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Erickson v. State

Supreme Court of Minnesota

February 5, 2014

Timothy Michael Erickson, petitioner, Appellant,
State of Minnesota, Respondent.

Office of Appellate Courts Sherburne County

Timothy Michael Erickson, Bayport, Minnesota, pro se.

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Matthew Frank, Assistant Attorney General, Saint Paul, Minnesota; and

Kathleen A. Heaney, Sherburne County Attorney, Samuel Wertheimer, II, Chief Deputy County Attorney, Elk River, Minnesota, for respondent.


The postconviction court did not abuse its discretion by summarily denying appellant's second petition for postconviction relief because the petition was time barred under Minn. Stat. § 590.01, subd. 4 (2012).

Considered and decided by the court without oral argument.


WRIGHT, Justice.

Appellant Timothy Michael Erickson challenges the summary denial of his second petition for postconviction relief arising out of the March 22, 1988 murder of Donald Gall. Because the postconviction court did not err, we affirm.

In the early hours of March 22, 1988, Gall was brutally murdered while camping with Erickson and several others on the east bank of the Mississippi River near Saint Cloud.[1] Later that day, Erickson and his brother described to their friend, W.B., how Erickson and others had committed the murder. W.B. reported Gall's murder to Saint Cloud police two days later. Law enforcement officers recovered Gall's body from the river near the campsite; and Erickson was arrested shortly thereafter while waiting at the Saint Cloud bus terminal. After receiving a Miranda warning, Erickson admitted committing the murder and subsequently consented to the search of his home.

A grand jury indicted Erickson for the murder, and the case proceeded to trial. During a bifurcated proceeding to address each of Erickson's defenses, the jury concluded that Erickson was not so intoxicated that he was unable to form the necessary intent and thereafter rejected his mental-illness defense. After the jury returned a guilty verdict, the district court convicted Erickson of first-degree murder and imposed a sentence of life in prison. We subsequently affirmed Erickson's conviction on direct appeal. State v. Erickson (Erickson I), 449 N.W.2d 707 (Minn. 1989).

In March 2006, Erickson filed a pro se petition for postconviction relief in accordance with the effective date provision of Minn. Stat. § 590.01, subd. 4 (2012). See Act of June 2, 2005, ch. 136, art. 14, § 13, 2005 Minn. Laws 901, 1098 (providing that "[a]ny person whose conviction became final before August 1, 2005, shall have two years after the effective date of this act [August 1, 2005] to file a petition for postconviction relief"). In his petition, Erickson raised claims of denial of a fair trial, prosecutorial misconduct, judicial misconduct, ineffective assistance of trial counsel, and ineffective assistance of appellate counsel. The postconviction court summarily denied each of Erickson's claims. On appeal, we affirmed the postconviction court's decision. Erickson v. State (Erickson II), 725 N.W.2d 532, 534 (Minn. 2007). In doing so, we concluded that most of these claims were barred by our decision in State v. Knaffla, 309 Minn. 246, 243 N.W.2d 737 (1976), because they could have been raised on direct appeal. See Erickson II, 725 N.W.2d at 535. When addressing Erickson's claim that his trial counsel improperly waived his right to challenge probable cause, we observed that "consultation with a defendant, or an affirmative waiver by a defendant, before counsel can waive probable cause" has never been required. Id. at 536.

In October 2012, Erickson filed a second petition for postconviction relief. Erickson renewed his claim that appellate counsel was ineffective, arguing that appellate counsel failed to investigate his claims and instead improperly relied on trial counsel when crafting the strategy on direct appeal. The ineffective-assistance-of-appellate- counsel claim was not time barred, Erickson maintained, because this claim was based on newly discovered evidence. According to Erickson, the newly discovered evidence was appellate counsel's February 22, 2012 letter sent in response to Erickson's inquiry about the rationale for selecting the issues raised on direct appeal. In that letter, appellate counsel stated that he had "no independent recollection of why [he] raised the issues [he] did in [Erickson's] case, " but explained that he always considers all issues presented to or identified by him and advances the issues that he believes have the best chance of success. In his written submissions to the postconviction court, Erickson also discussed claims of prosecutorial misconduct and ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Erickson claimed that, during his trial, the prosecutor solicited false testimony from a witness and withheld exculpatory evidence. Additionally, he claimed that trial counsel should have challenged probable cause for both the search of Erickson's home and Erickson's arrest.

In its response to Erickson's second postconviction petition, the State interpreted Erickson's submissions as raising four distinct claims—ineffective assistance of appellate counsel, prosecutorial misconduct, ineffective assistance of trial counsel, and denial of a fair trial. The State argued that the claims were time barred under Minn. Stat. ...

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