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Horvath v. State

Supreme Court of North Dakota

January 22, 2018

Jonathan Horvath, Petitioner and Appellant
v.
State of North Dakota, Respondent and Appellee

         Appeal from the District Court of Williams County, Northwest Judicial District, the Honorable Robin A. Schmidt, Judge.

          Steven J. Fischer, Bismarck, ND, for petitioner and appellant.

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

          OPINION

          McEvers, Justice.

         [¶ 1] Jonathan Horvath appeals from a district court order summarily dismissing his application for post-conviction relief. We reverse and remand for the court to hold an evidentiary hearing on his application.

         I

         [¶ 2] In July 2014, the district court held a jury trial in which Jonathan Horvath appeared as the defendant for crimes arising out of an incident in March 2013. A jury convicted Horvath of murder, reckless endangerment, two counts of terrorizing, and a felon in possession of a firearm. Horvath is currently serving life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

         [¶ 3] Horvath appealed arguing insufficient evidence existed for a rational jury to find him guilty. Horvath filed a supplemental statement alleging perjury, improper closing statements, among other matters. This Court summarily affirmed the criminal judgments. See State v. Horvath, 2015 ND 166, 870 N.W.2d 26. Horvath filed an application for post-conviction relief in June 2016, and requested a hearing in November 2016. In December 2016, the State filed a response and moved the district court to dismiss the application. In March 2017, Horvath moved the court to amend his application, the State objected. The court granted the request and reserved ruling on the State's motion to dismiss until the amended application was filed.

         [¶ 4] In April 2017, Horvath filed an amended application for post-conviction relief and requested an evidentiary hearing. Horvath's amended application alleged he was denied effective assistance of counsel because his trial counsel: (1) failed to subpoena an essential witness, Kevin Kallio, to rebut two of the State's witnesses; and (2) trial counsel failed to present exculpatory video evidence, when exhibit 24 was not shown in full. The State again moved the court to dismiss the action and gave notice it was putting Horvath on his proof. Horvath responded indicating his trial counsel was ineffective because he failed to introduce video evidence that would impeach the credibility of a key State witness, and the omission was prejudicial to his defense. Horvath's reply included references to specific evidence and references to the trial transcript. Horvath further argued claims of ineffective assistance of counsel are unsuited for summary disposition without an evidentiary hearing. The court summarily dismissed Horvath's application for post-conviction relief without holding an evidentiary hearing.

         II

         [¶ 5] Horvath argues the district court erred by summarily dismissing his application for post-conviction relief claiming ineffective assistance of counsel.

         [¶ 6] This Court has held "the purpose of the Uniform Postconviction Procedure Act, N.D.C.C. ch. 29-32.1, is to furnish a method to develop a complete record to challenge a criminal conviction." Chisholm v. State, 2014 ND 125, ¶ 15, 848 N.W.2d 703 (internal quotation omitted). Summary disposition in a post-conviction relief proceeding is akin to summary judgment under N.D.R.Civ.P. 56 when matters outside the pleadings are considered. Chase v. State, 2017 ND 192, ¶ 7, 899 N.W.2d 280. "An applicant has the burden of establishing grounds for post-conviction relief." Chisholm, at ¶ 8.

         [¶ 7] The requirements for an application for post-conviction relief under N.D.C.C. § 29-32.1-04(2), provides:

The application must identify all proceedings for direct review of the judgment of conviction or sentence and all previous postconviction proceedings taken by the applicant to secure relief from the conviction or sentence, the grounds asserted therein, and the orders or judgments entered. The application must refer to the portions of the record of prior proceedings pertinent to the alleged grounds for relief. If the cited record is not in the files of the court, the applicant shall attach that record or portions thereof to the ...

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