This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

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







Jeffrey C. Morris, petitioner,


State of Minnesota,


Filed January 24, 2006


Wright, Judge


Washington County District Court

File No. K5-93-2824



Jeffrey C. Morris, Minnesota Correctional Facility-Rush City, 7600 525th Street, Rush City, MN  55069-2227 (pro se appellant)


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


Margaret M. Murphy, Magnuson Law Firm, 333 North Main Street, #202, Stillwater, MN  55082 (for respondent)




            Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge; Klaphake, Judge; and Wright, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D  O P I N I O N



Appellant challenges the district court’s order denying his postconviction petition to withdraw his 1993 guilty plea to misdemeanor harassing communications.  Appellant argues that the district court should have ordered a competency evaluation because, when he entered his guilty plea, he was civilly committed and mentally incompetent to waive counsel.  Appellant also claims that he was denied due process when the district court revoked his probation and executed a 90-day sentence without a hearing.  Because the postconviction petition was untimely and appellant failed to prove that plea withdrawal is necessary to correct a manifest injustice, we affirm.



            In 1993, appellant Jeffrey Morris made several harassing telephone calls to two former employees of the Stillwater prison.  Morris was charged with nine counts of misdemeanor harassing communications, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.  In July 1993, Morris appeared in district court pro se, pleaded not guilty, and was released on his own recognizance.  Morris was subsequently confined in the Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center and failed to appear in court on the date of trial.  On October 28, 1993, Morris was transported from the treatment center to district court, and he pleaded guilty to one count of misdemeanor harassing communications.  The remaining counts were dismissed.  The district court ordered a presentence investigation, and sentencing was scheduled for December 6, 1993. 

Morris was transported from the treatment center to district court for sentencing and again appeared pro se.  The district court imposed a sentence of 90 days and a fine of $700.  The district court suspended 60 days and $600 of the fine for one year on the conditions that Morris serve 30 days, pay $39.20 in restitution, complete 20 hours of community service in lieu of the fine, remain law-abiding, and have no contact with the victims. 

On February 18, 1994, the district court issued a warrant for Morris’s arrest based on the probation officer’s recommendation to revoke probation.  The record indicates that, at a hearing on March 1, 1994, Morris was ordered to serve 30 days. 

Eleven years later, on March 30, 2005, Morris filed a postconviction petition to withdraw his guilty plea and to be reimbursed the amount of the fine he paid.  The district court summarily denied Morris’s petition as untimely.  This appeal followed.



We review the summary denial of a postconviction petition only to determine whether sufficient evidence exists to support the district court’s findings.  Powers v. State, 695 N.W.2d 371, 374 (Minn. 2005).  We will reverse only on proof that the district court abused its discretion.  Id.   

The district court is required to schedule a hearing to address a postconviction petition, unless the petition, files, and record “conclusively show that the petitioner is entitled to no relief . . . .”  Minn. Stat. § 590.04, subd. 1 (2004).  As a general rule, “a convicted defendant is entitled to at least one right of review by an appellate or postconviction court.”  State v. Knaffla, 309 Minn. 246, 252, 243 N.W.2d 737, 741 (1976).  But a defendant does not have an absolute right to withdraw a guilty plea.  Alanis v. State, 583 N.W.2d 573, 577 (Minn. 1998).  After a sentence has been imposed, a defendant may withdraw a guilty plea only if the petition is timely and the defendant provides proof that withdrawal is necessary to correct a manifest injustice.  Minn. R. Crim. P. 15.05, subd. 1; Alanis, 583 N.W.2d at 577 (stating that burden of proof to establish basis for plea withdrawal rests with defendant).  A manifest injustice is established when a guilty plea fails the constitutional requirement of being accurate, voluntary, and intelligent.  Alanis, 583 N.W.2d at 577.

