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Martin v. State

Supreme Court of Minnesota

June 17, 2015

LaMonte Rydell Martin, Appellant,
v.
State of Minnesota, Respondent

Page 283

Hennepin County.

Affirmed.

SYLLABUS

1. The postconviction court did not abuse its discretion by concluding, without requiring the witness to testify, that the witness validly invoked the privilege against self-incrimination through his attorney at an evidentiary hearing. Moreover, the court did not err by denying the defendant's motion, brought under Minn. Stat. § 609.09, subd. 1 (2014), to grant a witness immunity to testify to overcome a claim of the privilege against self-incrimination.

2. The postconviction court did not abuse its discretion by denying the appellant's first petition for postconviction relief on the ground that the witness recantation claim lacked merit.

3. Because Miller v. Alabama, __ U.S. __, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 183 L.Ed.2d 407 (2012) does not apply retroactively, appellant's second petition for postconviction relief is time-barred under Minn. Stat. § 590.01, subd. 4(a) (2014), and therefore the postconviction court did not abuse its discretion in denying the second petition.

Michael McGlennen, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for appellant.

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Saint Paul, Minnesota; and Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Lee W. Barry, Assistant Hennepin County Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for respondent.

Dietzen, J., Concurring, Anderson, J., Concurring, Lillehaug, J., Dissenting, Page, J.

Page 284

OPINION

DIETZEN, Justice.

Appellant LaMonte Rydell Martin was found guilty of first-degree murder committed for the benefit of a gang and first-degree premeditated murder. The district court entered judgment of conviction for first-degree premeditated murder, and imposed a sentence of life without the possibility of release (LWOR). The conviction and sentence were affirmed on direct appeal. State v. Martin (Martin I), 773 N.W.2d 89 (Minn. 2009).

In August 2011, Martin filed a petition for postconviction relief alleging, among other things, recantations by two witnesses. On appeal, we reversed in part, concluding that Martin was entitled to an evidentiary hearing on his witness recantation claim, but affirmed the denial of his other claims. Martin v. State (Martin II), 825 N.W.2d 734 (Minn. 2013). We remanded the case to the postconviction court for an evidentiary hearing on the witness recantation claim. Id. at 743. Subsequently, Martin filed a second petition for postconviction relief, alleging that his life sentence is unconstitutional under the Federal and State Constitutions, and claiming he is entitled to the retroactive application of Miller v. Alabama, __ U.S. __, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 183 L.Ed.2d 407 (2012). On remand, the postconviction court consolidated both matters, conducted an evidentiary hearing, and then denied Martin's witness recantation claim from

Page 285

his first postconviction petition, and denied his second postconviction petition. We affirm.

Martin was charged by criminal complaint with aiding and abetting first-degree premeditated murder, Minn. Stat. § 609.185(a)(1) (2014), and committing a crime for the benefit of a gang, Minn. Stat. § 609.229, subd. 2 (2014), arising out of the execution-style homicide of Christopher Lynch on May 3, 2006. The murder occurred six weeks before Martin's eighteenth birthday. Pursuant to Minn. Stat. § § 260B.007, subd. 6(b); 260B.101, subd. 2 (2014), Martin was automatically certified as an adult and indicted by a grand jury on both charges. The grand jury also indicted Cornelius Jackson and Jonard McDaniel for murder for their role in aiding Martin and for committing a crime for the benefit of a gang.

At trial the State presented evidence that Christopher Lynch was an innocent victim and that his murder was " collateral damage" in an on-going dispute between Martin's gang, the One-Nines, and a rival gang. The identity of the shooters was a highly contested issue at trial. Only two of the State's eyewitnesses, Jermaine Mack-Lynch and his older brother Charles Pettis, were able to provide direct evidence that Martin and Jackson shot Lynch. Ten-year-old S.H. witnessed the shooting from his back porch. He could not see the two shooters' faces, but he did observe that the shooters were black men wearing hats.[1]

Following trial, the jury found Martin guilty of both offenses. At the sentencing hearing, Martin presented evidence in support of his argument that, due to his age and mental capacity, the imposition of a LWOR sentence constituted cruel and/or unusual punishment under both the Federal and State Constitutions. The district court disagreed, explaining that Martin was less than two months away from his eighteenth birthday when he committed the offense, and therefore his " age of 17 is not a factor that renders the punishment of life in prison without parole unconstitutional." Martin was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder and the district court imposed a LWOR sentence.

On direct appeal, Martin asserted nine claims, including a claim that his LWOR sentence constituted cruel and unusual punishment because he was a juvenile at the time of the crime. Martin I, 773 N.W.2d at 97.[2] We affirmed Martin's conviction and sentence, concluding, among other things, that the punishment of LWOR was not unconstitutional as applied to Martin. Id. at 99.

In August 2011, Martin filed a petition for postconviction relief pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 590.01, subd. 1 (2014). The petition alleged seven claims, including a claim

Page 286

that Martin was entitled to an evidentiary hearing and a new trial based on the recantations of Mack-Lynch and Pettis. The postconviction court concluded that Martin failed to satisfy the three-part test articulated in Larrison v. United States, 24 F.2d 82, 87-88 (7th Cir. 1928), to establish his witness recantation claim, and therefore he was not entitled to an evidentiary hearing under Minn. Stat. § 590.04, subd. 1 (2014). The court denied Martin's other claims. On appeal, we reversed the summary denial of Martin's witness recantation claim, but affirmed the denial of Martin's other claims. Martin II, 825 N.W.2d at 746. We concluded that Martin presented competent material evidence that, if found to be true, could satisfy the Larrison test and warrant a new trial. Id. at 743. Therefore, we remanded for an evidentiary hearing " to assess the credibility of the recanting witnesses, and to determine whether Martin satisfies the Larrison factors, and therefore is entitled to a new trial." Id. at 744.[3]

Subsequently, Martin filed a second petition for postconviction relief arguing that his LWOR sentence: (1) violates his substantive constitutional rights under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, and Article I, Section 5 of the Minnesota Constitution, which prohibits cruel or unusual punishment, in light the United States Supreme Court's holding in Miller v. Alabama, __ U.S. __, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 183 L.Ed.2d 407 (2012); (2) violates his Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial; (3) violates his Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection of the laws; and (4) should ...


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