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Gail v. State

Supreme Court of Minnesota

December 28, 2016

Reginald Lee Gail, Appellant,
v.
State of Minnesota, Respondent.

         Hennepin County Office of Appellate Courts

          Reginald Lee Gail, Bayport, Minnesota, pro se. Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Saint Paul, Minnesota; and

          Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Linda K. Jenny, Assistant County Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for respondent.

         SYLLABUS

         The postconviction court did not abuse its discretion when it denied the appellant's petition for postconviction relief without holding an evidentiary hearing.

         Affirmed.

         Considered and decided by the court without oral argument.

          OPINION

          STRAS, JUSTICE.

         This case involves an appeal from a postconviction court's summary denial of Reginald Lee Gail's second petition for postconviction relief. Because Minn. Stat. § 590.04, subd. 3 (2016), bars Gail's claims, we affirm the postconviction court's decision.

         I.

         In 2004, Gail shot and killed Yvain Braziel during a drug deal.[1] Following a trial, a jury found Gail guilty of first-degree murder while committing a felony involving the unlawful sale of a controlled substance, and the district court sentenced him to life imprisonment with the possibility of release after serving a minimum of 30 years in prison. Gail I, 713 N.W.2d at 857; Minn. Stat. § 609.185(a)(3) (2016); see Minn. Stat. § 244.05, subds. 4-5 (2004).

         On direct appeal, Gail raised seven issues, including a claim that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction because he did not actually sell any drugs. In affirming Gail's conviction, we concluded in relevant part that "[t]he evidence provide[d] ample support for the conclusion that . . . the shooting happened as part of a drug deal." Gail I, 713 N.W.2d at 862. In particular, we relied on evidence that Braziel had arranged to purchase $250 worth of cocaine from Gail, Gail had told Braziel the price of the cocaine over the telephone, and Braziel had argued with Gail during the transaction over the quantity of cocaine provided. Id. at 862-63.

         Gail filed his first petition for postconviction relief in 2006. He raised 13 claims, including an argument that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction. Gail v. State (Gail II), 732 N.W.2d 243, 245-46 (Minn. 2007). The postconviction court denied the petition without holding an evidentiary hearing. Id. at 245. With respect to Gail's sufficiency-of-the-evidence claim, the court applied the procedural bar from State v. Knaffla, based on its finding that the claim was "identical or substantially similar to the claim[] Gail pursued on direct appeal." Gail II, 732 N.W.2d at 246 (citing State v. Knaffla, 309 Minn. 246, 252, 243 N.W.2d 737, 741 (1976) ("[W]here direct appeal has once been taken, all matters raised therein, and all claims known but not raised, will not be considered upon a subsequent petition for postconviction relief.")). On appeal, we also concluded that the Knaffla rule barred Gail's sufficiency-of-the-evidence claim. Id. at 247.

         On February 4, 2016, Gail filed his second petition for postconviction relief, which was accompanied by a request for an evidentiary hearing. In it, he again argued that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction. He also alleged that his petition was not frivolous and should be considered in the interests of justice. In his brief, Gail divides his claim into three components: (1) the evidence established only that Gail was purchasing controlled substances, not selling them; (2) the applicable murder statute is unambiguous and required the State to prove that ...


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