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Eddington v. State

Court of Appeals of Idaho

May 8, 2017

RONALD EDDINGTON, Petitioner-Appellant,
STATE OF IDAHO, Respondent.

         2017 Opinion No. 25

         Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Lynn G. Norton, District Judge.

         Judgment summarily dismissing petition for post-conviction relief, affirmed in part, reversed in part, and case remanded.

          Smith Horras, PA; Ellen N. Smith, Boise, for appellant.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; John C. McKinney, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent.

          GUTIERREZ, Judge

         Ronald Eddington appeals from the district court's summary dismissal of Eddington's petition for post-conviction relief. Eddington specifically argues the district court erred in summarily dismissing Eddington's claims that his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance. Additionally, Eddington maintains the trial court erred in failing to inquire into trial counsel's conflict of interest. For the reasons explained below, we affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.


         On August 9, 2013, Eddington broke into his ex-wife's home, held her at gunpoint, and threatened to kill both himself and his ex-wife. Once Eddington left the house, the ex-wife called her father, who then called the police. The State charged Eddington with second degree kidnapping pursuant to Idaho Code § 18-4503, burglary pursuant to I.C. § 18-1401, aggravated assault pursuant to I.C. § 18-905(a), and using a deadly weapon in the commission of a felony pursuant to I.C. § 19-2520. Eddington retained private counsel. Soon after Eddington was charged, his mother was charged with witness intimidation, I.C. § 18-2604. The charge stemmed from a letter Eddington's mother wrote to her ex-daughter-in-law about Eddington's charges. Eddington's trial counsel then agreed to represent Eddington's mother.

         Eddington pled guilty to second degree kidnapping and aggravated assault, and the remaining charges were dismissed as the result of a plea agreement. Eddington was sentenced on March 17, 2014. During the sentencing hearing, the State put several witnesses on the stand. The witnesses most relevant to the post-conviction proceedings were Eddington's ex-wife, the ex-wife's father, the detective who responded to the scene of the crime, and a forensic psychologist. The district court then imposed a unified sentence of twenty-two years, with ten years determinate, for second degree kidnapping and a concurrent unified sentence of five years, with five years determinate, for aggravated assault. On March 18, 2014, Eddington's mother's charge was dismissed.

         Eddington filed a petition for post-conviction relief, alleging several instances of ineffective assistance of trial counsel and one instance of trial court error. Along with several other documents, Eddington attached an affidavit from his mother to the petition. The district court granted the State's motion for summary dismissal. Eddington appeals.



         A petition for post-conviction relief initiates a proceeding that is civil in nature. I.C. § 19-4907; 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. 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 a motion by a party or upon the court's own initiative, if it appears from the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions and agreements of fact, 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. Id.

         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 ...

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