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Michael Carrasco Sontoya, Petitioner v. Office of Appellate Courts State of Minnesota

May 1, 2013

MICHAEL CARRASCO SONTOYA, PETITIONER, APPELLANT,
v.
OFFICE OF APPELLATE COURTS STATE OF MINNESOTA, RESPONDENT.



SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

SYLLABUS Because appellant knew or should have known about a purported conflict of interest and other alleged deficiencies comprising his ineffective assistance of trial counsel claim at the time of his direct appeal, that claim is barred by application of State v. Knaffla, 309 Minn. 246, 252, 243 N.W.2d 737, 741 (1976).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Anderson, G. Barry, Justice.

Ramsey County Anderson, G. Barry, J.

Concurring, Page, J. Concurring, Anderson, Paul H., J.

Affirmed.

Considered and decided by the court without oral argument.

OPINION

Appellant Michael Carrasco Sontoya was convicted on May 14, 2009, of first-degree murder while committing first-degree criminal sexual conduct, Minn. Stat § 609.185(a)(2)(2012). He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release. On direct appeal to our court, he challenged his conviction on several grounds but did not raise an ineffective assistance of counsel claim. See State v. Sontoya, 788 N.W.2d 868, 872, 874-76 (Minn. 2010). We affirmed his conviction on September 16, 2010.*fn1 Id.

On September 16, 2011, Sontoya filed a petition for post-conviction relief, asserting that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at his trial. According to Sontoya, his privately-retained attorney concealed a purported conflict of interest stemming from counsel's representation of a cousin of Sontoya's victim in an unrelated federal narcotics case. The post-conviction court denied Sontoya's petition without a hearing. Sontoya now argues that the district court abused its discretion in summarily denying his petition. Because his claim is barred by the Knaffla rule, we affirm.

Sontoya claims that prior to hiring his trial counsel, he asked whether counsel was representing the victim's cousin, E.R.R., in a narcotics case. Sontoya contends that counsel told him he was not representing E.R.R., when he was in fact representing E.R.R. in the federal narcotics case.*fn2 Sontoya asserts that this created a conflict of interest that, when combined with other purported errors, rendered counsel's performance ineffective, and that he is therefore entitled to a new trial.

We review a summary denial of a petition for post-conviction relief for an abuse of discretion. Davis v. State, 784 N.W.2d 387, 390 (Minn. 2010). We review a post-conviction court's legal conclusions de novo, but will not reverse the post-conviction court's factual findings unless those findings are clearly erroneous. Reed v. State, 793 N.W.2d 725, 730 (Minn. 2010).

Post-conviction proceedings are governed by Minn. Stat. ch. 590 (2012). The post-conviction court must hold an evidentiary hearing "[u]nless the petition and the files and records of the proceeding conclusively show that the petitioner is entitled to no relief." Minn. Stat. § 590.04, subd. 1 (2012).

Claims that were raised on direct appeal, or were known or should have been known but were not raised on direct appeal, are procedurally barred. State v. Knaffla, 309 Minn. 246, 252, 243 N.W.2d 737, 741 (1976); see also King v. State, 649 N.W.2d 149, 156 (Minn. 2002). But a claim is not Knaffla-barred if (1) the claim is novel; or (2) the interests of fairness and justice warrant relief. Reed, 793 N.W.2d at 730. Claims allowed under the second exception must have substantive merit and must be asserted without deliberate or inexcusable delay. Wright v. State, 765 N.W.2d 85, 90 (Minn. 2009); Deegan v. State, 711 N.W.2d 89, 94 (Minn. 2006).*fn3

When a claim of ineffective assistance of trial counsel can be determined on the basis of the trial record, the claim must be brought on direct appeal or it is Knaffla-barred. Sanchez-Diaz v. State, 758 N.W.2d 843, 847 (Minn. 2008); Torres v. State, 688 N.W.2d 569, 572 (Minn. 2004). Sontoya asserts a number of deficiencies in the performance of his trial counsel ...


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