2013 Unpublished Opinion No. 790
Appeal from the District Court of the Fifth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Jerome County. Hon. John K. Butler, District Judge.
Judgment summarily dismissing petition for post-conviction relief, affirmed.
Sara B. Thomas, State Appellate Public Defender; Jason C. Pintler, Deputy Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for appellant.
Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; John C. McKinney, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent.
GUTIERREZ, Chief Judge
Irwin Ryan Ray Adams appeals from the district court's judgment summarily dismissing Adams' petition for post-conviction relief. Adams asserts he was entitled to an evidentiary hearing, having established a genuine issue of material fact exists as to whether defense counsel provided ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to present expert witness testimony and by failing to investigate evidence. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.
FACTS AND PROCEDURE
This post-conviction relief action arises from a jury finding Adams guilty of felony vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence. Adams was driving with a passenger, his friend, when Adams crashed his car. The car crash resulted in severe injury to the friend, and the friend eventually died as a result of his injuries. Although Adams contended his car was being chased at the time of the crash, others asserted that Adams was chasing another car. The State alleged via an information that Adams drove with gross negligence "by driving his motor vehicle at a high rate of speed, to-wit: 108 miles per hour in a 50 miles per hour zone trying to chase down another vehicle and crashing his motor vehicle which caused the death of the victim: [the friend]."
In the underlying case, Adams was represented by two attorneys. Adams' first defense counsel represented Adams before trial and contacted and retained the services of an accident reconstruction expert. Defense counsel provided the expert with photographs of the roadway where the accident occurred, interviews of four of Adams' family members, and an accident reconstruction report from the Idaho State Police. Approximately a month after obtaining the information, the expert contacted defense counsel and advised him of the expert's preliminary results: the expert concluded the car driven by Adams was traveling between 70 to 75 miles per hour (mph) at the time of the crash. The expert also requested additional photographs from the accident. In response, defense counsel advised the expert to finish the report and agreed to provide the photographs. According to the expert, this is the last contact the expert had with Adams' first defense counsel, and the expert had no communication with Adams' second defense counsel.
According to Adams' second defense counsel, she took over the case after she and Adams' first defense counsel decided to dissolve their legal partnership. At a continuance hearing, defense counsel indicated that the defense was awaiting results from the expert. The judge continued the trial to another date. At the status conference, a stipulation of continuance was presented to the court and the judge, again, reset the trial date. Later, the prosecutor filed a motion to compel because the prosecutor had not been provided the defense expert's report. Defense counsel informed the court at the hearing on the motion that she had spoken to the expert by phone and, based on what she had learned from the expert, she did not intend to use the expert's report at trial. The court asked if the defense's position was not to call the expert at trial, and defense counsel confirmed that she did not intend to call the expert. In fact, defense counsel did not offer the expert's testimony at trial.
Prior to trial, Adams claims he informed defense counsel that his car had mechanical issues and, according to Adams, defense counsel indicated it was unnecessary to rely on evidence of the engine's mechanical condition for Adams' defense. After Adams' vehicle was removed from the crash scene by a towing company, Adams' father acquired possession of the vehicle and eventually sold it to a car business. The car business owner removed the engine from the vehicle and then crushed the car body. Adams' father reacquired possession of the engine following the conclusion of the trial and had the engine diagnosed by an automobile mechanic. The automobile mechanic provided an affidavit attesting to his finding of mechanical issues with the engine. The mechanic concluded, "That while it is within the realm of ...