of Appellate Courts
Zachary A. Longsdorf, Longsdorf Law Firm, PLC, Inver Grove
Heights, Minnesota, for appellant. Lori Swanson, Attorney
General, Saint Paul, Minnesota; and
J. Choi, Ramsey County Attorney, Thomas R. Ragatz, Assistant
County Attorney, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for respondent.
Because the record supports the postconviction court's
finding that the testimony of the newly discovered witness
was doubtful, the court did not abuse its discretion when,
following an evidentiary hearing, it denied appellant's
request for a new trial based on a claim of newly discovered
Because appellant's claim of ineffective assistance of
trial counsel is procedurally barred by State v.
Knaffla, 243 N.W.2d 737, 741 (Minn. 1976), the
postconviction court did not abuse its discretion when it
summarily denied the claim.
Because appellant's claims for ineffective assistance of
postconviction counsel fail under Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984), the postconviction
court did not abuse its discretion when it summarily denied
first-degree murder case, appellant Larry Pearson appeals
from the denial of his second petition for postconviction
relief. At issue is whether the postconviction court abused
its discretion when it denied Pearson's request for a new
trial based on a claim of newly discovered evidence and
denied his postconviction claims asserting ineffective
assistance of counsel. Because the court did not abuse its
discretion in doing so, we affirm.
State charged Pearson with first-degree premeditated murder,
Minn. Stat. § 609.185(a)(1) (2016); second-degree
intentional murder, Minn. Stat. § 609.19, subd. 1(1)
(2016); and the unlawful possession of a firearm, Minn. Stat.
§ 624.713, subd. 1 (2006), in connection with the
shooting death of Corodarl Merriman. Pearson pleaded not guilty
on all counts.
trial, the State presented the following evidence. On April
22, 2006, Merriman and W.M. drove a van to Pearson's
apartment building to purchase controlled substances from
Pearson. When they arrived, Pearson told W.M., the van's
driver, to step out of the van. W.M. followed his
instructions, leaving Merriman in the front passenger seat.
When W.M. asked to see the drugs, Pearson pulled out a gun
and fired a shot at W.M.'s head. The bullet missed and
W.M. retreated toward an alley. Pearson approached the van
and began shooting. As Merriman attempted to move from the
front passenger seat to the back of the van, Pearson fired
one shot into the van's front passenger window, breaking
it. Pearson then opened the front passenger door of the van,
kneeled over the seat, and fatally shot Merriman. According
to the assistant medical examiner, Merriman's death was
caused by multiple gunshot wounds. She opined that the
gunshot wound to Merriman's right thigh was consistent
with a bullet that traveled through the front passenger
window, striking Merriman while he was sitting in the front
passenger seat. When the prosecutor asked W.M. whether
Merriman was "ever in trouble, " W.M. replied:
"No. He was basically a peacemaker. I mean, he had his,
you know, problems, but he was a peacemaker."
chose to testify. He told the jurors that W.M. told him to
get in the passenger seat of the van. Once inside the van,
Pearson saw that W.M. had a baseball bat. W.M. told Pearson,
"[Y]ou know what it is, " at which point, Merriman,
who was seated in the rear of the van, pulled out a gun.
Pearson retrieved his own gun from the front right pocket of
his jeans and shot Merriman in the leg. W.M. then ran away
from the van. Pearson tried to follow W.M. out the
driver's side of the van, but Merriman pulled
Pearson's arm toward him so Pearson shot Merriman a
second time. Pearson testified that after shooting Merriman
the second time, Merriman again pulled him into the back of
the van, at which point Pearson shot Merriman a third time.
jury found Pearson guilty of first-degree premeditated murder
and unlawful possession of a firearm. The district court
sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of
release for the first-degree premeditated murder conviction
and, concurrently, to 60 months for the unlawful possession
of a firearm conviction.
filed a direct appeal, which was stayed to allow him to
pursue postconviction relief. In his first petition for
postconviction relief, Pearson argued, among other things,
that his trial counsel was ineffective in her
cross-examination of W.M. Specifically, Pearson argued that
after W.M. testified that Merriman was a peacemaker, trial
counsel should have asked W.M. if he was aware of prior bad
acts that Merriman committed as a juvenile. The
postconviction court denied Pearson's petition. In a
consolidated appeal, we affirmed Pearson's convictions
and the denial of his first postconviction petition.
