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Mendiola v. State

November 10, 2010

GIOVANNI M. MENDIOLA, PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
v.
STATE OF IDAHO, RESPONDENT.



Appeal from the District Court of the First Judicial District, State of Idaho, Kootenai County. Hon. John T. Mitchell, District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Melanson, Judge

2010 Opinion No. 66S

SUBSTITUTE OPINION THE COURT'S PRIOR OPINION DATED SEPTEMBER 21, 2010, IS HEREBY WITHDRAWN

Order denying application for post-conviction relief, affirmed.

Giovanni M. Mendiola appeals from the district court's order denying his application for post-conviction relief. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURE

Mendiola was charged with nine felony counts, including robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery, kidnapping, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, and first degree murder. Two of Mendiola's brothers and a former brother-in-law were also charged with multiple felonies stemming from the same incidents that gave rise to Mendiola's charges. In exchange for Mendiola's guilty plea to second degree murder, the state agreed to dismiss the remaining charges against Mendiola and reduce the charges against his brothers and brother-in-law to one count each of accessory to a felony. In addition, the state agreed that his sisters would not be prosecuted.

At a change of plea hearing, Mendiola entered an Alford*fn1 plea to second degree murder. During the plea colloquy, Mendiola asserted that he was pleading guilty to spare his brothers and sisters from prosecution. Mendiola's trial counsel stated on the record that Mendiola was acting against the advice of counsel by pleading guilty. The district court accepted Mendiola's plea, concluding that the plea was voluntarily made and that there was a factual basis for the plea. At sentencing, Mendiola once again asserted that he was pleading guilty to protect his brothers and sisters and, for the first time, also contended that he committed the murder in self-defense. With the exception of Mendiola's statements, Mendiola's counsel did not present any other evidence at the change of plea hearing or the sentencing hearing to establish that Mendiola had acted in self-defense.

Mendiola was sentenced to a unified term of life in prison, with a minimum period of confinement of eight years. He did not appeal his judgment of conviction or the sentence imposed. Mendiola filed an application for post-conviction relief, claiming that his guilty plea was not voluntarily made and that there was no factual basis for the guilty plea. Also, Mendiola argued that his counsel was ineffective for failing to contest the district court's conclusion that there was a factual basis for his plea and for failing to present mitigating evidence at sentencing. After an evidentiary hearing on all of Mendiola's claims, the district court dismissed Mendiola's application. Mendiola appeals.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

An application for post-conviction relief initiates a proceeding that is civil in nature. State v. Bearshield, 104 Idaho 676, 678, 662 P.2d 548, 550 (1983); Clark v. State, 92 Idaho 827, 830, 452 P.2d 54, 57 (1969); Murray v. State, 121 Idaho 918, 921, 828 P.2d 1323, 1326 (Ct. App. 1992). Like a plaintiff in a civil action, the applicant must prove by a preponderance of evidence the allegations upon which the request for post-conviction relief is based. I.C. § 19-4907; Russell v. State, 118 Idaho 65, 67, 794 P.2d 654, 656 (Ct. App. 1990).

In order to prevail in a post-conviction proceeding, the applicant must prove the allegations by a preponderance of the evidence. I.C. § 19-4907; Stuart v. State, 118 Idaho 865, 801 P.2d 1216 (1990). When reviewing a decision denying post-conviction relief after an evidentiary hearing, an appellate court will not disturb the lower court's factual findings unless they are clearly erroneous. I.R.C.P. 52(a); Russell v. State, 118 Idaho 65, 67, 794 P.2d 654, 656 (Ct. App. 1990). The credibility of the witnesses, the weight to be given to their testimony, and the inferences to be drawn from the evidence are all matters solely within the province of the district court. Larkin v. State, 115 Idaho 72, 73, 764 P.2d 439, 440 (Ct. App. 1988). We exercise free review of the district court's application of the relevant law to the facts. Nellsch v. State, 122 Idaho 426, 434, 835 P.2d 661, 669 (Ct. App. 1992).

III. ANALYSIS

Mendiola asserts that the district court erred when it dismissed his application for post-conviction relief. Specifically, Mendiola argues that the district court's findings of fact regarding the voluntariness of his guilty plea and the factual basis for his plea were clearly erroneous. In addition, Mendiola asserts that the district court applied the incorrect legal standard when it determined that his guilty plea was voluntary. Mendiola also alleges that the district erred by denying his claims of ineffective assistance of ...


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