This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. ß 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).






Kelly James Maurer, petitioner,





State of Minnesota,



Filed May 3, 2005

Klaphake, Judge


Meeker County District Court

File No. K0-97-502


John D. Ellenbecker, 803 West St. Germain Street, P.O. Box 1127, St. Cloud, MN† 56302-1127 (for appellant)


Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Maggie Skelton, Assistant Attorney General, 1800 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN† 55101-2130; and


Michael J. Thompson, Meeker County Attorney, 325 Sibley Avenue North, Litchfield, MN55355 (for respondent)


††††††††††† Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Klaphake, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D†† O P I N I O N


††††††††††† In July 1997, appellant Kelly James Maurer was charged with murder.† Shortly after his arrest, appellant was found to be incompetent to assist in his defense and was civilly committed; criminal proceedings were suspended.† In February 1998, officials from the regional treatment center notified the district court that appellant was competent to proceed.† Without holding a competency hearing, the district court resumed the criminal proceedings and an omnibus hearing was held.† In October 1998, appellant pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.† In this postconviction proceeding, appellant seeks to withdraw his guilty plea, arguing that the district courtís failure to hold a competency hearing under Minn. R. Crim P. 20.01, subd. 5, before reinstating criminal proceedings, was a manifest injustice.† Appellant further argues that he received ineffective assistance of counsel.

††††††††††† Because the district courtís failure to hold a competency hearing, although error, did not prejudice appellant and because appellantís trial counsel provided adequate representation, we affirm.


††††††††††† This court reviews a postconviction order to determine if there is sufficient evidence to support the courtís findings.† Sutherlin v. State, 574 N.W.2d 428, 432 (Minn. 1998).† The postconviction courtís decision will not be reversed absent an abuse of discretion.† Id.† Here, the postconviction court concluded that (1) although the district court erred by failing to hold a hearing pursuant to Minn. R. Crim. P. 20.01, subd. 5, the error was not prejudicial and did not merit permitting appellant to withdraw his plea; and (2) appellant failed to show that he received ineffective assistance of counsel.†

††††††††††† ďThe court shall allow a defendant to withdraw a plea of guilty upon a timely motion and proof to the satisfaction of the court that withdrawal is necessary to correct a manifest injustice.Ē† Minn. R. Crim. P. 15.05, subd. 1.† A manifest injustice occurs when a plea is not accurate, voluntary, and intelligent.† Alanis v. State, 583 N.W.2d 573, 577 (Minn. 1998).† A plea is accurate when there is a factual basis for the plea; this requirement protects the defendant from pleading to a more serious offense for which there is no factual basis.† Id.† A plea is voluntary when not made in response to improper pressures, inducements or promises.† Id.† A plea is intelligent when the defendant understands the charges, his or her rights, and the consequences of pleading guilty.† Id.† Appellant asserts that his plea was not intelligent or voluntary because of questions about his competency and ineffective assistance of his trial counsel.

††††††††††† Competency Hearing

††††††††††† Minn. R. Crim. P. 20.01, subd. 5, states that when a defendant has been found to be incompetent to proceed to trial, the district court must receive periodic updates of the defendantís mental condition.† The rule goes on to state that

[w]hen the court on application of the prosecuting attorney, defense counsel, the defendant, or the person having supervision over the defendant, or on the courtís initiative, determines, after a hearing with notice to the parties, that the defendant is competent to proceed, the criminal proceedings against the defendant shall be resumed.


Id.† Clearly, the rule envisions a competency hearing; here, the district court received notice from the regional treatment center that appellant had regained competency and resumed the criminal proceedings without a hearing.† The postconviction court correctly concluded that the district court erred by failing to hold a competency hearing.††

††††††††††† Because no party objected to the resumption of the criminal proceedings, we apply a plain-error analysis to determine whether the failure to hold a competency hearing was a denial of substantial rights.† See State v. Griller, 583 N.W.2d 736, 740 (Minn. 1998) (explaining plain error as (1) error; (2) that is plain; and (3) results in prejudice to the defendant and affects the outcome of the case).†

††††††††††† Upon receiving a report from the regional treatment center that appellant had regained competency after receiving appropriate medication, the district court resumed criminal proceedings against him.† This report was issued by the same two mental health professionals who originally notified the district court that appellant was incompetent to proceed, and was based on staff observations made during appellantís commitment.† Based on more than eight hours of interviews with appellant and others, the stateís expert witness, a psychiatrist, stated that appellant had regained competency and could assist at trial.† Furthermore, after reviewing the same materials, appellantís expert witness concluded that appellant was competent to proceed to trial.† All four professionals noted that they believed appellant may have been incompetent on the offense date and might have a valid mental illness defense, but all four concurred that he was competent to proceed to trial.†

††††††††††† The first hearing after criminal proceedings resumed was the omnibus hearing; the issue raised was whether appellant was competent to have understood his Miranda rights.† The question of appellantís mental health was thus squarely before the court.† During the plea hearing, the question of appellantís competency was central to the inquiries made on the plea petition and by the district court.† It is unlikely, given these circumstances, that appellant would not have been found competent during a rule 20.01 hearing.

††††††††††† Based on these facts, the postconviction courtís conclusion that the district courtís error did not prejudice appellant is supported by sufficient evidence.† See State v. Thomas, 467 N.W.2d 324, 326-27 (Minn. App. 1991) (refusing to reverse conviction because of ďtechnicalĒ violation of rules of criminal procedure, where defendant failed to show that he was prejudiced by violation).† Because the failure to hold a competency hearing did not prejudice appellant, he has not shown a manifest injustice that would permit him to withdraw his plea.

††††††††††† Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

††††††††††† To prevail on an ineffective assistance of counsel claim, a defendant must show that (1) counselís performance was so deficient that it fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, and (2) the defendant was prejudiced by counselís incompetence.† State v. Ecker, 524 N.W.2d 712, 718 (Minn. 1994).† ď[A]n attorney acts within that objective standard of reasonableness when he provides his client with the representation by an attorney exercising the customary skills and diligence that a reasonably competent attorney would perform under similar circumstances.Ē† State v. Voorhees, 596 N.W.2d 241, 255 (Minn. 1999) (quotation omitted).† To show prejudice, a defendant must demonstrate that but for counselís incompetence, the outcome of the trial would have been different.† Id.In the case of a guilty plea, a defendant must show that, but for counselís ineffective assistance, he or she would not have entered a guilty plea.† Ecker, 524 N.W.2d at 718.†

††††††††††† Appellant claims that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because he was not informed of a possible meritorious mental illness defense and because his counsel failed to adequately prepare.† After hearing testimony from appellant and the two attorneys who advised him prior to pleading, the postconviction court concluded that appellant had been adequately informed of the mental illness defense and noted that appellantís attorney had arranged for an expert witness and consulted a more experienced attorney.† The postconviction court found appellantís testimony, which was largely contradicted by the transcript of the plea hearing, to be less credible than that of his counsel.†

††††††††††† Because there is sufficient evidence in the record to support the postconviction courtís decision to deny appellantís petition to withdraw his plea, we affirm the postconviction order.

††††††††††† Affirmed.