Thomas Daniel Rhodes, petitioner,
Filed: July 19, 2007
of Appellate Courts
State of Minnesota,
L L A B U S
postconviction court did not abuse its discretion when it denied appellant’s
petition for postconviction relief without a hearing.
Considered and decided by
the court en banc without oral argument.
O P I N I O N
district court denied, without a hearing, appellant Thomas Daniel Rhodes’
petition for postconviction relief. Rhodes appeals to this court, arguing that the district
court erred. We affirm.
The facts of this
case are set forth in detail in State v.
Rhodes, 627 N.W.2d 74 (Minn. 2001) (Rhodes I), and State v. Rhodes, 657 N.W.2d 823 (Minn. 2003) (Rhodes II). A jury found Rhodes guilty of premeditated first-degree murder, in
violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.185(1) (1996), and intentional
second-degree murder, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.19, subd. 1(1)
(1996). The district court judge
sentenced Rhodes to life in prison. Rhodes
appealed to this court.
In Rhodes I, we concluded that the district
court did not abuse its discretion when it made several evidentiary rulings
during the course of the trial. 627
N.W.2d at 86. We also concluded,
however, that the postconviction court erred when it denied Rhodes’
first petition for postconviction relief without conducting an evidentiary hearing, and we remanded for
a hearing. Id.at 89.
remand, the postconviction court heard evidence from several experts, Rhodes’ trial counsel, and several lay witnesses. Rhodes
II, 657 N.W.2d at 835. The
postconviction court concluded that Rhodes
failed to establish an ineffective assistance of counsel claim and denied
relief. Id.at 838.
The court also denied relief based on newly discovered scientific
evidence. Id.at 839.
Rhodes appealed to this court, contending
that he should have been granted a new trial because he was denied effective
assistance of counsel or, alternatively, because of newly discovered
evidence. Id. Rhodes also argued that the evidence was not sufficient
to convict him of murder. Id. We
rejected Rhodes’ claims, concluding that the evidence was sufficient to support
the conviction, Rhodes was not denied effective assistance of counsel, and
newly discovered evidence did not entitle Rhodes
to a new trial. Id.at 842, 845.
current action arises from Rhodes’ second petition
for postconviction relief, which he filed on December 1, 2006. In this petition, Rhodes argued that he was
denied due process of law because his conviction was based on “supposition and
conjecture as newly discovered evidence proves,” and he was denied effective
assistance of counsel. The
postconviction court denied Rhodes’ petition without conducting an evidentiary
hearing, and Rhodes appealed to this
We have cautioned
that hearings should be held on petitions for postconviction relief unless the
petition and supporting documents “conclusively show” that the petitioner is
entitled to no relief. State v. Cram, 718 N.W.2d 898, 907 (Minn. 2006) (internal
quotation marks omitted). The
postconviction court determined that Rhodes
had failed to prove that he was entitled to relief. See,
e.g., Powers v. State, 695 N.W.2d 371, 373-74 (Minn. 2005) (“A petitioner seeking
postconviction relief bears the burden of establishing the facts alleged in the
petition by a fair preponderance of the evidence.”). With the exception of legal determinations,
which are reviewed de novo, we review a postconviction court’s decisions for
abuse of discretion. See Schleicher v. State, 718 N.W.2d 440,
We turn first to Rhodes’ claim that “new evidence” entitles him to
relief. A petitioner is entitled to
postconviction relief based on newly discovered evidence if he establishes (1) “that the
evidence was not known to him or his counsel at the time of trial,” (2) “that
his failure to learn of it before trial was not due to lack of diligence,” (3) “that
the evidence is material,” and (4) “that the evidence will probably produce
either an acquittal at a retrial or a result more favorable to the petitioner.” Race v.
State, 417 N.W.2d 264, 266 (Minn. 1987).
submitted several pieces of “new evidence” to the postconviction court. Rhodes submitted an affidavit from a juror
who had served on the jury in Rhodes’ murder
trial, and he argues that this affidavit entitles him to a new trial. In the affidavit, the juror stated: “I * * * was a juror on the murder
trial of Thomas Daniel Rhodes. Since
then I have been reading transcripts of the Post Conviction Petition
Hearing. Based on what I have been
reading, I am of the opinion that there should be a new trial.” Rhodes
argues that “‘reasonable doubt’ is clearly demonstrated by the Affidavit,” and
he is therefore entitled to postconviction relief.
The juror’s affidavit
does not entitle Rhodes to postconviction
relief. In essence, Rhodes’
claim is that a jury should have been allowed to
review the new evidence he presented at the postconviction proceedings that
took place prior to Rhodes II. But we already considered this “new evidence”
in Rhodes II and determined that it
did not entitle Rhodes to a new trial. 657 N.W.2d at 846. Rhodes
cannot litigate this question again based on the juror’s affidavit. At most, the affidavit indicates that the juror
believes there should be a new trial. This
type of expression of second thoughts is not sufficient to warrant a new trial. See
Crisler v. State, 520 N.W.2d 22, 25 (Minn. App. 1994) (“Five years after
the trial here, the juror was shown isolated bits of new evidence, presented
out of the context of the state’s evidence and without benefit of
cross-examination. The juror’s affidavit
bears little weight beyond an expression of second thoughts about the
verdict.”), rev. denied (Minn. Sept.
Even if we were to
review the affidavit under the newly discovered evidence test, Rhodes would not be entitled to postconviction
relief. The affidavit is not “new
evidence” that has any bearing on the underlying facts of this case, and
therefore it is not “material” under the third factor of the test. See Race,
417 N.W.2d at 266. We hold that the
postconviction court did not abuse its discretion when it concluded that the juror
affidavit did not entitle Rhodes to
Rhodes’ third piece of “new evidence” relates to the life
insurance policies on his wife’s life and Rhodes’
financial condition before his wife’s death.
As the postconviction court noted, this information “offer[s] nothing
new” for the court to consider. Rather, Rhodes’ argument is simply a reformulation of his claim
at trial and on direct appeal that the state’s evidence that he had a financial
motive for the murder was unpersuasive.
Because Rhodes made this argument on
direct appeal, our decision in State
v. Knaffla bars this postconviction claim for relief. 309 Minn. 246, 252, 243 N.W.2d 737, 741 (Minn. 1976) (holding that all claims raised by a
defendant on direct appeal and all claims known but not raised at the time of
that appeal are barred from review in a subsequent petition for postconviction
relief); see also Schleicher, 718
N.W.2d at 447 (recognizing that the Knaffla
rule also bars all claims that should have been known but were not raised on
Separate from his
claims of new evidence, Rhodes argues that he is
entitled to postconviction relief on the basis of ineffective assistance of
counsel. This argument is premised upon Rhodes’ claim that his indictment “violated the Double
Jeopardy provision of the Fifth Amendment * * * in that he was charged
twice for the same offense.” Rhodes
argues that counsel was ineffective for failing to raise this defense. This claim is also barred by Knaffla because Rhodes knew or
should have known to raise the argument on direct appeal.
examine Rhodes’ claim that he is entitled to
postconviction relief because he was convicted based merely on “speculation,”
or “supposition and conjecture.” This
claim is simply another way of arguing that the evidence was insufficient to
convict. We resolved the sufficiency of
the evidence claim in Rhodes II. 657 N.W.2d. at 842. Rhodes’
restyled claim is therefore barred by Knaffla.
We hold that the postconviction court did not abuse
its discretion when it denied
Rhodes’ petition for
postconviction relief without conducting an evidentiary hearing.