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James H. Hairston v. State of Idaho

March 28, 2007

JAMES H. HAIRSTON, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
v.
STATE OF IDAHO, RESPONDENT.
STATE OF IDAHO, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
JAMES H. HAIRSTON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the District Court of the Sixth Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Bannock County. Hon. Peter D. McDermott, District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Trout, Justice

2007 Opinion No. 52

Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk

James Hairston appealed from the dismissal of his consolidated successive petitions for post-conviction relief, petition for writ of habeas corpus, and motion to correct illegal sentence, to vacate sentence of death and for new sentencing trial. The State then moved to dismiss the appeal on procedural grounds.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

James Hairston was convicted by a jury of two counts of first degree murder and robbery in connection with the deaths of William and Dalma Fuhriman. The district court found four statutory aggravating factors and imposed a death sentence for each of the two murders and life in prison for the robbery. Hairston appealed his convictions and sentences and the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief. This Court affirmed the district court on August 24, 1999. State v. Hairston, 133 Idaho 496, 500-501, 988 P.2d 1170, 1174-75 (1999). In June of 2000, a federal public defender was appointed and Hairston filed a federal habeas petition, which is still pending in federal court.

This case addresses the consolidated appeal by Hairston of the dismissal by the district court of two separate, additional post-conviction petitions. On May 18, 2001, Hairston filed a second petition for post-conviction relief prompting a stay of his federal habeas petition. Hairston raised 21 claims of ineffective assistance of counsel on appeal. He also raised a denial of resources claim based on the trial judge's denial of a mitigation expert, whom Hairston sought to hire for the purpose of showing significant brain damage. The State filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to Idaho Code section 19-2719, which was granted, and Hairston appealed.

On August 2, 2002, Hairston filed a third petition for post-conviction relief and/or writ of habeas corpus as well as a motion to correct illegal sentence, to vacate sentences of death, and to request a new sentencing hearing. Hairston claimed that his death sentence was unconstitutional under Ring v. Arizona, 536 U.S. 584, 122 S.Ct. 2428 (2002), which held that juries, rather than a judge, must find aggravating factors in capital cases. The State moved to dismiss Hairston's petition and Rule 35 motion under I.C. § 19-2719, and the court granted the State's motion. Hairston then appealed those decisions, and all cases were consolidated.

Additionally, with regard to both his second and third petitions, Hairston moved to disqualify the district judge. Hairston based his motions on a letter from the district judge to the victims' family members which was sent after this Court's opinion in the first appeal. The letter is dated August 26, 1999, and reads, in part: "As you are aware the Supreme Court of Idaho has affirmed Mr. Hairston's conviction and sentence. Now that he has had his appeal, if I had my way, he would be executed tomorrow; however, now the federal court is involved it will probably be 10-15 years before a resolution, which is an abominable system." In light of the letter, Hairston asserted, the judge should disqualify himself or should be disqualified because he could not sit fairly on Hairston's case. The district judge denied the motions to disqualify before dismissing Hairston's second and third petitions.

The State now moves to dismiss Hairston's consolidated appeals. The State claims the Court is without jurisdiction to hear the appeals under I.C. § 19-2719, which governs post-conviction relief proceedings in capital cases. The statute provides a defendant one opportunity to raise all challenges to the conviction and sentence in a post-conviction relief petition, which must be filed within 42 days after entry of judgment. An exception is provided under I.C. § 19-2719(5), which permits a successive petition if a defendant can demonstrate that claims were not known and could not reasonably have been known within 42 days of the entry of the judgment of conviction. The claims raised in Hairston's second and third petition, asserts the State, were known or reasonably should have been known at the time of the filing of the first petition, and any claims that were later discovered were not filed within a reasonable time thereafter. The State argues Hairston's claims do not meet the requirements under I.C. § 19-2719 and that this Court is consequently without jurisdiction. The Court set the State's motion to dismiss for oral argument, and that matter is presently before the Court.

II.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

"When this Court is presented with a motion to dismiss by the State based upon the provisions of Idaho Code § 19-2719, the proper standard of review this Court should utilize is to directly address the motion, determine whether or not the requirements of section 19-2719 have been met, and rule accordingly." Creech v. State, 137 Idaho 573, 575, 51 P.3d 387, 389 (2002).

Idaho Code § 19-2719 contains the expedited procedure for post-conviction relief. The statute provides a capital defendant with one opportunity to raise all challenges to the conviction and sentence in a petition for post-conviction relief, to be requested within 42 days after the judgment is filed. I.C. § 19-2719(2); State v. Rhoades, 120 Idaho 795, 806, 820 P.2d 665, 676 (1991). The statute, however, makes an exception for those unusual cases where it can be demonstrated that the issues were not known and reasonably could not have been known within the time frame allowed by the statute. See I.C. § 19-2719(5); Fields v. State, 135 Idaho 286, 17 P.3d 230 (2000); Rhoades, 120 Idaho at 806, 820 P.2d at 676. The statute requires: (5) If the defendant fails to apply for relief as provided in this section and within the time limits specified, he shall be deemed to have waived such claims for relief as were known, or reasonably should have been known. The courts of Idaho shall have no power to consider any such claims for relief as have been so waived or grant any such relief.

(a) An allegation that a successive post-conviction petition may be heard because of the applicability of the exception herein for issues that were not known or could not reasonably have been known shall not be considered unless the applicant shows the existence of such issues by (i) a precise statement of the issue or issues asserted together with (ii) material facts stated under oath or affirmation by credible persons with first hand knowledge that would support the issue or issues asserted. A pleading ...


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