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Hanson v. State

Hanson v. State, 2016 MT 152 (June 21, 2016) (McKinnon, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether the district court abused its discretion in dismissing Hanson’s petition for postconviction relief as a sanction for failing to comply with discovery.

Short Answer:  No.


Facts: Hanson was convicted of sexual assault and deviate sexual conduct for offenses involving a young boy. His conviction was affirmed in 1997. He filed a petition for postconviction relief, which the district court denied for insufficiency in form. This Court affirmed in 1999. Hanson petitioned for habeas corpus, and his petition was demised as procedurally defaulted. Hanson appealed and the Ninth Circuit affirmed in 2003.…

Heavygun v. State

Heavygun v. State, 2016 MT 66 (March 22, 2016) (McKinnon, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: Whether Heavygun received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial.

Short Answer: No.


Facts: Heavygun was charged with and convicted of deliberate homicide, felony DUI, violation of an order of protection, felony criminal endangerment, driving with a suspended or revoked license, and felony tampering with physical evidence. He was sentenced to life in prison plus other concurrent sentences. His conviction was affirmed by this Court in 2011.

Procedural Posture & Holding: Heavygun petitioned for postconviction relief, claiming ineffective assistance of counsel. The district court denied the petition, and Heavygun appeals. The Supreme Court affirms. 

Reasoning: Heavygun argues ineffective assistance on the grounds that: 1) he was represented by six public defenders, three of whom were his attorney of record; 2) his attorney failed to investigate and present evidence of his victim’s history of violence; and 3) his attorney failed to adequately prepare him to testify.…

Russell v. State

Russell v. State, 2016 MT 69 (March 22, 2016) (McGrath, C.J.; Cotter, J., dissenting) (5-2, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether Russell received effective assistance of counsel at trial, and (2) whether Russell received effective assistance of counsel on appeal.

Short Answer: (1) Yes, and (2) yes.


Facts: Russell and Spotted Wolf assaulted two men in an alley one night after drinking all day. One of the men died, and the other was seriously and permanently injured. Russell was charged with felony murder, aggravated assault, and accountability for Spotted Wolf’s robbery and aggravated assault. Russell was convicted by a jury in May 2005, and sentenced. Russell appealed and the Court reversed the conviction for aggravated assault against one victim, as it was an included offense of the felony murder conviction.…

State v. McAlister

State v. McAlister, 2016 MT 14 (Jan. 19, 2016) (Rice, J.) (5-0, aff’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred by denying McAlister’s motions to dismiss, and (2) whether McAlister’s trial counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to call any expert witnesses.

Short Answer: (1) No, and (2) this issue is more properly brought in a petition for postconviction relief.


Facts: McAlister was charged with sexual intercourse without consent after four-year-old AH told her grandmother stories that suggested possible sexual abuse. At trial, AH testified. The state called several experts, and McAlister called none.…

Chyatte v. State

Chyatte v. State, 2015 MT 343 (Dec. 15, 2015) (Rice, J.) (5-0, aff’d & rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred in holding that Chyatte’s trial-related claims were procedurally barred; (2) whether the district court erred by denying Chyatte’s ineffective assistance of counsel claims.

Short Answer: (1) No, and (2) no except for one claim, for which the record is insufficient.

Affirmed and reversed and remanded on one issue

Facts: In September 2011, Chyatte was charged with felony assault with a weapon for a stabbing in Missoula. More than a month before the omnibus hearing, the state filed of its intent to seek increased punishment under the persistent felony offender statute. Trial was set for August 15, 2012. On June 14, 2012, Chyatte’s counsel filed a motion to dismiss the information on the basis of no probable case, as the victim identified another person as the assailant at a photographic lineup.…

Wilkes v. State

Wilkes v. State, 2015 MT 243 (Aug. 18, 2015) (Wheat, J.; Rice, J., concurring; McKinnon, J., dissenting) (5-1, rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred by failing to adequately address Wilkes’s claims for postconviction relief; (2) whether the district court erred by denying Wilkes’s ineffective assistance of counsel claim; and (3) whether the district court abused its discretion by denying Wilkes’s petition before conducting a hearing.

Short Answer: (1) Yes; (2) yes; and (3) no.

Reversed and remanded

Facts: Wilkes’s three-month-old son, Gabriel, died Oct 26, 2008, following hemorrhaging in his head sustained on or before Oct. 4, 2008. According to Wilkes, he put Gabriel to sleep the evening of Oct. 4, 2008 after picking him up from a babysitter.…

Marble v. State

Marble v. State, 2015 MT 242 (Aug. 14, 2015) (Cotter, J.; Rice, J., concurring & dissenting; McKinnon, J., concurring & dissenting) (5-2, rev’d) (Judge Michael Hayworth sitting for Chief Justice McGrath)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred in predicating its decision denying Marble’s petition for postconviction relief on the concurring opinion in Beach II; and (2) what test a district court must use in reviewing a petition for postconviction relief predicated on newly discovered evidence and filed within one year of discovering such evidence.

Short Answer: (1) Yes, and (2) The district court shall determine whether the new evidence “if proved and viewed in light of the evidence as a whole would establish that the petitioner did not engage in the criminal conduct for which he or she was convicted.”…

Rose v. State

Rose v. State, 2013 MT 161 (June 18, 2013) (7-0) (Wheat, J.)

Issue: Did the district court properly deny Rose’s claim for postconviction relief, which alleged (1) that Rose’s trial counsel provided ineffective assistance, (2) that appellate counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to raise certain issues on appeal, and (3) that Rose was denied access to counsel at a critical stage of the trial.

Short Answer: (1) Yes, (2) yes, and (3) this issue could have been raised on direct appeal and will not be considered in a petition for postconviction relief.