County Office of Appellate Courts
Hapana Crow, Stillwater, Minnesota, pro se.
Ellison, Attorney General, Matthew Frank, Assistant Attorney
General, Saint Paul, Minnesota; and Jenna Peterson, Redwood
County Attorney, Redwood Falls, Minnesota, for respondent.
the claims alleged in the petition either fail as a matter of
law or are procedurally barred, the postconviction court did
not abuse its discretion by summarily denying appellant's
and decided by the court without oral argument.
2005, a jury found appellant Keith Hapana Crow (Crow) guilty
of aiding and abetting the first-degree felony murder of
Robert Berry, Jr. (Berry). On direct appeal, we affirmed
Crow's conviction. State v. Crow, 730 N.W.2d 272
(Minn. 2007). Over the next six years-in 2008, 2009, and
2013-Crow filed three petitions for postconviction relief.
Each was summarily denied by a postconviction court. On
August 18, 2017, Crow filed the present petition for
postconviction relief-his fourth overall-which was also
summarily denied by the postconviction court without an
evidentiary hearing. Because the record conclusively
establishes that Crow is not entitled to relief, we affirm.
evening of September 23, 2004, Crow arranged and attended a
party at a friend's residence in Morton. Among the guests
who attended the party was Berry. Due to tension between
Berry and another guest, J.P., a fight broke out during which
Crow physically attacked Berry and knocked him unconscious.
Later that evening, Crow-along with other guests at the party
including J.P.-wrapped the still-unconscious Berry in a
blanket and drove to the Minnesota River. At the river,
someone stabbed Berry fifteen times, after which his body was
dumped into the river. Crow fled the state but was later
arrested in Montana and returned to Minnesota.
found Crow guilty of aiding and abetting first-degree felony
murder while committing a kidnapping, Minn. Stat. §
609.185(a)(3) (2018), and aiding and abetting second-degree
intentional murder, Minn. Stat. § 609.19, subd. 1(1)
(2018). The district court entered judgment on the
first-degree murder conviction and imposed the mandatory life
sentence without the possibility of release. See
Minn. Stat. § 609.106, subd. 2(2) (2018). We affirmed
Crow's conviction on direct appeal, rejecting his claims
of double jeopardy violations, inadmissible expert testimony,
insufficient evidence, unconstitutional sentencing,
prosecutorial misconduct, and judicial bias. See
Crow, 730 N.W.2d at 272.
filed his first petition for postconviction relief on July
14, 2008, arguing ineffective assistance of counsel and
prosecutorial misconduct. The postconviction court summarily
denied this petition, concluding that even if Crow's
allegations were true, his counsel's performance did not
fall below standards of reasonableness and there was no
reasonable probability that the outcome of Crow's trial
would have been different. Regarding the alleged
prosecutorial misconduct, the postconviction court held that
such a claim was either raised during direct appeal, or was
known or knowable to Crow but not raised, and consequently
was procedurally barred. Crow did not appeal the denial of
his first postconviction petition.
filed his second postconviction petition on January 6, 2009,
arguing that Minn. Stat. § 590.05 (2018)
unconstitutionally denied him appointed counsel and
meaningful access to the courts in his prior postconviction
proceeding. The postconviction court summarily denied
Crow's second petition, holding that his right to counsel
was satisfied by the representation he received on direct
appeal. The postconviction court also concluded that
Crow's assertion that he was unable to access the courts
lacked factual support because Crow had actually succeeded in
filing his prior petition. Crow failed to file a timely
appeal from the denial of his second postconviction petition.
See Crow v. State, No. A11-0299, Order (Minn. filed
Feb. 18, 2011).
filed his third postconviction petition on March 11, 2013,
arguing that he was entitled to relief because (1) newly
discovered evidence in the form of an affidavit from J.P.,
another participant in the murder, asserted that Crow was not
actively involved in the murder; (2) newly discovered
evidence of an email from a juror expressed doubts about the
justness of the verdict; and (3) based on the location of the
residence where Crow and Berry initially fought, Crow's
trial took place in the wrong venue. The postconviction court
summarily denied the petition. The court ruled that
J.P.'s affidavit was not newly discovered evidence
because it was known or knowable to Crow or his counsel at
the time of trial and on direct appeal. The court noted that
the juror email was dated November 28, 2007, and, therefore,
the claim was barred because Crow knew or should have known
of the email's existence before his first postconviction
petition in July 2008. Finally, the court concluded that the
improper-venue claim was procedurally barred because Crow
knew or should have known that the venue was improper when he
filed his direct appeal or prior petitions. Crow did not
appeal the denial of his third postconviction petition.
appeal, we consider Crow's fourth postconviction
petition. Crow raises several grounds for relief. First, Crow
expresses frustration that the sentence of his codefendant,
J.P., who was a minor when the crime occurred, was recently
reduced from life in prison without the possibility of
release to life in prison with the possibility of release in
accordance with Jackson v. State, 883 N.W.2d 272
(Minn. 2016). Crow, who was 22 on the date of the crime,
argues that his sentence should be similarly reduced. Crow
also argues that he should receive a sentence similar to that
of J.P. because, as an "aider and abettor," he is
either less, or at most only equally, culpable for the crime.