State v. Pearson, 775 N.W.2d 155, 158 (Minn. 2009).
We explained in part that Pearson's claim of ineffective
assistance of trial counsel failed because the decision not
to cross-examine W.M. involved unreviewable trial strategy.
Id. at 165.
December 2014, Pearson filed a second petition for
postconviction relief in which he raised three primary
claims. First, he alleged that newly discovered
evidence existed in the form of an affidavit signed by J.B.,
who claimed he witnessed the shooting. Second, Pearson
alleged that trial counsel was ineffective when she advised
him to decline a plea offer for second-degree murder. Third,
he alleged that he received ineffective assistance from the
attorney who represented him in his first postconviction
proceeding. According to Pearson, postconviction counsel was
ineffective in (1) failing to call W.M. to establish a claim
of ineffective assistance of trial counsel and (2) advising
Pearson to withdraw a conflict of interest claim against his
trial attorney. Although the State agreed that the
postconviction court should hold an evidentiary hearing on
the newly discovered evidence claim, it argued that the
claims for ineffective assistance of counsel not only lacked
merit but also were barred by Minnesota Statutes §
590.01, subd. 4(a), (c) (2016), and State v.
Knaffla, 243 N.W.2d 737, 741 (Minn. 1976).
postconviction court summarily denied Pearson's claims of
ineffective assistance of counsel and scheduled an
evidentiary hearing on the claim of newly discovered
evidence. At the evidentiary hearing, J.B. testified as
follows. He has a child with Pearson's sister and also
helped raise her older child from a very young
He also was in prison with Pearson in the Oak Park Heights
Correctional Facility at various times before November 2014.
Although J.B. never saw the court files, briefs, or other
materials relating to Pearson's direct appeal or first
petition for postconviction relief, he did see our opinion on
the matter. In July 2015, nine years after the shooting and
almost six years after our opinion was filed in Pearson's
first appeal, J.B. signed an affidavit alleging that he
witnessed the shooting.
to J.B., a tan van with two occupants backed into a parking
spot outside Pearson's apartment building. J.B., who was
at an apartment in the same building with Pearson's
sister, testified that he heard the driver call Pearson to
the van and saw Pearson enter its front passenger side. J.B.
could not hear anything that occurred inside the van, but he
did see the van "rock" a minute or two after
Pearson entered. J.B. provided inconsistent descriptions of
the timing of the gunshots. For example, J.B. testified that
he heard only "one gunshot" before W.M. exited the
van but that he saw "several flashes inside the
van" over the same period. J.B. admitted that he never
saw Pearson, W.M., or Merriman with a gun. After the
shooting, J.B. went inside and told Pearson's sister what
he saw. J.B. admitted that shortly after the shooting, he
spoke with the police and told them that he did not see
anything and that he was somewhere else when the shooting
occurred. J.B. claimed that he lied to the police because he
did not want to be involved.
postconviction court found J.B.'s testimony to be
doubtful for several reasons: (1) J.B. admitted prior
untruthfulness to police; (2) J.B.'s statement was made
nine years after the shooting; (3) J.B. was serving time in
the same prison as Pearson when he made the statement; (4)
J.B.'s statement was not corroborated by others
(including Pearson's sister); and (5) J.B.'s
statement was "fuzzy and contradictory" on several
important details. Based on these findings, the court
concluded that Pearson failed to establish one of the
requirements of the newly discovered evidence test set forth
in Rainer v. State, 566 N.W.2d 692, 695 (Minn. 1997)
(explaining that the third requirement of the newly
discovered evidence test is that the evidence not be
"cumulative, impeaching, or