This opinion will be unpublished and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
Kirk Alan Walker, petitioner,
Filed June 20, 2006
Reversed and remanded
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 00087535
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Roy G. Spurbeck,
Assistant State Public Defender,
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1800
Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge; Dietzen, Judge; and Harten, Judge.*
Appellant challenges the denial of his postconviction petition, arguing that his conviction of being an ineligible person in possession of a firearm following a stipulated-facts trial should be overturned because: (1) the trial procedure was flawed and in violation of his constitutional rights; (2) his waiver of the right to a jury trial was not knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily made; and (3) the district court prejudged his case and was biased. We reverse and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
In September 2000, police responded to a report of gunshots fired in a neighborhood. Officers reported that they observed appellant Kirk Alan Walker drop a firearm into a bush while being chased by police. Appellant was charged with one count of being an ineligible person in possession of a firearm in violation of Minn. Stat. § 624.713(1)(b) (2000). When the jury was unable to agree on a verdict, the district court declared a mistrial.
Subsequently, the parties scheduled the matter to be heard as a stipulated-facts trial in February 2001. Prior to trial, counsel for the parties submitted the record to be considered by the district court, which consisted of the complaint, the police reports, and a record of appellant’s 1999 drug conviction. At the hearing, appellant’s attorney asked appellant a series of questions in which appellant acknowledged his right to a jury trial and waived his right to a jury trial. During this colloquy, the district court interjected: “Let’s make this clear to [appellant]…if you proceed in this fashion, I am going to find you guilty. You are not going to be found not guilty. I am going to find you guilty, do you understand that?” Appellant responded, “Yes.” Appellant agreed to proceed with the stipulated-facts trial and signed a waiver of his right to a jury trial.
Then the district court stated,
Normally what I would insist upon your doing is have you come up here and admit that you did the crime, but you don’t want to do that as I understand it and so as an alternative procedure instead of having you admit that you did the crime, which would be the normal way of proceeding, I am permitting the facts to be submitted to me through these reports, and based on these reports I will find you guilty.
The district court explained that if appellant proceeded with a stipulated-facts trial, that the court would find appellant guilty, but that it would sentence appellant to no more than one year in the work house with the remainder to be served on probation—a downward departure from the presumptive sentence of 60 months in prison. But if appellant chose to proceed to trial, the district court would likely sentence him to the presumptive 60-month sentence. Appellant agreed to the procedure outlined by his attorney and the district court. The district court stated that it had “reviewed [the documents] earlier” and adjudicated appellant guilty.
At sentencing, appellant told the court that he had been “misrepresented,” pressured to waive a jury trial, and that he did not understand what “stipulated facts” meant. After several continuances, the district court sentenced appellant to 60 months in prison with execution of sentence stayed. In April 2002, after a contested hearing, the court revoked appellant’s probation and executed the 60-month sentence.
Appellant did not file a direct appeal, but in August 2005, he filed a postconviction petition challenging his conviction. The district court denied appellant’s request for a hearing and the petition for postconviction relief. This appeal follows.
D E C I S I O N
argues that the district court erred in denying his petition for postconviction
relief. First, appellant argues that the
stipulated-facts trial procedure was flawed and in violation of his
constitutional rights. 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 (
agreement of the defendant and the prosecuting attorney, a case may be
submitted to and tried by the court based on stipulated facts.”
Appellant contends that the proceeding in which he was convicted was not a stipulated-facts trial but rather a “slightly modified guilty plea.” The crux of appellant’s argument is that because no specific error that arose before trial or an argument regarding the sufficiency of the evidence was raised before the district court that the proceeding was not a stipulated-facts trial.
This court has
distinguished between a Lothenbach
proceeding and a stipulated-facts trial under Minn. R. Crim. P. 26.01, subd. 3,
stating that “the rule permits the defendant to raise issues on appeal as from
any trial to the court, whereas the Lothenbach
procedure is intended merely to preserve pretrial issues when the facts are
basically undisputed.” State v. Mahr, 701 N.W.2d 286, 291 (
that the case of Brookhart v. Janis,
But unlike in Brookhart, appellant signed a waiver of
his right to a jury trial, and orally waived all of the rights listed in Minn.
R. Crim. P. 26.01, subd. 3, except the right
to cross-examine witnesses against him, an omission that has not been
challenged by appellant and, based on our review of the transcripts of the waiver
proceeding, appears to have been inadvertent.
had recently completed a trial on the same charges that resulted in a hung jury
and, therefore, was aware of the rights that he was waiving. Further, appellant was represented by counsel
and had the opportunity to consult with him about his trial rights prior to the
appellant argues that his waiver of the right to a jury trial was not
knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily made.
Before proceeding in this manner, the defendant shall acknowledge and waive the rights to testify at trial, to have the prosecution witnesses testify in open court in the defendant’s presence, to question those prosecution witnesses, and to require any favorable witnesses to testify for the defense in court. The agreement and the waiver shall be in writing or orally on the record.
Here, our careful review of the transcript of the waiver proceeding satisfies us that appellant knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived his right to a jury trial and his associated trial rights. See Halseth, 653 N.W.2d at 786 (noting importance of personal, explicit waiver of fundamental rights). We observe that the reasons we expressed in section I, supra, apply equally to support our conclusion that appellant’s waiver of his right to a jury trial was supported by the record. Moreover, appellant was convicted in a stipulated-facts trial in 1999, and, therefore, appellant had prior experience with a stipulated-facts trial and had prior knowledge of the rights that he would give up by proceeding in that manner.
argues that he was deprived of his right to a stipulated-facts trial because
the district court prejudged the merits of the case and was biased. “The Sixth Amendment of the United States
Constitution guarantees criminal defendants the right to be tried by an
impartial jury.” State v. Dorsey, 701 N.W.2d 238, 249 (
An impartial trial
requires that conclusions reached by the trier-of-fact be based upon the facts
in evidence, Johnson v. Hillstrom, 37
Rule 26.01, subdivision 3, provides that “[u]pon submission of the case on stipulated facts, the court shall proceed as on any other trial to the court.” At a minimum, this requires the court to receive the evidence submitted by the parties, allow for additional arguments of counsel, close the record, and make a general finding as required by rule 2b.
Here, the district
court stated its decision before the evidence was formally received and the
record was closed. By doing so, the
court failed to conduct a trial in a manner provided by the rules, and indicated
partiality and prejudgment of the merits.
While we do not doubt the good faith of the district court and its
candor to appellant, we conclude that appellant did not receive the
stipulated-facts trial contemplated by the rules.
Reversed and remanded.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.
 Appellant cites to the transcript of the May 4, 2001 hearing, but that transcript is not a part of the district court file. Neither party ordered the May 4, 2001 transcript, therefore, we have not considered it in our review.
 The postconviction court took judicial notice of the conviction and the transcript of appellant’s 1999 stipulated-facts trial.