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Arellano v. State

Court of Appeals of Idaho

October 19, 2018

JUAN MANUEL ARELLANO, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IDAHO, Respondent.

          Appeal from the District Court of the Fifth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Cassia County. Hon. Michael R. Crabtree, District Judge.

         Order denying petition for post-conviction relief, affirmed.

          Eric D. Fredericksen, State Appellate Public Defender; Justin M. Curtis, Deputy Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for appellant.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Theodore S. Tollefson, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent.

          GUTIERREZ, Judge.

         Juan Manuel Arellano appeals from the district court's order denying his petition for post-conviction relief. Arellano argues the district court erred in ruling he did not establish ineffective assistance of counsel because counsel did not advise Arellano of the elements of second degree murder. For the reasons provided below, we affirm.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Arellano was charged with the first degree murder of his wife, an enhanced penalty for use of a deadly weapon, aggravated assault, and attempted murder. The charges arose out of an incident in southern Idaho in which Arellano shot and killed his wife, the deadly bullet then struck another person, and Arellano allegedly threatened to kill and attempted to shoot a person at the bar who tried to intervene. In part, the evidence relied upon by the State for the first degree murder charge was the early admission by Arellano to police that he had intended to kill his wife when he went to the bar that evening. The State also relied on a text message sent a few hours earlier by Arellano to a friend which read, "Voi amatar esa piruja."[1] Arellano pled guilty to first degree murder and the enhanced penalty for use of a deadly weapon, entering an Alford[2]plea regarding the elements of malice aforethought, Idaho Code § 18-4001, and premeditation, I.C. § 18-4003(a). Arellano was sentenced to a unified life term of confinement, with twenty-two years determinate. Arellano appealed, arguing the district court abused its discretion by imposing an excessive sentence. This Court affirmed the judgment of conviction and sentence. State v. Arellano, Docket No. 38880 (May 7, 2012) (unpublished).

         Arellano then filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief, which the district court summarily dismissed. Arellano v. State, 158 Idaho 708, 709, 351 P.3d 636, 637 (Ct. App. 2015). Arellano appealed, and this Court reversed the district court's summary dismissal on the claim of ineffective assistance of counsel that defense counsel informed Arellano that his mental state at the time of his wife's death was irrelevant. Id. at 711, 351 P.3d at 639.

         On remand, both Arellano and his defense counsel testified at the evidentiary hearing. The State and Arellano then filed post-evidentiary hearing briefs. In Arellano's post-evidentiary hearing brief, he did not argue that counsel was ineffective for informing Arellano that his mental state was irrelevant. Rather, Arellano argued counsel was ineffective for failing to advise him of the elements of second degree murder and the application of the facts to those elements. The State objected to Arellano's post-hearing attempt to amend or refine the claim tried on remand, noting Arellano's failure to amend his petition and asserting prejudice based on lack of notice.

         Within a footnote in its findings of fact and conclusions of law, the district court found that Arellano did not make any argument or identify any evidence produced at trial to support the claim that Arellano's counsel was ineffective for informing Arellano that facts concerning his mental state were irrelevant. The district court concluded the issue was waived. The district court then addressed Arellano's post-evidentiary hearing argument, ruling as to the deficiency prong of Strickland[3] that Arellano failed to establish that his counsel owed him a duty to advise him of the elements of the uncharged offense of second degree murder. As to the prejudice prong of Strickland, the district court ruled that because Arellano did not provide any evidence regarding the reasons he pled guilty to first degree murder, he failed to establish that, had counsel advised Arellano of the elements of second degree murder, he would not have pled guilty and would instead have insisted on going to trial. Having concluded that Arellano failed to establish both deficient performance and prejudice, the district court denied Arellano's petition for post-conviction relief. Arellano timely appeals.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         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); Self v. State, 145 Idaho 578, 580, 181 P.3d 504, 506 (Ct. App. 2007). To establish a deficiency, the petitioner has the burden of showing that the attorney's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness. Aragon v. State, 114 Idaho 758, 760, 760 P.2d 1174, 1176 (1988); Knutsen v. State, 144 Idaho 433, 442, 163 P.3d 222, 231 (Ct. App. 2007). Where, as here, the petitioner was convicted upon a guilty plea, to satisfy the prejudice element, the petitioner must show that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's errors, he or she would not have pled guilty and would have insisted on going to trial. Plant v. State, 143 Idaho 758, 762, 152 P.3d 629, 633 (Ct. App. 2006). This Court has long adhered to the proposition that tactical or strategic decisions of trial counsel will not be second-guessed on appeal unless those decisions are based on inadequate preparation, ignorance of relevant law, or other shortcomings capable of objective evaluation. Gonzales v. State, 151 Idaho 168, 172, 254 P.3d 69, 73 (Ct. App. 2011). In order to prevail in a post-conviction proceeding, the petitioner must prove the allegations by a preponderance of the evidence. I.C. § 19-4907; Stuart v. State, 118 Idaho 865, 869, 801 P.2d 1216, 1220 (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 ...


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