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Wurdemann v. State

Supreme Court of Idaho

February 28, 2017

JOHN DAVID WURDEMANN, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IDAHO, Respondent. JOHN DAVID WURDEMANN, Petitioner-Respondent,
v.
STATE OF IDAHO, Respondent-Appellant.

         Appeal from the District Court of the Third Judicial District, State of Idaho, Canyon County. Hon. Renae J. Hoff, District Judge.

         District court grant of post-conviction relief, affirmed.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Idaho Attorney General, Boise, for appellant.

          Kenneth K. Jorgensen, Deputy Idaho Attorney General argued.

          Elisa G. Massoth, Payette, argued for respondent.

          BURDICK, Chief Justice.

         The State appeals the Canyon County District Court's grant of post-conviction relief for John David Wurdemann. Wurdemann was convicted on seven felony counts related to the June 2000 attack of Linda LeBrane. In its order, the district court ruled that Wurdemann's Sixth Amendment right to counsel was violated because trial counsel failed to properly challenge the admission of eyewitness identifications. We affirm.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         In 2002, Wurdemann was convicted on seven felony counts[1] related to the June 2000 attack of Linda LeBrane.[2] State v. Wurdemann, No. 30438 (Idaho Ct. App. Feb. 28, 2006) (unpublished). In 2006, Wurdemann's direct appeal was denied by the Court of Appeals. Id. In 2011, Wurdemann was denied post-conviction relief, and he appealed that denial. In July 2012, while his post-conviction appeal was pending, Wurdemann filed an Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) Motion, Relief from a Judgment or Order. The district court granted the motion and in March 2015, held a new evidentiary hearing on whether Wurdemann was denied his Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel. Following the evidentiary hearing, the district court ruled that Wurdemann was denied his right to the effective assistance of counsel and vacated his convictions. The State appeals.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         "The right to grant or deny relief under I.R.C.P. 60(b) is a discretionary one. Thus, absent a showing of arbitrary disregard for the relevant facts and principles of law by the court below, this Court will affirm the lower court's decision to deny or grant relief under I.R.C.P. 60(b)." Sherwood & Roberts, Inc. v. Riplinger, 103 Idaho 535, 541, 650 P.2d 677, 683 (1982).

         "When reviewing a district court's decision to grant or deny a petition for post-conviction relief following an evidentiary hearing, this Court will not disturb the district court's factual findings unless they are clearly erroneous." Booth v. State, 151 Idaho 612, 617, 262 P.3d 255, 260 (2011).

         III. ANALYSIS

         The State raises two primary arguments on appeal. First, the State argues the district court erred by granting Wurdemann's Rule 60(b) motion, which allowed Wurdemann to pursue his post-conviction claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. Second, the State argues the district court incorrectly granted Wurdemann's post-conviction claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. We address each claim in turn.

         A. The district court's grant of Wurdemann's Rule 60(b) motion.

         Idaho Appellate Rule 11(a)(7) states that an appeal as a matter of right may be taken from "[a]ny order made after final judgment including an order denying a motion to set aside a default judgment . . . ." I.A.R. 11(a)(7). Here, final judgment in Wurdemann's post-conviction hearing was entered on September 15, 2011. The order granting Wurdemann's I.R.C.P. 60(b) motion was entered on July 5, 2013. Thus, the order granting Wurdemann's I.R.C.P. 60(b) motion was an "order made after final judgment." As such, the district court's order granting Wurdemann's I.R.C.P. 60(b) motion was appealable as a matter of right. I.A.R. 11(a)(7); Wheeler v. McIntyre, 100 Idaho 286, 288-89, 596 P.2d 798, 800-01 (1979) ("Considering first the appealability of this order, we note that I.A.R. 11(a)(5) permits an appeal as a matter of right from 'any order made after final judgment.' Since the order denying the motions is one made after final judgment, it is appealable . . . .").

Under Idaho Appellate Rule 14:
Any appeal as a matter of right from the district court may be made only by physically filing a notice of appeal with the clerk of the district court within 42 days from the date evidenced by the filing stamp of the clerk of the court on any judgment or order of the district court appealable as a matter of right in any civil or criminal action.

I.A.R. 14(a).

         The filing stamp on the district court's I.R.C.P. 60(b) order is July 5, 2013. The State filed its notice of appeal on July 16, 2015. This was well beyond the mandatory forty-two-day filing period allowed under Idaho Appellate Rule 14(a). Goodman Oil Co. v. Scotty's Duro-Bilt Generator, Inc., 147 Idaho 56, 58, 205 P.3d 1192, 1194 (2009) ("Any appeal as a matter of right from the district court must be filed within forty-two days of the judgment." (citing I.A.R. 14(a))). Because the State did not appeal the district court's order granting Wurdemann's I.R.C.P. 60(b) motion within forty-two days, we dismiss the State's arguments regarding whether Wurdemann's I.R.C.P. 60(b) motion was properly granted and affirm the district court's grant of the motion. Id. at 58-59, 205 P.3d at 1194-95 ("Failure to comply with time restrictions is jurisdictional 'and shall cause automatic dismissal of such appeal.' " (quoting I.A.R. 21)).

         B. The district court's finding of ineffective assistance of counsel.

         Following the grant of Wurdemann's I.R.C.P. 60(b) motion, the district court held an evidentiary hearing on the issue of whether Wurdemann was denied effective assistance of counsel in violation of his Sixth Amendment rights. The district court found that Wurdemann was denied his right to effective assistance of counsel because trial counsel failed to properly challenge LeBrane's eyewitness identification of Wurdemann at trial. The State appeals this ruling, arguing that Wurdemann has failed to meet his burden to show that his counsel's performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness.

When reviewing a district court's decision to grant or deny a petition for post-conviction relief following an evidentiary hearing, this Court will not disturb the district court's factual findings unless they are clearly erroneous. I.R.C.P. 52(a); Murray v. State, 121 Idaho 918, 921, 828 P.2d 1323, 1326 (Ct. App. 1992). A claim of ineffective assistance of counsel presents a mixed question of law and fact. Murray, 121 Idaho at 921, 828 P.2d at 1326; Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 698 (1984). When faced with a mixed question of fact and law, the Court will defer to the district court's factual findings if supported by ...

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