Submitted on Briefs: September 13, 2017
From District Court of the Second Judicial District, In and
For the County of Butte-Silver Bow, Cause No. DC-12-116
Honorable Brad Newman, Presiding Judge
Appellant: Michael Jeffery Root (Self-Represented), Shelby,
Appellee: Timothy C. Fox, Montana Attorney General, C. Mark
Fowler, Assistant Attorney General, Helena, Montana Eileen
Joyce, Butte-Silver Bow County Attorney, Butte, Montana.
MCGRATH CHIEF JUSTICE.
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
Michael Root (Root) appeals from a District Court order
denying Root's motion to compel the State to provide
criminal histories of witnesses who testified at his jury
trial in February 2013. We affirm.
On July 27, 2012, Lawrence Lee was driving his truck when he
picked up two individuals, Root and a juvenile referred to as
S.R., in Butte, Montana. The passengers asked for a ride up
the hill to Walkerville. During this ride, Lawrence Lee was
stabbed by Root in the arm and neck and cut on his hand.
After S.R. jumped out of the truck and Root was forced out by
Lee, S.R. and Root fled the scene.
On February 14, 2013, a jury convicted Root of attempted
deliberate homicide, a felony. The jury also made a separate
finding that Root knowingly displayed, brandished or
otherwise used a dangerous weapon in the commission to such
offense. On August 15, 2013, the District Court sentenced
Root to a term of forty years at the Montana State Prison for
the underlying offense, and to a consecutive ten-year term of
imprisonment for the weapon enhancement. Root subsequently
filed an appeal. On October 27, 2015, this Court affirmed
Root's conviction. State v. Root, 2015 MT 310,
¶¶ 30-31, 381 Mont. 314, 359 P.3d 1088.
On July 6, 2016, Root filed a motion to compel criminal
records of three State witnesses and a fourth witness who was
called by the defense. In his motion, Root also requested
records from adult probation and parole, the sheriff's
office, and any other correctional institution related to any
criminal placements of each of the witnesses at issue.
Lastly, Root requested documents maintained by the County
Attorney's Office and other Butte-Silver Bow County law
enforcement agencies related to any plea bargains, deals,
gifts, or inducements offered to the witnesses at issue. Root
contends that he needs this information to assist in
preparation of a petition for post-conviction relief.
"A district court's decision to grant or deny a
post-trial motion is discretionary. We review such rulings in
criminal cases for an abuse of discretion. The burden of
demonstrating such an abuse is on the party seeking reversal
of the district court's ruling." State v.
Ferre, 2014 MT 96, ¶ 11, 374 Mont. 428, 322 P.3d
1047 (citing State v. Griffin, 2007 MT 289, ¶
10, 339 Mont. 465, 172 P.3d 1223; State v. Sheehan,
2005 MT 305, ¶ 18, 329 Mont. 417, 124 P.3d 1119)).
There is nothing in Montana's statutory law that allows a
petitioner to obtain discovery before a petition for
post-conviction relief is filed. Here, Root is making a
discovery request. However, the period for discovery in his
case is long overdue. By the time Root filed his motion to
compel, it had been over three years since his sentencing and
nine months since this Court affirmed his conviction and
sentencing. We hold that the District Court did not abuse its
discretion in denying Root's motion to compel discovery.
We have determined to decide this case pursuant to Section I,
Paragraph 3(c) of our Internal Operating Rules, which
provides for memorandum opinions. In the opinion of the
Court, the case presents a question controlled by settled ...