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Petersen v. State

Supreme Court of Minnesota

December 26, 2019

Ryan David Petersen, Appellant,
v.
State of Minnesota, Respondent.

          Ramsey County, Office of Appellate Courts

          Ryan David Petersen, Oak Park Heights, Minnesota, pro se appellant.

          Keith Ellison, Attorney General, Saint Paul, Minnesota; and John J. Choi, Ramsey County Attorney, Adam E. Petras, Assistant County Attorney, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for respondent.

         SYLLABUS

         The district court did not abuse its discretion by denying appellant's claim of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel on the merits.

         Affirmed.

         Considered and decided by the court without oral argument.

          OPINION

          ANDERSON, JUSTICE.

         Appellant Ryan David Petersen was convicted of the first-degree premeditated murder of Chase Passauer. On direct appeal, we affirmed his conviction. State v. Petersen, 910 N.W.2d 1 (Minn. 2018). Petersen then sought postconviction relief, asserting a claim of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel. The district court denied his petition without a hearing. Because we conclude that Petersen's claim fails on the merits, we affirm the district court.

         FACTS

         The murder of Chase Passauer arose from a dispute between Petersen and his criminal defense attorney.[1] On the day of the murder, Petersen exchanged a series of text messages with his attorney concerning a parking ticket. When the attorney informed Petersen that he was unable to talk by phone because he was preparing for court, and he would not handle Petersen's parking ticket, Petersen fired the attorney and demanded a refund of the $7, 000 retainer he had previously paid. Petersen told his girlfriend that he intended to get his money back from, and shoot, the attorney. Petersen then drove five miles to the attorney's office and, with a hidden .40-caliber semiautomatic handgun in his waistband, entered the building, ascended the stairs, and entered the law office through unlocked doors.

         Petersen confronted Passauer, a law clerk who was seated at the reception desk in the law office, demanding to know where the attorney was located. Angry that Passauer did not know where the attorney was, Petersen shot Passauer in the chest five times. As Petersen left the office, he shot Passauer three more times through a glass window separating the reception area from the entryway. Petersen fled, leaving Passauer to die from the eight gunshot wounds to his chest.

         The State charged Petersen by complaint with second-degree intentional murder. Just before his second court appearance, [2] Petersen informed the State that he intended to enter a straight plea to the charge of second-degree intentional murder. The State filed an amended complaint charging Petersen with first-degree premeditated murder, second-degree intentional murder, and possession of a firearm by an ineligible person. The State also informed the district court that a grand jury proceeding would be convened to consider the first-degree murder charge.

         Petersen still attempted to plead guilty to the second-degree murder charge, but the district court did not accept his plea. Five days later, a grand jury indicted Petersen on all three charges. The district court denied Petersen's motion to dismiss the grand jury indictment.

         After a bench trial, the district court found Petersen guilty of all three charges. The district court sentenced Petersen to life in prison without the possibility of release for first- degree premeditated murder and a concurrent 60-month sentence for possession of a firearm by an ineligible person; it did not sentence Petersen on the second-degree intentional murder count.

         Petersen filed a direct appeal. See Petersen, 910 N.W.2d 1. We determined that (1) the district court did not abuse its discretion by declining to accept Petersen's guilty plea to second-degree intentional murder, and (2) sufficient evidence supported the district court's finding of premeditation. Id. at 6, 8. Accordingly, we affirmed Petersen's convictions. Id. at 9.

         Petersen filed a petition for postconviction relief. He argued that his conviction for first-degree premeditated murder must be set aside and that, based on a claim of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel, he should receive a new sentencing hearing for his conviction of possession of a firearm by an ineligible person. The district court denied Petersen's petition without a hearing, and Peterson now appeals.

         ANALYSIS

         A person convicted of a crime may petition for postconviction relief under Minn. Stat. § 590.01, subd. 1 (2018). A district court is required to hold an evidentiary hearing and make findings of fact and conclusions of law "[u]nless the petition and the files and records of the proceeding conclusively show that the petitioner is entitled to no relief." Minn. Stat. § 590.04, subd. 1 (2018). We review a district court's denial of a postconviction petition for an abuse of discretion, and we review any embedded issues of law de novo. Reed v. State, 793 N.W.2d 725, 729 (Minn. 2010). An abuse of discretion occurs when the district court has "exercised ...


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