2013 Unpublished Opinion No. 575
Appeal from the District Court of the Third Judicial District, State of Idaho, Canyon County. Hon. Thomas J. Ryan, District Judge.
Order summarily dismissing petition for post-conviction relief, affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
Sara B. Thomas, State Appellate Public Defender; Spencer J. Hahn, Deputy Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for appellant.
Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Nicole L. Schafer, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent.
David Scott Begley appeals from the district court's order summarily dismissing his petition for post-conviction relief. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.
I. FACTS AND PROCEDURE
In 2008, a grand jury indicted Begley on three counts of lewd conduct with a minor under the age of sixteen. In 2009, Begley entered an Alford plea to one count of felony injury to a child, I.C. § 18-1501(1), and the state dismissed the three counts of lewd conduct. The district court sentenced Begley to a unified term of ten years, with a minimum period of confinement of one year. On appeal, Begley's judgment of conviction and sentence and the denial of his
I.C.R. 35 motion for reduction of the sentence were affirmed by this Court in an unpublished opinion. State v. Begley, Docket No. 36676 (Ct. App. Mar. 24, 2010). Begley filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief and a motion and affidavit for appointment of counsel. The state filed an answer and requested that Begley's petition be denied. Through counsel, Begley filed an amended petition and affidavit, asserting his guilty plea was not knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily entered because the district court failed to determine a factual basis for his Alford plea and asserting numerous instances of ineffective assistance of counsel. The state filed an answer and Begley filed a motion for summary disposition. In the motion, Begley argued his due process rights were violated because his guilty plea was not knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily entered and asked the district court to withdraw his plea. The district court issued an order denying Begley's motion and providing notice of its intent to dismiss Begley's petition. Begley responded. Thereafter, the district court entered an order dismissing Begley's petition on grounds set forth in its notice of intent to dismiss. Begley appeals.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
A petition for post-conviction relief initiates a proceeding that is civil in nature. Rhoades v. State, 148 Idaho 247, 249, 220 P.3d 1066, 1068 (2009); State v. Bearshield, 104 Idaho 676, 678, 662 P.2d 548, 550 (1983); Murray v. State, 121 Idaho 918, 921, 828 P.2d 1323, 1326 (Ct. App. 1992). Like a plaintiff in a civil action, the petitioner must prove by a preponderance of evidence the allegations upon which the request for post-conviction relief is based. I.C. § 19-4907; Goodwin v. State, 138 Idaho 269, 271, 61 P.3d 626, 628 (Ct. App. 2002). A petition for post-conviction relief differs from a complaint in an ordinary civil action. Dunlap v. State, 141 Idaho 50, 56, 106 P.3d 376, 382 (2004). A petition must contain much more than a short and plain statement of the claim that would suffice for a complaint under I.R.C.P. 8(a)(1). Rather, a petition for post-conviction relief must be verified with respect to facts within the personal knowledge of the petitioner, and affidavits, records or other evidence supporting its allegations must be attached or the petition must state why such supporting evidence is not included with the petition. I.C. § 19-4903. In other words, the petition must present or be accompanied by admissible evidence supporting its allegations or the petition will be subject to dismissal. Wolf v. State, 152 Idaho 64, 67, 266 P.3d 1169, 1172 (Ct. App. 2011).
Idaho Code Section 19-4906 authorizes summary dismissal of a petition for post-conviction relief, either pursuant to motion of a party or upon the court's own initiative, if it appears from the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions and agreements of facts, together with any affidavits submitted, that there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. When considering summary dismissal, the district court must construe disputed facts in the petitioner's favor, but the court is not required to accept either the petitioner's mere conclusory allegations, unsupported by admissible evidence, or the petitioner's conclusions of law. Roman v. State, 125 Idaho 644, 647, 873 P.2d 898, 901 (Ct. App. 1994); Baruth v. Gardner, 110 Idaho 156, 159, 715 P.2d 369, 372 (Ct. App. 1986). Moreover, the district court, as the trier of fact, is not constrained to draw inferences in favor of the party opposing the motion for summary disposition; rather, the district court is free to arrive at the most probable inferences to be drawn from uncontroverted evidence. Hayes v. State, 146 Idaho 353, 355, 195 P.3d 712, 714 (Ct. App. 2008). Such inferences will not be disturbed on appeal if the uncontroverted evidence is sufficient to justify them. Hayes, 146 Idaho at 355, 195 P.3d at 714.
Claims may be summarily dismissed if the petitioner's allegations are clearly disproven by the record of the criminal proceedings, if the petitioner has not presented evidence making a prima facie case as to each essential element of the claims, or if the petitioner's allegations do not justify relief as a matter of law. Kelly v. State, 149 Idaho 517, 521, 236 P.3d 1277, 1281 (2010); DeRushé v. State, 146 Idaho 599, 603, 200 P.3d 1148, 1152 (2009). Thus, summary dismissal of a claim for post-conviction relief is appropriate when the court can conclude, as a matter of law, that the petitioner is not entitled to relief even with all disputed facts construed in the petitioner's favor. For this reason, summary dismissal of a post-conviction petition may be appropriate even when the state does not controvert the petitioner's evidence. See Roman, 125 Idaho at 647, 873 P.2d at 901.
