Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Summary 2011 WY 152

Summary of Decision November 8, 2011

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Summaries are prepared by Law Librarians and are not official statements of the Wyoming Supreme Court

Case Name: Eckdahl v. State

Citation: 2011 WY 152

Docket Number: S-11-0042

URL: http://wyomcases.courts.state.wy.us/applications/oscn/DeliverDocument.asp?CiteID=464771

Appeal from the District Court of Sublette County, Honorable Marvin L. Tyler, Judge

Representing Appellant (Defendant): John Kevin Eckdahl, pro se.

Representing Appellee (Plaintiff): Gregory A. Phillips, Attorney General; Terry L. Armitage, Deputy Attorney General; D. Michael Pauling, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Leda M. Pojman, Senior Assistant Attorney General.

Date of Decision: November 8, 2011

Facts: Appellant was sentenced of two (2) to four (4) years following his conviction for possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. As part of the plea agreement, the State agreed that the sentence should not exceed the sentence he received in a contemporaneous federal case and that should the Appellant become eligible for a sentence reduction in the federal case, the State would not object to Appellant bringing a motion for sentence reduction in this case to reduce the sentence such that Appellant would again serve concurrent time in the federal case. Appellant’s federal sentence was reduced from seventy (70) to sixty (60) months. He filed a motion to modify his sentence. The district court denied the motion as untimely pursuant to W.R.Cr.P. 35(b), which allows a motion for sentence modification “within one year after the sentence is imposed.” Appellant did not appeal the district court’s denial of his motion, but instead filed a petition for reconsideration, followed by another motion to reduce his sentence. The district court entered an order denying both the petition for reconsideration and the pending motion for sentence reduction. Appellant, appearing pro se, challenges the district court’s order.

Issues: Whether the State breached the plea agreement with Appellant, entitling him to withdraw his guilty plea. Whether defense counsel breached his obligations to Appellant. Whether Appellant’s due process rights violated. Whether a failure to appoint appeal counsel for Appellant denied him meaningful access to the law and to the courts.

Holdings: Appellant’s federal sentence was reduced from seventy months to sixty months. It was never reduced below the two to four year state sentence. Thus, under the terms of his plea agreement and sentence, Appellant was not entitled to seek a reduction of his state sentence. The State did not breach the plea agreement by opposing the motion for sentence reduction. Further, because he was not entitled to seek a sentence reduction, there is no merit to Appellant’s complaints against his defense counsel, or to his claim of due process violations.

As his final issue, Appellant argues that he was denied meaningful access to the law and to the courts by this Court’s denial of his motion for appointment of appellate counsel. There is, however, no requirement that a defendant be appointed counsel for motions seeking post-conviction relief. The Sixth Amendment right to counsel accrues at the time adversary judicial proceedings are initiated against the defendant. Counsel is required not just at trial, but at ‘critical stages’ both before and after trial in which the substantial rights of the accused may be affected. Additionally, under Wyo. Stat. 7-6-104(c)(vi) (2003), a needy person who is entitled to be represented is to be represented by counsel at every stage of the proceedings, from the time of the initial appointment by the court until the entry of final judgment, at which time the representation shall end, unless the court appoints counsel for purposes of appeal, correction or modification of sentence. As can be seen by § 7-6-104, there is no statutory requirement for appointment of counsel at every post-trial motion. Likewise, the United States Constitution does not require counsel for indigent defendants seeking post-conviction relief.

Appellant’s motions for sentence reduction were untimely. On that basis, the district court correctly ruled that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction to consider the motions. Further, the district court correctly ruled that petitions for reconsideration are not authorized under Wyoming law, so that it also lacked subject matter jurisdiction to consider Appellant’s petition for reconsideration. Because the district court had no jurisdiction, this court is without jurisdiction to consider the appeal. Appellant’s appeal is therefore dismissed.

J. Burke delivered the opinion for the court.

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