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Williams v. State

March 10, 2005

EDBERT NEAL WILLIAMS, PETITIONER, APPELLANT,
v.
STATE OF MINNESOTA, RESPONDENT.



Heard, considered and decided by the court en banc without oral argument.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

When the record sufficiently supports the post-conviction court finding that a trial witness' recantation is not genuine -- that it was obtained by threat, and that the trial witness testified at a post-conviction hearing that his trial testimony was true and his recanting affidavit false -- it is not an abuse of discretion for the post-conviction court to deny a petition for a new trial based on the witness' recanted affidavit.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Anderson, Russell A., Justice.

Affirmed.

OPINION

A Ramsey County jury found Appellant Edbert Neal Williams guilty of first-degree premeditated murder in the stabbing death of Genelda Campeau, and guilty of attempted first-degree murder in the stabbing of Genelda's granddaughter, Shelly Campeau. Williams received a sentence of life imprisonment for the murder and a consecutive sentence of 180 months for the attempted murder. On direct appeal, we affirmed. State v. Williams, 593 N.W.2d 227 (Minn. 1999).

In April 2003, Williams filed a petition for post-conviction relief requesting a new trial based upon an affidavit recanting trial testimony. At the post-conviction evidentiary hearing that followed, the witness contradicted the affidavit by testifying that his affidavit had been obtained by threats and was false and that his trial testimony was true. The post-conviction court denied Williams' petition and this appeal followed. We conclude that the post-conviction court did not abuse its discretion and we affirm.

To give context to Williams' post-conviction claims, we recite briefly the facts from our 1999 opinion affirming Williams' convictions. Williams, 593 N.W.2d at 230-32. On January 12, 1996, Genelda Campeau was stabbed to death in her Saint Paul home and her granddaughter, Shelly Campeau, was also stabbed, although her wounds were not fatal. Shelly identified Williams, her former boyfriend and the father of her child, as the assailant. Shelly testified that she saw Williams stab her grandmother, Genelda, and that Williams then stabbed her in the back and in the chest. According to Shelly, Williams had abused her in the past. A passerby identified Williams as the man fighting with Shelly in the yard outside Genelda's home. The passerby heard Shelly yell, "he killed my grandmother," and also heard Williams yell, "Shut the f--k up. Shut the f--k up. I'll kill you, b--ch." Williams was arrested a short time later not far from Genelda's home.

Darryl Irby, a felon who was cellmates with Williams before trial, testified that Williams admitted that he had killed Genelda and that he stabbed Shelly. According to Irby, Williams had offered him $1,000 to kill Shelly to assure that she did not testify at trial.

On December 13, 1996, a Ramsey County jury found Williams guilty of first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Genelda and of first-degree attempted murder in the stabbing of Shelly. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and to a consecutive term of 180 months of confinement. On April 22, 1999, we affirmed the conviction on direct appeal. Williams, 593 N.W.2d at 229, 239.

Williams filed his post-conviction petition in April 2003 together with an affidavit dated June 5, 2001, from Irby. In his affidavit, Irby recanted his trial testimony, explaining that he wanted to be sure that Williams was found guilty because Genelda was his distant relative. Irby stated that he befriended Williams, could not get him to confess, but nonetheless told an investigator that Williams had confessed to the stabbings. Irby further explained that he had deceived an investigator into believing that Williams planned to kill Shelly to prevent her from testifying. Irby also stated that Shelly confided to him that her boyfriend, Gary Bultman, murdered Genelda in order to collect life insurance proceeds, stabbed Shelly, and framed Williams for the crimes.

The post-conviction court, which was also the trial court, scheduled an evidentiary hearing, which was continued several times at Williams' request to allow for witnesses to attend. The hearing was held on August 28, 2003. Williams' attorney informed the court that as of two weeks before the hearing, Shelly was in custody in Wisconsin and unavailable to testify.*fn1 Williams did not testify in support of his petition. Irby testified at the hearing that his trial testimony was true, that his affidavit recanting that testimony was false, and that he had never talked with Shelly and did not know her. Irby also testified at the hearing that while in prison, a fellow prisoner named Jackson had provided him with appellate briefs from the Williams case. According to Irby, Jackson and three other prisoners, whom Irby refused to identify over Williams' objection, had threatened him, telling him to help Williams or he would regret it.*fn2 Irby testified that he had been aided in preparing his false affidavit by the appellate briefs and by conversations with Jackson.*fn3

The post-conviction court denied Williams' petition, finding that there was ample evidence of his guilt apart from Irby's testimony and concluding that the result of the trial would have been the ...


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