Conversely, if the petition, affidavits and other evidence supporting the petition allege facts that, if true, would entitle the petitioner to relief, the post-conviction claim may not be summarily dismissed. Charboneau v. State, 140 Idaho 789, 792, 102 P.3d 1108, 1111 (2004); Sheahan v. State, 146 Idaho 101, 104, 190 P.3d 920, 923 (Ct. App. 2008). If a genuine issue of material fact is presented, an evidentiary hearing must be conducted to resolve the factual issues. Goodwin, 138 Idaho at 272, 61 P.3d at 629.
On appeal from an order of summary dismissal, we apply the same standards utilized by the trial courts and examine whether the petitioner's admissible evidence asserts facts which, if true, would entitle the petitioner to relief. Ridgley v. State, 148 Idaho 671, 675, 227 P.3d 925, 929 (2010); Sheahan, 146 Idaho at 104, 190 P.3d at 923. Over questions of law, we exercise free review. Rhoades, 148 Idaho at 250, 220 P.3d at 1069; Downing v. State, 136 Idaho 367, 370, 33 P.3d 841, 844 (Ct. App. 2001). The scope of post-conviction relief is limited. Rodgers v. State, 129 Idaho 720, 725, 932 P.2d 348, 353 (1997). A petition for post-conviction relief is not a substitute for an appeal. I.C. § 19-4901(b). A claim or issue which was or could have been raised on appeal may not be considered in post-conviction proceedings. Id.; Whitehawk v. State, 116 Idaho 831, 832-33, 780 P.2d 153, 154-55 (Ct. App. 1989).
A. Direct Challenge to Acceptance of Guilty Plea
Begley asserts the district court erred by summarily dismissing his claim that his Alford plea was not knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily entered because the record of his plea hearing, at which he maintained his innocence, did not contain a strong factual basis for the injury to a child charge. Begley argues he raised a genuine issue of material fact and was entitled to an evidentiary hearing on this claim. While the district court addressed this claim in its order denying Begley's motion and providing notice of its intent to dismiss Begley's petition, the scope of post-conviction relief is limited. See Rodgers v. State, 129 Idaho 720, 725, 932 P.2d 348, 353 (1997). A petition for post-conviction relief is not a substitute for an appeal. I.C. § 19-4901(b). Any issue which could have been raised on direct appeal, but was not, is forfeited and may not be considered in post-conviction proceedings, unless it appears to the court, on the basis of a substantial factual showing by affidavit, deposition or otherwise, that the asserted basis for relief raises a substantial doubt about the reliability of the finding of guilt and could not, in the exercise of due diligence, have been presented earlier. I.C. § 19-4901(b). Begley has not asserted he was unable, with the exercise of due diligence, to challenge the district court's acceptance of his guilty plea on direct appeal. Thus, we need not address this claim.
Even addressing Begley's claim, in Idaho there is no general obligation to inquire into the factual basis of a plea. State v. Coffin, 104 Idaho 543, 545, 661 P.2d 328, 330 (1983). However, such an inquiry should be made if a plea of guilty is coupled with an assertion of innocence or if the court receives information before sentencing raising an obvious doubt as to guilt. Amerson v. State, 119 Idaho 994, 996, 812 P.2d 301, 303 (Ct. App. 1991). In the case of an Alford plea, an accused may consent to the imposition of a prison sentence despite professing his or her innocence as long as a factual basis for the plea is demonstrated and the defendant expresses a desire to enter such a plea. State v. Ramirez, 122 Idaho 830, 834, 839 P.2d 1244, 1248 (Ct. App. 1992); Amerson, 119 Idaho at 996, 812 P.2d at 303. A strong factual basis need not be established by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Hoffman, 108 Idaho 720, 722, 701 P.2d 668, 670 (Ct. App. 1985). A guilty plea is not the occasion for a mini-trial of the case. Id. Rather, the object of ascertaining a factual basis is to assure that the defendant's plea is made knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily. See North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25, 37-38 (1970). By determining a strong factual basis for the plea exists, the trial court ensures the defendant is pleading guilty because he or she believes that the state could, and more likely than not would, prove the charges against him or her beyond a reasonable doubt and the defendant is entering the plea knowingly and voluntarily because he or she believes it to be in his or her best interest to do so, despite a continued assertion of innocence. Ramirez, 122 Idaho at 834, 839 P.2d at 1248. In determining whether a factual basis for a guilty plea exists, we look to the entire record before the trial court at the time the plea was accepted. Mendiola v. State, 150 Idaho 345, 352, 247 P.3d 210, 217 (Ct. App. 2010).
At the change of plea hearing, the following exchange took place:
[COURT] All right. Now, in this case, which is CR 2008-16840, it's my understanding that--well [Prosecutor], can you make a record as to what you expect to proceed this afternoon?
[PROSECUTOR] Yes, Your Honor, it's my understanding that Mr. Begley is going to be pleading to a charge of felony injury to a child. We have an agreement to dismiss CR 08-16840. We filed a new criminal Complaint under CR 2009-10663.
I've got the file for you that's got the criminal Complaint as well as the Information if I ...