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Darin Wayne Dahl v. State of North Dakota

February 26, 2013

DARIN WAYNE DAHL,
PETITIONER AND APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF NORTH DAKOTA, RESPONDENT AND APPELLEE



Appeal from the District Court of Steele County, East Central Judicial District, the Honorable Steven L. Marquart, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: VandeWalle, Chief Justice.

N.D. Supreme CourtDahl v. State, 2013 ND 25

This opinion is subject to petition for rehearing. [Go to Documents]

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AFFIRMED. Opinion of the Court by VandeWalle, Chief Justice.

[¶1] Darin Dahl appealed from a district court order denying his application for post-conviction relief. Dahl argues his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to request a bifurcated trial under N.D.C.C. § 12.1-04.1-16 and for failing to request the verdict form reflect the possibility of a finding of "not guilty by reason of lack of criminal responsibility." We affirm.

I

[¶2] In 2008, Dahl was the suspect of a police standoff in a rural Steele County residence. Dahl shot at police officers during the standoff, and he was subsequently charged with reckless endangerment and attempted murder.

[¶3] Before trial, the district court ordered Dahl be committed to the State Hospital for a mental evaluation. After a competency hearing, the court concluded Dahl was competent to stand trial. Dahl filed notice of his intent to raise a defense based on lack of criminal responsibility by reason of mental disease or defect. Dahl did not request a bifurcated trial under N.D.C.C. § 12.1-04.1-16, which would have allowed the commission of the alleged offenses to be tried separately from the lack of criminal responsibility issue.

[¶4] A jury trial was held. Dahl submitted proposed jury instructions, including an instruction on the lack of criminal responsibility as a defense. The court included Dahl's requested instruction about the defense of lack of criminal responsibility in the final instructions given to the jury and also included three forms of verdict for each offense, which would allow the jury to find Dahl "guilty," "not guilty," or "not guilty by reason of lack of criminal responsibility." The jury found Dahl guilty of attempted murder and reckless endangerment. Dahl appealed. This Court affirmed Dahl's convictions, holding the district court did not err in finding Dahl was competent to stand trial, it was not obvious error for the court to fail to reevaluate Dahl's competency during trial, any error in allowing the admission of a witness's statement at the competency hearing when the witness was not present was not obvious error and did not affect Dahl's substantial rights, and there was sufficient evidence to sustain his convictions. State v. Dahl, 2010 ND 108, 783 N.W.2d 41.

[¶5] In 2011, Dahl applied for post-conviction relief, alleging he received ineffective assistance of counsel because his trial counsel failed to object to the admission of a witness's statements at the competency hearing, present evidence of his diminished mental capacity, and object when Dahl was required to wear a standard prison uniform during trial. He argued his trial counsel was also ineffective for failing to request a bifurcated trial and to request a verdict form that included an option to find Dahl "not guilty by reason of lack of criminal responsibility." Dahl also claimed his appellate counsel was ineffective, he was denied a fair trial because hearsay evidence was admitted, he was denied a fair trial because he was handcuffed and shackled throughout trial, and there was new evidence. After an evidentiary hearing, the district court denied his application.

II

[¶6] Dahl argues the district court erred in denying his claims for ineffective assistance of counsel. Dahl contends his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to request a bifurcated trial under N.D.C.C. § 12.1-04.1-16 and for failing to request a verdict form to reflect the possibility of not guilty by reason of lack of criminal responsibility.

[¶7] In post-conviction cases, this Court applies the clearly erroneous standard of review to the district court's findings. Kruckenberg v. State, 2012 ND 162, ¶ 5, 820 N.W.2d 314. However, ineffective assistance of counsel is a mixed ...


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