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.

Affirmed

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.

Hanson petitioned for postconivction relief a second time in 2012, represented by counsel. He asked for a hearing on the basis of newly discovered evidence supporting his claim for relief. The newly discovered evidence was that, before his trial, several potential witnesses contacted the detective who investigated the claims and said the victim’s mother was lying. According to Hanson’s petition, the detective told these witnesses to stay away from the courtroom and the case, and failed to tell Hanson’s attorney about the witnesses. Hanson’s petition also mentioned that a contributor to Hanson’s pre-sentence investigation report commented he was concerned Hanson did not commit the offenses and that it was possible the victim had been “coached to provide false allegations.” Hanson filed five affidavits in support of his petition.

The district court authorized discovery and the state noticed a deposition of Hanson for May 17, 2013. Hanson moved to quash the deposition, seeking to either be deposed by telephone or get the state to agree not to arrest him for an outstanding warrant if he appeared for his deposition. Hanon did not appear for the May 17, 2013 deposition. He subsequently failed to appear for two additional depositions.

Procedural Posture & Holding: In October 2014, the state moved to dismiss Hanson’s petition with prejudice based on his failure to comply with a court order compelling his deposition. The district court granted the motion as a sanction for failure to comply with discovery. Hanson appeals and the Supreme Court affirms. 

Reasoning: The Court states that allowing a litigant to ignore a court order to appear for a deposition because of an outstanding warrant cannot be tolerated, and concludes the severity of the sanction related to the extent and nature of the discovery abuse. It further finds that the state was considerably prejudiced by Hanson’s failure to appear. Finally, Hanson was warned by the district court that failure to attend his third deposition could result in dismissal of his case.