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Thompson v. State

Supreme Court of Idaho

December 18, 2018

MICHAEL JARED THOMPSON, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IDAHO, Respondent.

          Appeal from the District Court of the Fifth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Minidoka County. Hon. Jonathan P. Brody, District Judge.

         District court order dismissing petition for post-conviction relief, affirmed.

          Nevin Benjamin McKay & Bartlett, LLP, Boise, for appellant. Dennis Benjamin argued.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Idaho Attorney General, Boise, for respondent. Russell Spencer argued.

          BURDICK, CHIEF JUSTICE.

         Michael Jared Thompson appeals the district court's order summarily dismissing his petition for post-conviction relief based on ineffective assistance of counsel. Thompson was charged and convicted of involuntary manslaughter with an enhancement for use of a deadly weapon. Thompson's direct appeal was unsuccessful and he filed a petition for post-conviction relief based on ineffective assistance of counsel at trial and on appeal. Thompson argued his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to request proximate and intervening cause jury instructions. He also argued his appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to raise a claim of fundamental error as to the jury instructions. The district court granted the State's motion for summary dismissal of Thompson's petition for post-conviction relief. The Court of Appeals reversed the district court's order summarily dismissing Thompson's petition. This Court granted the State's timely petition for review, and we affirm the district court's judgment.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         In December 2011, Thompson and three friends went out for a night of social drinking. Later that evening, Thompson's friends began to argue and Thompson recommended the group leave in his truck. After his friends continued to argue in the truck, Thompson stated, "if one of you don't shut up, I'm going to shoot somebody." One of the friends, Michael Blair (Blair), laughed, to which Thompson responded, "you think I'm kidding?" Thompson then pulled out a loaded handgun and cocked it twice. Thompson held the gun in his right hand, put his elbow on the center console and pointed the gun upward and backward. Blair then slid over to the middle of the backseat and said, "if you're going to shoot somebody, it might as well be me. End my miserable existence." Blair then put his hand on Thompson's hand, and put his mouth around the barrel of the gun. The gun then went off, killing Blair. Thompson told the others that Blair had pulled the trigger.

         Thompson was charged with involuntary manslaughter with an enhancement for use of a deadly weapon. At trial, Thompson's attorney argued that Thompson did not cause Blair's death. Rather, counsel argued, Blair caused his own death when he put his mouth on the barrel of a loaded gun. Thompson's counsel did not request, and the jury was not given, an instruction on proximate or intervening cause. The jury returned a guilty verdict, and Thompson was later sentenced to fifteen years in prison with five years fixed. Thompson appealed his conviction and sentence, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. State v. Thompson, No. 40796, 2014 WL 6092429, at *4 (Idaho Ct. App. Nov. 7, 2014).

         One year later, Thompson filed a petition for post-conviction relief alleging his trial and appellate counsel were ineffective. Thompson alleged that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to request proximate and intervening cause jury instructions. Thompson also alleged his appellate counsel was ineffective for failing to assert a claim of fundamental error resulting from the jury not being properly instructed on causation. The State moved for summary dismissal of the post-conviction petition. The district court granted the State's motion to dismiss, stating that by virtue of finding Thompson guilty, the jury found there was causation, and an additional instruction on proximate cause was not necessary and would not have changed the outcome. Thus, the district court determined Thompson's trial attorney was not ineffective for failing to request proximate or intervening cause instructions. As to Thompson's claim of ineffective appellate counsel, the district court stated counsel did not have to raise the arguments Thompson deemed worthy, and that there was no basis for an intervening cause instruction, as it would not have changed the outcome. Thus, the district court determined Thompson failed to show appellate counsel was ineffective. The Court of Appeals reversed the district court's order summarily dismissing Thompson's petition for post-conviction relief. This Court granted the State's timely petition for review.

         II. ISSUE ON APPEAL

         Did the district court err in summarily dismissing Thompson's petition for post-conviction relief?

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         When addressing a petition for review, this Court will give "serious consideration to the views of the Court of Appeals, but directly reviews the decision of the lower court." State v. Schall, 157 Idaho 488, 491, 337 P.3d 647, 650 (2014) (quoting State v. Oliver, 144 Idaho 722, 724, 170 P.3d 387, 389 (2007)). "Proceedings for post-conviction relief are civil in nature, rather than criminal, and therefore the applicant must prove the allegations in the request for relief by a preponderance of the evidence." State v. Dunlap, 155 Idaho 345, 361, 313 P.3d 1, 17 (2013).

"Idaho Code § 19-4906 authorizes summary dismissal of an application for post-conviction relief, either pursuant to motion of a party or upon the trial court's own initiative. Summary dismissal of an application is the procedural equivalent of summary judgment under I.R.C.P. 56." "When reviewing the grant of a motion for summary judgment, this Court applies the same standard used by the district court in ruling on the motion." Likewise, when reviewing a district court's order of summary dismissal in a post-conviction relief proceeding, we apply the same standard as that applied by the district court. Thus, when reviewing such a dismissal, this Court must determine whether a genuine issue of fact exists based on the pleadings, depositions and admissions together with any affidavits on file.

Ridgley v. State, 148 Idaho 671, 675, 227 P.3d 925, 929 (2010) (citations omitted).

         IV. ANALYSIS

         A. Thompson's trial counsel was not ineffective for failing to request proximate and intervening cause jury instructions.

         "A defendant claiming ineffective assistance of counsel must show that (1) counsel's representation was deficient; and (2) counsel's deficient performance prejudiced the defendant." Marr v. State, 163 Idaho 33, ___, 408 P.3d 31, 35 (2017) (citing Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 688-92 (1984)). "To show counsel was deficient, the defendant has the burden of showing that his attorney's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness." Marr, 163 Idaho at 37, 408 P.3d at 35. "To show that counsel's deficient performance was prejudicial, the defendant must show there is a reasonable probability ...


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