Crow further contends that Minn. Stat. §
609.185-the first-degree murder statute-is
unconstitutional as applied to him. In addition, Crow asserts
that Minn. Stat. § 590.01 (2018)-setting forth the rules
governing postconviction petitions-is unconstitutional
because it denied him postconviction legal counsel. Crow
contends that his counsel was ineffective at trial and on
appeal. Finally, Crow alleges that his mental health
conditions excuse his failure to follow the statutory
two-year postconviction time restraints set forth in Minn.
Stat. § 590.01.
November 6, 2017, the postconviction court summarily denied
Crow's fourth postconviction petition without an
evidentiary hearing. Concerning Crow's contention that he
should be resentenced like his co-defendant, the
postconviction court noted that J.P.'s resentencing was
required by our decision in Jackson, which followed
the United States Supreme Court's decisions in Miller
v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), and Montgomery v.
Louisiana, ___ U.S. ___, 136 S.Ct. 718 (2016). Those
cases held that the Eighth Amendment prohibits imposing
automatic sentences of life without the possibility of
release on juveniles convicted of murder. Miller,
567 U.S. at 465; Montgomery, ___ U.S. at ___, 136
S.Ct. at 736 (holding that Miller applies
retroactively). Because Crow was not a minor when Berry was
murdered, the postconviction court held that Crow was not
entitled to resentencing and that his life sentence without
the possibility of release was constitutional under the
precedent of this court and the Supreme Court of the United
postconviction court decided that each of Crow's
remaining claims repeated claims raised, argued, and decided
either in his direct appeal or in one of his previous
postconviction petitions. Consequently, the court held that
those claims were barred by the rule set forth in State
v. Knaffla, 243 N.W.2d 737, 741 (Minn. 1976). Finally,
the postconviction court rejected Crow's claim that
mental health issues impeded his filing of postconviction
petitions in a timely manner. The court noted that Crow had
successfully submitted several prior postconviction
petitions. The postconviction court also held that if Crow
were arguing that his mental health was impaired at the time
of trial-and not "as a deficiency or an excuse for
failing to submit a timely post-conviction
petition"-then his claim was Knaffla-barred
because it was known, or knowable, at the time of his direct
appeal and his first postconviction petition.
to Minn. Stat. § 590.06 (2018), Crow appealed.
review a postconviction court's summary denial of a
petition for postconviction relief for an abuse of
discretion. Andersen v. State, 913 N.W.2d 417, 422
(Minn. 2018). "A postconviction court abuses its
discretion when its decision is based on an erroneous view of
the law or is against logic and the facts in the
record," or exercises its discretion in an arbitrary or
capricious manner. Id. (quoting Brown v.
State, 895 N.W.2d 612, 617 (Minn. 2017)); Zornes v.
State, 903 N.W.2d 411, 416 (Minn. 2017).
postconviction statute authorizes a person who claims that
his conviction or his sentence violated his constitutional or
legal rights to commence a proceeding "to secure relief
by filing a petition in the district court in the county in
which the conviction was had . . . ." Minn. Stat. §
590.01, subd. 1(1). We "liberally construe the petition
and any amendments thereto," including where the
petitioner is self-represented, and "look to the
substance [of the petition] and waive any irregularities or
defects in form." Minn. Stat. § 590.03 (2018);
see Fox v. State, 913 N.W.2d 429, 433 (Minn. 2018)
("We construe Fox's petition liberally, as we do
generally with pro se petitions").
petition for postconviction relief filed after a direct
appeal has been completed may not be based on grounds that
could have been raised on direct appeal of the conviction or
sentence." Minn. Stat. § 590.01, subd. 1. We have
held that "when a petition for postconviction relief
follows a direct appeal of a conviction, all claims raised in
the direct appeal and all claims of which the defendant knew
or should have known at the time of the direct appeal are
procedurally barred." Davis v. State, 880
N.W.2d 373, 377 (Minn. 2016) (quoting Buckingham v.
State, 799 N.W.2d 229, 231 (Minn. 2011)). This rule is
known as the Knaffla-bar in light of its origin in
Knaffla, 243 N.W.2d at 741. Additionally, "if
[a petitioner's] claim could have been raised in a