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Jones v. State

December 04, 2003

LEMOYNE D. JONES, PETITIONER, APPELLANT,
v.
STATE OF MINNESOTA, RESPONDENT.



SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

The district court did not abuse its discretion when it summarily dismissed the appellant's third petition for post-conviction relief because all of the issues presented in the petition were raised or could have been raised at the time of appellant's direct appeal or in his two prior petitions for post-conviction relief.

Affirmed.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hanson, Justice.

Heard, considered, and decided by the court en banc.

OPINION

Appellant Lemoyne D. Jones*fn1 was convicted of first-degree felony murder and second-degree murder in connection with the May 7, 1984, death of Bruce Swanson. He appeals from an order dismissing without a hearing his third petition for post-conviction relief. Because all of the issues raised in this third petition were raised or could have been raised in Jones' direct appeal or his two previous petitions for post-conviction relief, we affirm.

On May 7, 1984, Bruce Swanson was found dead after a fire in his home. Dr. Michael B. McGee, the medical examiner, concluded that Swanson died from a bullet wound inflicted prior to the fire.*fn2 Based almost entirely on accomplice testimony, a jury found Jones guilty of intentional felony murder in the first degree and murder in the second degree but not guilty of arson. Jones was sentenced to life imprisonment for intentional felony murder under Minn. Stat. § 609.185(3) (1984).*fn3 Jones I, 392 N.W.2d at 230.

Jones filed a direct appeal of his conviction to this court, arguing that: (1) the state's plea agreements with co-defendants violated his due process rights; (2) the district court erred in admitting Spreigl evidence; (3) his right to a speedy trial was violated; and (4) he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Id. at 231. This court rejected those arguments and upheld Jones' conviction. Id. at 237.

Five years later, Jones filed his first petition for post-conviction relief. Jones argued that the state willfully concealed evidence of promises and inducements made to the state's witnesses. Jones requested and was granted funds to cover the cost of investigative services. After completing an "exhaustive investigation," defense counsel informed the court that there was no additional evidence or legal arguments to submit to the court and the court granted Jones' request that the petition be dismissed.

Nineteen months later, Jones filed an application for a writ of habeas corpus in federal district court. Jones based his habeas action on the claims that: (1) the state failed to disclose the scope of the plea agreement with his co-defendants; (2) the district court improperly admitted Spreigl evidence; (3) Jones was denied the right to a speedy trial; and (4) Jones received ineffective assistance of counsel. The federal district court denied Jones' habeas corpus petition. Jones' appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals was dismissed. Jones v. Humphrey, 66 F.3d 330 (8th Cir. 1995). Jones' petition for a writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court was also denied. Jones v. Humphrey, 516 U.S. 949 (1995).

Jones filed his second petition for post-conviction relief just over 2 years later. Jones argued that: (1) the state intentionally withheld evidence that was favorable to the defense; (2) the state knowingly presented false testimony; (3) the state intimidated, threatened or bribed witnesses into giving false testimony against Jones; (4) a third party's vehicle was improperly searched; and (5) there was prosecutorial misconduct. The district court dismissed the petition without an evidentiary hearing, finding that it was without factual support and raised issues that were raised, or could have been raised, in his direct appeal to this court and the proceedings in federal court. Jones did not appeal.

On October 2, 2002, 17 years after his original conviction, Jones filed his third (and present) petition for post-conviction relief. The legal issues presented in this petition include: (1) prosecutorial misconduct by failure to disclose information as required by Minn. R. Crim. P. 9.01; (2) ineffective assistance of counsel; and (3) failure to prove all of the elements of felony murder. In his petition, Jones essentially discusses what he claims are inconsistencies in the trial testimony. The single item of new "evidence" referred to by Jones is a letter of April 2, 1996, to Jones from the director of a funeral home, stating in part that the body of Bruce Swanson was cremated on May 9, 1984, and the burial of the remains took place on May 12, 1984. The significance of this letter is not clear. Jones appears to use the letter to discredit the testimony of Dr. McGee by suggesting that the cremation of May 9, 1984, would have prevented Dr. McGee from performing the examinations that he described as occurring "two or three days" after May 8.

The district court denied Jones' petition without an evidentiary hearing. The court interpreted Jones' petition as raising issues of prosecutorial misconduct (failure to disclose evidence and coercion of witnesses) and ineffective assistance of counsel. The court concluded that: (1) Jones had failed to meet his burden of proof because his request for relief was without any factual support; and (2) the issues raised by Jones were procedurally barred because they were the same issues that had been decided by this court as well as the federal courts. Jones appealed.

In his brief to this court, Jones' arguments are not clearly delineated. Jones identifies as legal issues: (1) prosecutorial misconduct; (2) ineffective assistance of counsel; and (3) the need for an evidentiary hearing because "the trial court record is insufficient." In essence, Jones appears to suggest that the trial testimony of Dr. McGee is inconsistent with other evidence in the record. Jones claims that some evidence would suggest that Swanson was still alive after the gunshot wound and actually died from the fire. (Jones was acquitted of the charge of arson, and presumably would argue that the evidence would not support a murder conviction if the cause of death was the fire.) Jones suggests that Dr. McGee committed perjury, that Jones was not allowed ...


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