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Booth v. State

Supreme Court of North Dakota

April 25, 2017

Jimmy Booth, Jr., Petitioner and Appellant
State of North Dakota, Respondent and Appellee

         Appeal from the District Court of Williams County, Northwest Judicial District, the Honorable Paul W. Jacobson, Judge.

          Samuel A. Gereszek, for petitioner and appellant.

          Nathan K. Madden, Assistant State's Attorney, Williston, N.D. for respondent and appellee.

          Tufte, Justice.

         [¶ 1] Jimmy Booth, Jr., appeals from a judgment denying his application for postconviction relief based on allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel. We affirm because Booth failed to establish that he was prejudiced by the allegedly deficient performance of his counsel.


         [¶ 2] Booth pled guilty to manufacturing a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, and four counts of endangerment of a child. Booth, accompanied by his attorney, agreed with the factual basis presented for the plea. The district court accepted the plea agreement and sentenced Booth to ten years of incarceration on each count to be served concurrently, with credit for time served. Booth timely moved for reduction of his sentence. The court denied the motion.

         [¶ 3] Booth then moved to correct an illegal sentence under N.D.R.Crim.P. 35(a)(1), arguing his sentence was illegal because the State gave him only a one-day notice of its intention to seek habitual offender sentence enhancement under N.D.C.C. § 12.1-32-09. The district court denied the motion and this Court affirmed in State v. Booth, 2015 ND 59, 861 N.W.2d 160. This Court concluded "the one-day notice was reasonable" and "Booth did not suffer prejudice resulting from the State's one-day notice of intent to seek the habitual offender sentence enhancement." Id. at ¶ 6. Booth's voluntary guilty plea waived any challenge to such procedural defects. Id. at ¶ 8.

         [¶ 4] Booth then filed a pro se application for postconviction relief under N.D.C.C. ch. 29-32.1, claiming he received ineffective assistance of counsel leading up to his guilty plea. Booth alleged his attorney failed to: 1) determine whether the evidence seized during a search "was properly received into custody (chain of custody) in a timely and legal manner"; 2) conduct an investigation to determine whether (a) he was unconstitutionally detained, (b) he was informed of his Miranda rights, (c) the State Laboratory had tested the evidence, (d) the evidence belonged to someone else, and (e) his DNA or fingerprints were found on the evidence; 3) conduct a "complete investigation of all relevant facts" before advising him to plead guilty; 4) promptly comply with his requests for information as required by N.D.R. Prof. Conduct 1.4; and 5) represent him competently under the North Dakota Rules of Professional Conduct. Booth claimed he was prejudiced because he "would have more thoughtfully considered trying the case before a jury, " and he "would not have plead guilty, but for the advice of Counsel." The district court appointed counsel for Booth, who filed a supplement to the petition, additionally claiming: 1) the court had failed to follow N.D.R.Crim.P. 11 procedures because Booth was not informed of his right to counsel when he entered the guilty plea; and 2) Booth's guilty plea was not knowingly and voluntarily entered.

         [¶ 5] The district court held an evidentiary hearing where it heard testimony from Booth and his attorney in the underlying criminal matter. Booth raised other issues at the hearing and testified he would not have pled guilty if his attorney had competently advised him. Booth's attorney explained his handling of the case and testified Booth wanted to plead guilty and "had more desire to dispose of his case th[a]n most clients do." The court denied Booth's application for postconviction relief, concluding the claims of noncompliance with N.D.R.Crim.P. 11 and his allegedly involuntary guilty plea could have been raised in the proceedings leading to Booth, 2015 ND 59, 861 N.W.2d 160, and were therefore barred by N.D.C.C. § 29-32.1-12(2)(a) as a misuse of process. The court rejected the remainder of Booth's claims because he presented no evidence of a "reasonably probable different outcome" and had therefore failed to establish prejudice resulted from his trial counsel's alleged errors.


         [¶ 6] On appeal, Booth does not challenge the district court's rulings on the issues barred by misuse of process, but argues the court erred in denying his application for postconviction relief because he established ineffective assistance of counsel.

         [¶ 7] The framework for evaluating ineffective assistance of counsel claims under the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution and N.D. Const. art. I, § 12, is well-established:

In order to prevail on a post-conviction relief application based on ineffective assistance of counsel, the petitioner must (1) "show that counsel's representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness" and (2) "show that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have ...

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