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Jose Luis Zepeda, Jr v. State of Idaho

March 5, 2012


Appeal from the District Court of the Fifth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Minidoka County. Hon. Michael R. Crabtree, District Judge.

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

2012 Opinion No. 13

Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk

Judgment summarily dismissing action for post-conviction relief, affirmed.

Jose Luis Zepeda, Jr., appeals from the summary dismissal of his petition for post-conviction relief. He asserts that the dismissal was erroneous because he presented a meritorious claim that his trial attorney's refusal to file a motion to withdraw Zepeda's guilty plea upon his request was ineffective assistance of counsel.



In June 2009, an acquaintance gave Zepeda a ride to Rupert, Idaho. The acquaintance then asked permission to park his car at Zepeda's house overnight and pick it up the following day. Zepeda agreed, and the acquaintance left a key to the car with Zepeda. The car was subsequently determined to be a stolen vehicle, and Zepeda was charged with grand theft by possession of stolen property, Idaho Code §§ 18-2403, 18-2407.

Zepeda agreed to plead guilty, and in exchange, the State agreed to dismiss a persistent violator enhancement and to recommend a unified sentence of no more than eight years with three years fixed. At the change of plea hearing, Zepeda informed the court that he wished to plead guilty because he "knew or should have known" that the vehicle was stolen. Before accepting the plea, the district court questioned Zepeda regarding the factual basis for the plea. Defense counsel explained that there were potentially incriminating letters in the car. Zepeda nevertheless insisted that he did not know the vehicle was stolen until he was arrested for possessing it, and that he had no reason to think it was stolen but "trusted a friend that [he] shouldn't have trusted." When the district court asked why he was pleading guilty if he had no reason to believe the vehicle was stolen, Zepeda explained he should have known it was stolen because it was a nice car for an individual like the person that gave him the ride and that Zepeda had "gone against my better judgment." Upon further questioning, Zepeda denied that he had read the letter or letters in the car--which apparently implied that he was more actively involved in the theft than he admitted. After Zepeda continued to deny the existence of factual circumstances that would have led him to believe the car was stolen, the district court stated that it was unable to accept the plea. Zepeda again simultaneously expressed his desire to plead guilty and denied a factual basis for his guilt. Defense counsel then suggested that the court accept a plea under North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25 (1970). The district court relied on the probable cause affidavit and defense counsel's statements to establish a factual basis absent an admission of guilt, accepted the guilty plea, and set the matter for sentencing.

At the sentencing hearing, while asking for leniency, Zepeda reiterated that he did not know the car was stolen but that he should have. The court responded that while Zepeda's explanation sounded reasonable, Zepeda had pled guilty to the crime and therefore would be sentenced for that crime. The court imposed a unified eight-year term of imprisonment with three years determinate, and the sentence was affirmed on appeal in an unpublished opinion. State v. Zepeda, Docket Nos. 37093, 37133 and 37134 (Ct. App. Sept. 8, 2010).

While the appeal was pending, Zepeda filed a petition for post-conviction relief asserting the existence of new material evidence of his innocence and several claims of ineffective assistance of counsel centering on his attorney's failure to file a motion to withdraw his guilty plea. The district court appointed counsel to assist Zepeda with the post-conviction action. The State filed a motion for summary dismissal, to which Zepeda responded. Addressing the motion, the district court concluded that the evidence Zepeda referred to was not "newly discovered" and that Zepeda failed to demonstrate either that his trial attorney's representation was deficient or that he was prejudiced by the attorney's performance. Accordingly, the court granted the State's motion for summary dismissal, and subsequently denied Zepeda's motion to reconsider on the same grounds. Zepeda appeals.*fn1



Idaho Code § 19-4906 authorizes summary dismissal of an application for post-conviction relief, either pursuant to motion of a party or upon the court's own initiative. Summary dismissal of an application is the procedural equivalent of summary judgment under Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 56. "A claim for post-conviction relief will be subject to summary dismissal . . . if the applicant has not presented evidence making a prima facie case as to each essential element of the claims upon which the applicant bears the burden of proof." DeRushe v. State, 146 Idaho 599, 603, 200 P.3d 1148, 1152 (2009) (quoting Berg v. State, 131 Idaho 517, 518, 960 P.2d 738, 739 (1998)). If there exists a genuine issue of material fact that, if resolved in the applicant's favor, would entitle the applicant to the requested relief, an evidentiary hearing must be conducted. State v. Payne, 146 Idaho 548, 561, 199 P.3d 123, 136 (2008); Goodwin v. State, 138 Idaho 269, 272, 61 P.3d 626, 629 (Ct. App. 2002). As the trial court rather than a jury will be the trier of fact in the event of an evidentiary hearing, summary dismissal is appropriate where the evidentiary facts are not disputed, despite the possibility of conflicting inferences to be drawn from the facts, for the court alone will be responsible for resolving the conflict between those inferences. State v. Yakovac, 145 Idaho 437, 444, 180 P.3d 476, 483 (2008); Hayes v. State, 146 Idaho 353, 355, 195 P.3d 712, 714 (Ct. App. 2008). That is, the judge in a post-conviction action is not constrained to draw inferences in favor of the party opposing the motion for ...

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