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St. Louis County Michael Jon Staunton v. State

Supreme Court of Minnesota

January 22, 2014

St. Louis County Michael Jon Staunton, petitioner, Appellant,
v.
State of Minnesota, Respondent.

Office of Appellate Courts

Michael Jon Staunton, Bayport, Minnesota, pro se.

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Saint Paul, Minnesota; and Mark S. Rubin, St. Louis County Attorney, Gordon P. Coldagelli, Assistant St. Louis County Attorney, Duluth, Minnesota, for respondent.

Dietzen, J. Concurring, Page, Anderson, and Lillehaug, JJ.

SYLLABUS

1. Minnesota Statutes § 590.01, subd. 4(a)(2) (2012), allows a defendant to file a petition for postconviction relief within two years of an appellate court's disposition of the petitioner's direct appeal, not the disposition of the petitioner's first review by postconviction proceeding.

2. The postconviction court did not err when it summarily denied appellant's fourth postconviction petition because the petition, files, and records of the proceeding conclusively show that the petition was time barred by section 590.01, subdivision 4(a).

Affirmed.

Considered and decided by the court without oral argument.

OPINION

DIETZEN, Justice.

Appellant Michael Jon Staunton was found guilty by a St. Louis County jury of several offenses, including first-degree felony murder (kidnapping), in connection with the stabbing death of Darryl Kokochak. The district court entered a judgment of conviction, and sentence was imposed. Staunton filed a direct appeal, which was stayed while he pursued his first petition for postconviction relief. The postconviction court granted Staunton's request to withdraw his petition without prejudice. Six months later, we granted Staunton's motion to dismiss his direct appeal. Staunton subsequently filed a second postconviction petition, which was resolved without a decision on the merits. In response to Staunton's third postconviction petition, the postconviction court held an evidentiary hearing. After considering the evidence presented, the postconviction court denied Staunton's third postconviction petition. We deemed the third petition to be timely under the effective date provision of Minn. Stat. § 590.01, subd. 4 (2012), and then proceeded to consider the merits of the petition.[1] We ultimately affirmed the denial of Staunton's third postconviction petition. Staunton v. State (Staunton III), 784 N.W.2d 289, 303 (Minn. 2010).

In 2012 Staunton, proceeding pro se, filed a fourth postconviction petition, which the postconviction court summarily denied as untimely under Minn. Stat. § 590.01, subd. 4. On appeal from the denial of his fourth petition, Staunton effectively contends that his earlier appeal of the denial of his third postconviction petition was a "direct appeal, " and therefore his fourth petition was timely filed under Minn. Stat. § 590.01, subd. 4(a)(2), because the fourth petition was filed within two years of "an appellate court's disposition of the petitioner's direct appeal." Id. We conclude that Staunton's reliance on section 590.01, subdivision 4(a)(2), is misplaced because his earlier appeal of his third postconviction petition was not a direct appeal. We therefore affirm the summary denial of Staunton's fourth postconviction petition.

The facts surrounding Darryl Kokochak's murder are set forth in detail in our opinion affirming the denial of Staunton's third postconviction petition. Staunton III, 784 N.W.2d at 293-96. We limit our discussion to the facts directly relevant to this appeal. In January 2001, Staunton was found guilty of first-degree premeditated murder, Minn. Stat. § 609.185(a)(1) (2012), and three counts of first-degree felony murder while committing or attempting to commit burglary, kidnapping, and tampering with a witness, in violation of Minn. Stat. §§ 609.185(a)(3) (2012) and 609.05 (2012), for the stabbing death of Kokochak on November 23, 1999. Staunton was sentenced to life without the possibility of release on the first-degree felony murder (kidnapping) conviction.

The procedural history of this case is lengthy and convoluted. In April 2001, Staunton filed a direct appeal that was stayed for consideration of his first petition for postconviction relief. In November 2002, the postconviction court granted Staunton's request to withdraw his petition without prejudice. Six months later, we issued an order granting Staunton's motion to dismiss his direct appeal; our order did not use the phrase "without prejudice." In July 2003, Staunton filed a second postconviction petition, which was resolved without a decision on the merits. In April ...


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