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Townsend v. State

Supreme Court of Minnesota

August 7, 2013

Otha Eric Townsend, petitioner, Appellant,
v.
State of Minnesota, Respondent.

Office of Appellate Courts Ramsey County

Otha Eric Townsend, Bayport, Minnesota, pro se.

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Saint Paul, Minnesota; and John J. Choi, Ramsey County Attorney, Peter R. Marker, Assistant Ramsey County Attorney, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for respondent.

SYLLABUS

The district court did not abuse its discretion by denying appellant's motion to correct his sentence under Minn. R. Crim. P. 27.03, subd. 9, because appellant's argument to reduce the overall length of his imprisonment lacks merit.

Affirmed.

Considered and decided by the court without oral argument.

OPINION

DIETZEN, Justice.

Appellant Otha Eric Townsend challenges the district court's denial of his motion to correct his sentence under Minn. R. Crim. P. 27.03, subd. 9. Townsend was convicted of first-degree murder in 1994, and we affirmed his conviction on direct appeal in 1996. We subsequently affirmed the denial of his four petitions for postconviction relief. In the current proceeding before the court, Townsend filed a motion to correct his sentence under rule 27.03, subdivision 9, arguing that the overall length of his imprisonment should be reduced. The district court treated the motion as a petition for postconviction relief and denied it on the grounds that it was time barred and procedurally barred. We conclude that Townsend's argument lacks merit and therefore affirm.

In the early morning hours of October 31, 1992, Townsend accompanied Candis Koch-Wilson to the Saint Paul home of her friend L.J. to purchase marijuana. The subsequent events leading to the shooting death of Koch-Wilson and assault of L.J. are set forth in detail in State v. Townsend (Townsend I), 546 N.W.2d 292, 294-95 (Minn. 1996). A Ramsey County grand jury indicted Townsend on four felony counts: one count of first-degree murder, Minn. Stat. § 609.185 (2012), and one count of second-degree murder, Minn. Stat. § 609.19 (2012), in the death of Koch-Wilson; and two counts of attempted murder, Minn. Stat. § 609.17 (2012), in the assault of L.J. After pleading not guilty, Townsend moved the district court to sever the trials to prevent bias.

In September 1994, the jury found Townsend guilty of the first-degree murder of Koch-Wilson, and the district court sentenced him to life in prison with the possibility of release. Seven months later, Townsend pleaded guilty to the second-degree attempted murder of L.J. Consistent with the plea agreement, the court sentenced Townsend to an additional 72 months in prison, to run consecutively to his life sentence. The district court also granted Townsend 597 days of jail credit against the 72-month sentence.

Townsend filed a direct appeal of his first-degree murder conviction, arguing that the district court erroneously admitted evidence of the L.J. assault at the murder trial. Townsend I, 546 N.W.2d at 296. In April 1996, we affirmed the conviction, concluding that although the district court erred by admitting some of the evidence, the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Id. at 296-97.

Townsend subsequently filed four petitions for postconviction relief, all of which the postconviction court denied and we affirmed on appeal. See Townsend v. State (Townsend II), 582 N.W.2d 225, 227-29 (Minn. 1998) (dismissing Townsend's claims of alleged trial errors as procedurally barred and claim of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel as lacking support in the record); Townsend v. State (Townsend III), 646 N.W.2d 218, 224 (Minn. 2002) (concluding that the error in admitting evidence of the related attempted murder was harmless because the verdict was surely unattributable to the erroneously admitted evidence); Townsend v. State (Townsend IV), 723 N.W.2d 14, 18-20 (Minn. 2006) (dismissing Townsend's claims as procedurally barred); Townsend v. State (Townsend V), 767 N.W.2d 11, 13-14 (Minn. 2009) (rejecting Townsend's claim that the 2005 amendments to Minn. Stat. § 590.01 (2012), violated the Single Subject and Title Clause of the Minnesota Constitution).

In May 2012, Townsend filed a pro se motion to correct his sentence under Minn. R. Crim. P. 27.03, subd. 9, arguing that the district court should reduce the overall length of his imprisonment. Specifically, Townsend asserted that the court should: (1) amend his consecutive life and 72-month sentences to run concurrently; and (2) apply 597 days of jail credit to his life sentence rather than his 72-month sentence. The court concluded the motion should be treated as a petition for postconviction relief brought under Minn. Stat. ยง 590.01, and denied the motion without an evidentiary hearing because it was time barred ...


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