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Maximo Chacon v. State of Idaho

September 28, 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: Gutierrez, Judge

2012 Unpublished Opinion No. 648

Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk


Maximo Chacon appeals from the district court's order denying his petition for post-conviction relief after an evidentiary hearing. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm.


Following trial, a jury found Chacon guilty of conspiracy to traffic in methamphetamine and failure to affix a drug tax stamp. After conviction, the district court imposed a unified thirty-year sentence, with fifteen years determinate, for the conspiracy offense and a concurrent, determinate sentence of five years for the drug tax offense. Chacon directly appealed, and this Court affirmed Chacon's judgment of conviction. State v. Chacon, 145 Idaho 814, 186 P.3d 670 (Ct. App. 2008).

In June 2009, Chacon filed a petition for post-conviction relief, along with a supporting affidavit, alleging ineffective assistance by both his defense and appellate counsel. He asserted defense counsel provided ineffective assistance in five ways: by failing to request and review all discovery materials before trial; by failing to provide copies of discovery to Chacon prior to trial; by failing to communicate with Chacon during trial preparation; by failing to follow Chacon's instructions in attempting to negotiate a plea; and by failing to investigate and introduce evidence favorable to Chacon, including evidence regarding a confidential informant. Chacon asserted his appellate counsel also provided ineffective assistance by failing to inform Chacon of the ramifications of proceeding pro se and by failing to inform Chacon that by raising ineffective assistance of counsel claims on direct appeal, grounds not raised on direct appeal could nonetheless be encompassed by such claims, acting as a bar to further bringing other potential ineffective assistance of counsel claims on different grounds in future proceedings.

The State moved for summary disposition on the basis that Chacon alleged ineffective assistance of counsel on direct appeal and was accordingly barred from raising the issue in a post-conviction petition. After a hearing on the State's motion, the district court denied summary disposition. In its denial of the motion, the district court cited to this Court's precedent that post-conviction proceedings are the better procedural vehicle for addressing ineffective assistance of counsel claims arising from off-the-record circumstances, and the district court reasoned that some of the allegations in Chacon's post-conviction petition were not expressly alleged on direct appeal, nor did they appear to be part of the record in the direct appeal or underlying criminal case. The district court concluded that Chacon had not had a meaningful opportunity to raise those specific claims of ineffective assistance of counsel prior to post-conviction proceedings and, therefore, the claims were not barred.*fn1

In December 2010, the district court conducted an evidentiary hearing regarding the merits of Chacon's post-conviction claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. Chacon, as well as both defense and appellate counsel, testified. After the hearing, the district court ordered a transcript of the underlying criminal trial and pretrial hearings, took judicial notice of those records, and took the matter under advisement. Thereafter, the district court issued findings of fact and conclusions of law denying the petition and entered a corresponding judgment in February 2011.*fn2 Chacon timely appeals, asserting the supporting affidavit to his petition and the testimony at the evidentiary hearing demonstrate a reasonable probability that the outcome of trial would have been different absent counsel's mistakes.


In order to prevail in a post-conviction proceeding, the petitioner must prove the allegations by a preponderance of the evidence. Idaho Code § 19-4907; Stuart v. State, 118 Idaho 865, 801 P.2d 1216 (1990); Baxter v. State, 149 Idaho 859, 861, 243 P.3d 675, 677 (Ct. App. 2010). 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. Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 52(a); Dunlap v. State, 141 Idaho 50, 56, 106 P.3d 376, 382 (2004); 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. Dunlap, 141 Idaho at 56, 106 P.3d at 382; 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. Baxter, 149 Idaho at 862, 243 P.3d at 678.

All of Chacon's claims relate to ineffective assistance of counsel. A claim of ineffective assistance of counsel may properly be brought under the Uniform Post-Conviction Procedure Act. Barcella v. State, 148 Idaho 469, 477, 224 P.3d 536, 544 (Ct. App. 2009). To prevail on an ineffective assistance of counsel claim, the petitioner must show that the attorney's performance was deficient and that the petitioner was prejudiced by the deficiency. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687-88 (1984); Barcella, 148 Idaho at 477, 224 P.3d at 544. To establish a deficiency, the petitioner has the burden of showing that the attorney's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness. Gonzales v. State, 151 Idaho 168, 172, 254 P.3d 69, 73 (Ct. App. 2011). To establish prejudice, the petitioner must show a reasonable probability that, but for the attorney's deficient performance, the outcome of the proceeding would have been different. Id. This Court has long adhered to ...

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