The district court summarily denied Morris’s petition because it was not timely.  Timeliness is a relevant consideration in determining whether a petition to withdraw a guilty plea should be granted.  James v. State, 699 N.W.2d 723, 727-28 (Minn. 2005) (holding that petition to withdraw guilty plea filed 39 months after imposition of conditional release term was not untimely).  Substantial delays do not automatically preclude postconviction relief.  SeeRairdon v. State, 557 N.W.2d 318, 322 (Minn. 1996) (holding that district court did not abuse its discretion in determining that nine-year delay did not preclude review on merits but weighed against it); Hoagland v. State, 518 N.W.2d 531, 536 (Minn. 1994) (holding that eight-year delay alone did not preclude postconviction relief when misleading statements at trial led defendant to believe appeal was automatic and state could not produce trial transcript).  But a delay in filing a postconviction petition weighs against the petitioner.  Fox v. State, 474 N.W.2d 821, 826 (Minn. 1991) (affirming denial of postconviction relief based in part on four-year delay); Wieland v. State, 457 N.W.2d 712, 715-16 (Minn. 1990) (affirming denial of postconviction relief and noting that ten-year delay weighed against petitioner). “[A] delay that is deliberate and inexcusable constituting an abuse of the judicial process . . . is sufficient grounds to justify denial of relief solely on the basis that the petition is untimely.”  James, 699 N.W.2d at 728.

Morris offers no reason for the significant delay in filing his postconviction petition, despite having filed many other petitions and appeals during the 11-year period since his conviction.  Moreover, he failed to include a complete record of the proceedings related to his conviction.  Since more than ten years have elapsed, such records likely are no longer available, precluding a review of the merits of his claims.  See Court Record Retention Schedule—Minnesota District Courts, (Mar. 2005) (allowing destruction of most misdemeanor criminal case files, including court reporter’s notes, and transcripts of plea, sentencing and revocation hearings, after ten years).  Without an excuse for the significant delay or a record of the proceedings, Morris cannot meet his burden of proving that he is entitled to postconviction relief. 

Because Morris waived counsel and pleaded guilty, he bears the burden of establishing that he did not competently and intelligently do so.  State ex rel. Shelby v. Rigg, 255 Minn. 356, 366, 96 N.W.2d 886, 894 (1959).  The district court proceedings carry a presumption of correctness, and Morris bears the burden of proving his plea was invalid.  Id.  In meeting this burden, Morris’s “allegations must be ‘more than argumentative assertions without factual support.’”  Gassler v. State, 590 N.W.2d 769, 771 (Minn. 1999) (quoting Beltowski v. State, 289 Minn. 215, 217, 183 N.W.2d 563, 564 (1971)). 

Morris alleges that (1) he did not knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waive counsel and plead guilty because he was civilly committed and being treated for bipolar disorder in 1993; (2) the district court should have ordered a competency evaluation; and (3) the district court failed to advise him of the “dangers and disadvantages” of proceeding pro se.  These allegations lack any factual support in the petition or the record.  Morris does not contend that he did not understand the charges against him, the possible sentence, or the rights he was waiving.  And the absence of a transcript prevents a review of the record to find support for such allegations if they were made.  Moreover, that Morris was civilly committed at the time of his guilty plea does not compel the conclusion that he was not competent to understand the criminal proceedings.  See State v. Holm, 322 N.W.2d 353, 354 (Minn. 1982) (affirming district court’s determination that defendant was competent, based in part on the judge’s observations in court, despite defendant’s civil commitment). 

Morris’s allegation that his 90-day sentence was executed without a probation revocation hearing also is unsupported by the district court record.  Notations in the court file and a number of letters from Morris to the district court establish that Morris was incarcerated for approximately 30 days, the original term of confinement ordered as a condition of probation, and was released on March 25, 1994.

Morris has failed to establish that his postconviction petition was timely and that withdrawal of his guilty plea is necessary to correct a manifest injustice.  Under the circumstances presented, the district court’s denial of postconviction relief was not an abuse of discretion.