to the satisfaction of the court that withdrawal of the plea is necessary to correct a manifest injustice.’”  Id. (quoting State v. Ecker, 524 N.W.2d 712, 712-16 (Minn. 1994), quoting Minn. R. Crim. P. 15.05, subd. 1).  A manifest injustice does not occur when there is a valid guilty plea.  Id. at 688.  To be valid, a guilty plea must be accurate, voluntary, and intelligent.  State v. Wukawitz, 662 N.W.2d 517, 521 (Minn. 2003).  A plea is intelligent when the defendant understands the charges against him, the rights waived by pleading guilty, and the consequences of pleading guilty.  Brown v. State, 449 N.W.2d 180, 182 (Minn. 1989).  When credibility is at issue, this court will defer to the primary observations and trustworthiness assessments made by the district court.  State v. Aviles-Alvarez, 561 N.W.2d 523, 527 (Minn. App. 1997), review denied (Minn. June 11, 1997).

            Pettit does not challenge the accuracy or voluntariness of his plea but asserts that his plea was not intelligent.  Pettit argues that his reference to the laws of Great Britain, the district court’s statement that it was not sure it should accept the plea, and the court’s other comments about his mental illness required the district court to stay the sentencing and order an examination of his competency.  We disagree.  The record demonstrates that Pettit fully understood the charges against him, the plea agreement, and the consequences of pleading guilty, including the rights waived.  Pettit was questioned at length by the district court about a variety of topics, and his answers demonstrate that he clearly understood what was being said to him.  Pettit responded lucidly to the district court’s questions and even challenged the district court’s purpose in making some of the comments.  Despite his comments about the laws of Great Britain and the findings from his psychological examination about his mental condition, nothing in the record indicates a lack of understanding that would undermine the validity of his guilty plea.  The postconviction court did not abuse its discretion by denying Pettit’s request to withdraw his plea.



II.        No evidence of bias in sentencing

            This court will generally not consider issues that were not argued and considered in the postconviction court.  Roby v. State, 547 N.W.2d 354, 357 (Minn. 1996).  In his petition for postconviction relief, Pettit requested that his sentence be modified “to be consistent with the Plea of Culpable Negligence which what [sic] was entered according to the Plea itself . . . or that the sentence be vacated and set aside.”  Only on appeal did Pettit raise the issue of judicial bias.  This newly raised claim is without merit because Pettit received the sentence he bargained for in the plea agreement, therefore, Pettit has failed to show that his sentence was the result of bias.



                                                                                    Dated:  July 7, 2004

[1] Later in the sentencing hearing, Pettit asserted that one of the errors in the complaint was that his name appears in all capital letters.