Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Branham v. State

Supreme Court of Montana

March 7, 2017

CHARLES IVAN BRANHAM, Petitioner and Appellant,
STATE OF MONTANA, Respondent and Appellee.

          Submitted on Briefs: February 1, 2017

         APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, In and For the County of Missoula, Cause No. DV-13-249 Honorable Karen S. Townsend, Presiding Judge

          For Appellant Colin M. Stephens, Smith & Stephens, P.C., Missoula, Montana

          For Appellee Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, Mardell Ployhar, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana, Kirsten Pabst, Missoula County Attorney, Susan E. Boylan, Deputy County Attorney, Missoula, Montana


         ¶1 Pursuant to Section I, Paragraph 3(c), Montana Supreme Court Internal Operating Rules, this case is decided by memorandum opinion and shall not be cited and does not serve as precedent. Its case title, cause number, and disposition shall be included in this Court's quarterly list of noncitable cases published in the Pacific Reporter and Montana Reports.

         ¶2 Charles Ivan Branham (Branham) appeals from the District Court's order denying his petition for post-conviction relief. We affirm.

         ¶3 On October 22, 2010, Branham was convicted of mitigated deliberate homicide after he stabbed an acquaintance to death. He was sentenced to forty years in the Montana State Prison without the possibility of parole. Branham appealed, and this Court upheld his conviction in State v. Branham, 2012 MT 1, 363 Mont. 281, 269 P.3d 891.

         ¶4 On February 28, 2013, Branham retained private counsel and filed a petition for post-conviction relief in District Court. Branham claimed his trial attorneys provided ineffective assistance of counsel. Specifically, he claims they: opened the door to and failed to object to Detective Guy Baker's blood spatter testimony, failed to move for a curative instruction regarding the prosecutor's remarks on his credibility during closing arguments, failed to challenge the State's forensic pathologist's conclusions or offer testimony to rebut the same, failed to investigate the case and present testimony from the defense investigator, failed to understand Branham's version of the events, and misstated the location of the knife used during the events resulting in Branham's conviction.

         ¶5 In order to respond to Branham's petition, the State filed a motion requesting a "Gillham order" to allow Branham's former attorneys to address the ineffective assistance of counsel claims. The District Court granted the motion. One attorney filed two affidavits. Branham's new attorney filed a motion requesting the District Court issue a "Gillham order" with limited scope for the other trial attorney. The District Court granted the order but not the limited scope. The other attorney also filed an affidavit. The State argued that Branham failed to demonstrate that his attorneys were ineffective or that either's performance affected the outcome of his trial.

         ¶6 The District Court reviewed and denied Branham's six claims without conducting an evidentiary hearing. Branham filed a timely notice of appeal on June 3, 2015.

         ¶7 We review discretionary rulings in post-conviction relief proceedings, including rulings related to whether to hold an evidentiary hearing, for an abuse of discretion. Heath v. State, 2009 MT 7, ¶ 13, 348 Mont. 361, 202 P.3d 118. However, to the extent an evidentiary ruling is based on a conclusion of law our review is plenary. State v. Bomar, 2008 MT 91, ¶ 14, 342 Mont. 281, 182 P.3d 47. Ineffective assistance of counsel claims constitute mixed questions of law and fact for which our review is de novo. Whitlow v. State, 2008 MT 140, ¶ 9, 343 Mont. 90, 183 P.3d 861.

         ¶8 A district court considering a petition for post-conviction relief may hold an evidentiary hearing, § 46-21-201, MCA, and must enter findings of fact and conclusions of law, § 46-21-202, MCA. In a forty-two-page order the District Court fully analyzed the six ineffective assistance of counsel claims Branham posited. The District Court clearly understood the nature of Branham's claims. The District Court determined it did not need additional argument or testimony in order to rule on Branham's post-conviction relief petition. The District Court did not abuse its discretion when it denied Branham's post-conviction relief petition without an evidentiary hearing.

         ¶9 This Court evaluates claims of ineffective assistance of counsel under the test established in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052 (1984). Whitlow, ¶ 10. First, the defendant must show that his attorney's performance was deficient by demonstrating that it fell below an objective standard of reasonableness. Whitlow, ¶ 14. There is a strong presumption that the attorney's performance fell within the wide range of reasonable professional assistance, Whitlow, ΒΆ 15, ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.