This opinion will be unpublished and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
Jeff Shanta Gray, petitioner,
State of Minnesota,
Filed November 21, 2006
Ramsey County District Court
File No. K2-00-2834
Jeff Shanta Gray, #207452, 1101 Linden Lane, Faribault, MN 55021-6400 (pro se appellant)
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2134; and
Susan Gaertner, Ramsey County Attorney, Mitchell L. Rothman, Assistant County Attorney, 50 West Kellogg Blvd., Suite 315, St. Paul, MN 55102-1657 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Worke, Presiding Judge; Shumaker, Judge; and Stoneburner, 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 application of the Knaffla bar to his second petition for postconviction relief, arguing that Knaffla applies only when there has been a prior direct appeal. He also argues that his consecutive sentences were improper and violated the prohibition against double jeopardy. Because the court did not abuse its discretion or improperly apply the law, we affirm.
The state charged appellant Jeff Shanta Gray with three counts of aggravated robbery and two counts of attempted aggravated robbery, all as separate behavioral incidents. He initially pleaded guilty to all five counts but was allowed to withdraw his pleas as to four. He went to trial on one charge of aggravated robbery and a jury found him guilty. He then pleaded guilty to the remaining three counts as to which he had withdrawn his pleas.
In exchange for his pleas of guilty, the state agreed not to charge three additional robberies and not to add an attempted homicide charge to one of the counts. The state and Gray also agreed to concurrent sentences as to two counts and consecutive sentences as to three, for a total duration of 164 months. Each sentence was the presumptive sentence under the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines, and the consecutive sentences were permissive.
More than three years later, Gray petitioned for postconviction relief, seeking to withdraw his pleas, to reverse his convictions, and to modify his sentences, alleging prosecutorial misconduct, ineffective assistance of counsel, and a violation of Blakely v. Washington. The district court denied the petition without an evidentiary hearing. Gray did not appeal.
Eleven months later, Gray filed a second petition for postconviction relief on grounds that the consecutive sentences violated the double-jeopardy prohibition, that the sentences were an impermissible upward departure from the guidelines, and that consecutive sentencing exaggerated the severity of two of the counts. Ruling that Gray’s claims were barred by State v. Knaffla, 309 Minn. 246, 252, 243 N.W.2d 737, 741 (1976), and were without merit, the court denied the petition. Gray amended his petition and re-filed it. The court again denied the petition under Knaffla. Gray appealed.
D E C I S I O N
In denying Gray’s second petition for postconviction relief, the district court determined (1) that all issues raised in the petition could have been raised in his first petition and therefore review is barred under Knaffla, and (2) that all sentences were within the requirements of the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines and were the product of Gray’s counseled plea agreement, which he acknowledged in open court and on the record and which he stated he understood and accepted.
Gray contends that Knaffla does not preclude further review because he never previously had a review on direct appeal. He also argues that his sentences exaggerate the seriousness of his offenses and violate the double-jeopardy prohibition.
We review the denial of a petition for postconviction relief for an abuse of discretion. Powers v. State, 695 N.W.2d 371, 374 (Minn. 2005). “The scope of review of a postconviction proceeding is limited to determining whether there is sufficient evidence to sustain the postconviction court’s findings, and a postconviction court’s decision will not be disturbed absent an abuse of discretion.” Hale v. State, 566 N.W.2d 923, 926 (Minn. 1997).
The so-called Knaffla rule recognizes “that 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) (citing Case v. Nebraska, 381 U.S. 336, 336, 85 S. Ct. 1486, 1486 (1965)). But once that right of review has been satisfied, any matter raised in that review, and claims that were known and could have been raised but were not, will not be considered upon further appeals or postconviction proceedings. Id. See also Jones v. State, 671 N.W.2d 743, 746 (Minn. 2003) (stating that “[o]nce a petitioner has directly appealed his criminal conviction and has filed previous petitions for postconviction relief, any matter raised in the direct appeal or matters that were known to the defendant and could have been raised in the previous petitions will not be considered upon a subsequent petition for postconviction relief.”).
Gray’s claims in his second petition for postconviction relief involve alleged irregularities in substantive and procedural aspects of his multi-count sentencing. He complains about the manner in which the district court sentenced the separate behavioral incidents; the overall duration of the cumulative sentences; the length of a sentence for an attempt when compared with the sentence for a completed crime; and the propriety of basing an alleged upward departure solely on a plea agreement. No aspect of Gray’s sentences was unknown at the time of his first petition. Although he has a new complaint or two about the sentencing, he fails to show any reason that he could not have raised those complaints in the first petition.
There are two exceptions to the Knaffla bar. First, if “a claim is so novel that it can be said that its legal basis was not reasonably available to counsel” at the previous review, then postconviction relief may be allowed. Case v. State, 364 N.W.2d 797, 800 (Minn. 1985). Second, a substantive review of a case will be granted when fairness requires, even if the petitioner knew of the issue at the time of the prior review, as long as the petitioner did not inexcusably fail to raise the issue previously. Jones, 671 N.W.2d at 746.
None of Gray’s claims is factually or legally novel. He simply challenges his sentences and asserts often-used grounds in support. And we find nothing unfair about the sentences imposed, which were not only in accordance with the sentencing guidelines but were an express result of Gray’s counseled plea. Thus, he has failed to show that his situation fits either Knaffla exception.
Because of the procedural bar of Knaffla, we need not further address the merits of Gray’s petition. We note only that, in order to consider the applicability of a Knaffla exception, it was necessary to give attention to the actual sentences imposed. In a thorough and precise memorandum attached to the district court’s order denying Gray’s second petition, the court explains in detail how and why Gray was sentenced as he was. This sentencing approach fully comported with the law.