This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
David Kenneth Christian, petitioner,
State of Minnesota,
Filed April 4, 2006
Mower County District Court
File No. K4-00-1117
Beau D. McGraw, McGraw Law Firm, P.A., 600 Inwood Avenue North, Suite 200, Oakdale, MN 55128 (for appellant)
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, John B. Galus, Assistant Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2134; and
Patrick Flanagan, Mower County Attorney, Mower County Courthouse, 201 First Street Northeast, Austin, MN 55912 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge; Kalitowski, Judge; and Halbrooks, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant David Kenneth Christian challenges the postconviction court’s order denying his petition for relief, arguing that (1) he is entitled to a new trial based on newly discovered evidence in the form of exculpatory statements of his codefendants; and (2) the district court improperly joined appellant and his codefendants for trial. We affirm.
D E C I S I O N
Appellate courts “review a postconviction court’s
findings to determine whether there is sufficient evidentiary support in the
record.” Dukes v. State,
621 N.W.2d 246, 251 (
Appellant argues that the postconviction court abused its discretion by denying his petition for postconviction relief. Appellant claims that exculpatory statements from his two codefendants qualify as newly discovered evidence entitling him to a new trial. We disagree.
A new trial based upon newly discovered evidence may be granted when a defendant proves:
(1) that the evidence was not known to the defendant or his/her counsel at the time of the trial; (2) that the evidence could not have been discovered through due diligence before trial; (3) that the evidence is not cumulative, impeaching, or doubtful; and (4) that the evidence would probably produce an acquittal or a more favorable result.
Rainer v. State, 566 N.W.2d
692, 695 (
Appellant and three accomplices were charged with murdering
two men and assaulting another while robbing them at a motel in
Appellant challenged his convictions on direct appeal and
argued, among other things, that the district court erred by joining appellant
with his codefendants. State v. Christian, No. C5-01-1840, 2002
WL 31415382, at *1, *8 (
In his second petition for postconviction relief, which is the subject of this appeal, appellant argued that he was entitled to a new trial based on the newly discovered evidence of exculpatory statements from his codefendants, Powers and Christian. In support of his petition, appellant submitted affidavits from Powers and Christian, each of which stated that appellant was not aware of, and did not plan, any of the criminal activities underlying his convictions. The postconviction court denied his petition without a hearing. The district court stated that appellant “does not claim the facts or issues in question are ‘newly discovered’ or were in any way not known to him at the time of trial. Rather, the claim is simply that Scot Christian’s joinder deprived him of the ability to call an additional exculpatory witness to present the same defense he was asserting at trial.”
On appeal to this court for the third time, appellant claims that his codefendants’ statements constitute newly discovered evidence because although appellant knew at trial that Powers’s and Christian’s testimony would be critical, “the exact nature of that testimony was not available or discoverable until relatively recently.” He further argues that his inability to obtain the information at trial was not due to lack of due diligence because his codefendants had a right not to testify at their own trial.
The Minnesota Supreme Court
has applied the newly discovered evidence test to a claim of newly available
evidence under the rationale that “courts should be cautious in considering
evidence from an accomplice who is ‘unavailable’ at trial because such evidence
may be untrustworthy, in that a convicted, sentenced accomplice has little to
lose, and possibly something to gain, by providing such evidence.” State
Here, appellant failed to establish that he did not know,
nor could he have discovered through reasonable diligence, the content of his
codefendants’ affidavits at the time of his trial. As to codefendant Powers, not only was his
testimony both available and discoverable, but Powers also testified at
trial. As to codefendant Christian,
appellant stated in his postconviction petition that he challenged the joinder
issue before trial because both Christian and Powers were key witnesses to his
defense because they could exculpate him.
Therefore, appellant’s claim that Christian’s testimony is newly
discovered evidence fails for the same reason that that argument failed in
Moreover, even if appellant had not known of the nature of his codefendants’ “newly available” testimony, he has not established that their testimony would likely produce an acquittal or more favorable result. Powers’s and Christian’s affidavits merely reiterate the theory that appellant unsuccessfully advanced at trial, that he was unaware of his codefendants’ criminal scheme on the night of the murders in Austin and only drove them because they had had too much to drink. Appellant has not shown that testimonial support from the two affiants, one of whom is his brother and both of whom are serving lengthy prison sentences for their participation in the underlying crimes, would necessarily sway a jury in appellant’s favor.
Because appellant did not establish that he was unaware of the substance of his codefendants’ affidavit testimony at the time of his trial and that such content would produce an acquittal or more favorable result, we conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying appellant’s petition for postconviction relief based on newly discovered evidence.
Appellant again asks this court to consider whether the district court improperly joined him with his codefendants at trial. Appellant contends that the postconviction court abused its discretion by denying his petition for a new trial based on improper joinder. We disagree.
The district court rejected
this argument as procedurally barred under State
v. Knaffla, 309 Minn. 246, 243 N.W.2d 737 (1976). Noting multiple instances in which
opposing joinder at trial, appellant raised an improper joinder claim upon his
direct appeal in 2002. Christian,
2002 WL 31415382, at *8-*9. Appellant
argued that joinder was improper and resulted in substantial prejudice to
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 (1998). The Minnesota Supreme Court has explained that
“where direct appeal has once been taken, all matters raised therein, and all
claims known but not raised, will not be considered upon a subsequent petition
for postconviction relief.” Knaffla, 309