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Peterson v. State

Supreme Court of Montana

July 5, 2017

BRYCE EVERETT PETERSON, Petitioner and Appellant,
v.
STATE OF MONTANA, Respondent and Appellee.

          Submitted on Briefs: March 22, 2017

         APPEAL FROM District Court of the Twenty-First Judicial District, In and For the County of Ravalli, Cause No. DV 14-567 Honorable Jeffrey H. Langton, Presiding Judge

          For Appellant: Bryce Everett Peterson, self-represented, Deer Lodge, Montana

          For Appellee: Timoth C. Fox, Montana Attorney General Micheal S Wellenstein,

          William E. Fulbright, Ravalli County Attorney, Hamilton, Montana

          OPINION

          DIRK M. SANDEFUR JUSTICE

         ¶1 Bryce Everett Peterson appeals the denial of his petition for postconviction relief. The Montana Twenty-First Judicial District Court determined the petition was timely but denied it on the merits. We address two issues on appeal:

1. Was Peterson's petition for postconviction relief timely?
2. Did Peterson's showing of newly discovered evidence satisfy § 46-21-102(2), MCA?

         ¶2 We conclude Peterson's petition was not timely and agree with the District Court's determination that Peterson's claims of newly discovered evidence were unsubstantiated. We therefore affirm the denial of Peterson's petition.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶3 The State charged Peterson with five felonies and a misdemeanor for his violent assault and kidnapping of H.P., a woman with whom Peterson had an on-and-off romantic relationship. On the eve of his trial, without any admission of fact constituting guilt, Peterson entered Alford guilty pleas pursuant to North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25, 91 S.Ct. 160 (1970). By written judgment filed November 23, 2009, the District Court sentenced Peterson to serve 70 years in the Montana State Prison with 20 suspended.

         ¶4 Peterson filed a notice of appeal on January 22, 2010. Before filing his opening brief, Peterson moved for a stay of the appeal and for remand to allow him to file a motion to withdraw his pleas in the District Court. This Court denied the stay, noting that the timeline for Peterson to move to withdraw his pleas was tolled during the pendency of the appeal. See § 46-16-105(2), MCA (deadline for motion to withdraw plea is one year after appellate process has expired). Nevertheless, Peterson filed a motion to dismiss his appeal, which we granted on November 5, 2010. With the assistance of new counsel, Peterson filed a motion in the District Court to withdraw his Alford pleas on November 22, 2010. More than a year later, the District Court denied Peterson's motion. We affirmed the denial on November 5, 2013. State v. Peterson, 2013 MT 329, 372 Mont. 382, 314 P.3d 227. Peterson then petitioned for rehearing, which we denied on December 18, 2013.

         ¶5 Peterson filed the present petition for postconviction relief on December 17, 2014, asserting that the District Court's pre-trial evidentiary orders and the State's misconduct in discovery and evidentiary hearings deprived him of the opportunity to defend himself with evidence of his victim's mental health history. As a result, Peterson asserted that he was effectively coerced into making his Alford pleas. Peterson also raised claims of ineffective assistance of counsel both in making his pleas and filing his post-sentence motion to withdraw his pleas. In addition to its arguments on the merits of Peterson's claims, the State asserted that the petition was untimely. The District Court rejected the State's timeliness argument, but nonetheless ...


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