Carlton v. State, No. A10–2061.

Decision Date18 July 2012
Docket NumberNo. A10–2061.
Citation816 N.W.2d 590
PartiesJames Luther CARLTON, Appellant, v. STATE of Minnesota, Respondent.
CourtMinnesota Supreme Court


Syllabus by the Court

1. Appellant's postconviction claims are barred by the 2–year time limit in Minn.Stat. § 590.01, subd. 4(a) (2010), because

they do not satisfy the interests-of-justice exception in Minn.Stat. § 590.01, subd. 4(b)(5) (2010).

2. Application of the time limit in Minn.Stat. § 590.01, subd. 4(a), does not violate appellant's due process rights under the Minnesota Constitution.

David W. Merchant, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Cathryn Middlebrook, Assistant Public Defender, Saint Paul, MN, for appellant.

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Saint Paul, MN; and Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Michael Richardson, Assistant County Attorney, Minneapolis, MN, for respondent.


GILDEA, Chief Justice.

Appellant James Luther Carlton was convicted of first-degree premeditated murder and first-degree murder while committing criminal sexual conduct in connection with the death of Jodi Dover. Carlton filed a notice of direct appeal, which we stayed on May 13, 1996, pending postconviction proceedings in the district court. Carlton neither filed a petition for postconviction relief nor followed through with his direct appeal, and we dismissed his appeal on June 12, 1997. In this case, Carlton appeals the denial of his first petition for postconviction relief, which was filed in Hennepin County District Court on August 10, 2010. Because we conclude that the postconviction court properly denied Carlton's petition, we affirm.

Initial investigation of Dover's death

On July 11, 1994, M.R. found her friend, Jodi Dover, dead in Dover's apartment. When Minneapolis Police Sergeant Charles Miles responded to the crime scene, he discovered Dover's body in her bedroom with the blinds closed. Dover was naked, lying face up, with a gag tied around her mouth. Dover's arms were bound behind her back with a ligature made from Dover's underwear. Clotted blood covered Dover's face, and she appeared to have been struck in the forehead. Miles observed a kitchen knife deeply embedded in Dover's neck as well as caked blood and wounds on her chest. Miles saw a pool of blood beneath Dover's neck, droplets of blood on the walls, and blood on the door and floor of the bathroom. The comforter from Dover's bed also had blood on it. Additionally, Miles noted what appeared to be footprints in the blood on the floor.

Miles also observed other potentially relevant items in Dover's apartment. Miles discovered a clock on the bed, an empty condom wrapper underneath the comforter, and a used tampon on the floor. The condom wrapper did not match the unopened condoms found in a dresser in Dover's living room. Jean shorts, a blouse with blood on it, and a pair of blood-soaked boxer shorts lay on the floor. Miles found several glass telephone insulators on a table in Dover's bedroom, and one behind Dover's body with dried blood on it. Underneath the bed, Miles discovered an unopened box containing a .25–caliber semiautomatic pistol. Miles found Dover's pocket book and several credit cards but did not find Dover's driver's license. Miles found a paring knife in the kitchen sink, and two knives near the sink. Miles observed that the two knives near the sink and the knife in Dover's neck appeared to be the same as a fourth knife found in a knife block in the kitchen. Miles also found an unsmoked cigarette near the bedroom. The police collected most of the items from Dover's apartment for testing.

Upon further inspection of Dover's apartment, Miles determined that the front door showed no signs of forced entry, though a small amount of blood was presenton the edge of the door. The rear door to Dover's apartment was secured by a dead-bolt lock, and appeared undisturbed. The living room, dining room, and kitchen appeared neat and orderly, and there were no indications of a robbery in connection with Dover's death.

Daniel Davis, an assistant medical examiner, conducted a sexual assault examination of Dover's body the same day the body was discovered. Davis testified that he conducted the exam immediately because he was worried about the deterioration of evidence of a sexual assault. Swabs from Dover's oral, vaginal, and anal cavities all tested negative for the presence of sperm and seminal fluid. Davis observed a fresh scrape in Dover's vaginal area that occurred before her death and was consistent with forced vaginal penetration.

Davis also performed an autopsy on Dover. Davis determined Dover had likely been dead more than 1 day, and as many as 3 days before Dover's friend discovered her body. Davis testified that Dover's death was a homicide, and that the knife wound to Dover's neck was the cause of death. This fatal wound was caused by deliberate sawing actions that severed Dover's neck—with the exception of one area of skin that remained bridged on the front of the neck—all the way through to her spine. The knife wound caused Dover to bleed to death.

In addition to the neck wound, Davis determined that Dover had suffered other significant injuries. Davis observed 6 nonfatal stab wounds on the back of Dover's right shoulder and up to 10 blunt-force impact injuries to Dover's face that likely occurred before the fatal neck wound. Davis determined that the impact injuries, which broke Dover's skin and left marks on her skull, were likely inflicted with a glass telephone insulator found near Dover's body. Davis noted that Dover had no knife cuts on her hands or wrists, but he did observe a scratch on her finger and an abrasion on her wrist.

Carlton's behavior during and after Dover's killing

On July 11, 1994, while police were investigating Dover's apartment, Carlton and his girlfriend, B.S., arrived at Dover's apartment building, which was also where Carlton was living at the time. Carlton asked a police officer what was going on, and the officer told him there had been a murder upstairs. Carlton and B.S. spoke briefly with the police, and Carlton told them he did not know, and had never even seen, Dover because he had only recently moved into the building.1

Police also learned that on July 9, shortly after midnight, Carlton called 911 from a pay phone approximately 5 blocks from Dover's apartment building. An ambulance took Carlton to the emergency room at Abbott Northwestern Hospital, where a doctor examined him shortly before 1:00 a.m. Carlton's chief complaint was that he had been suffering from gastrointestinal problems for several days, including nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, and diarrhea. A nurse at the hospital testified that Carlton had told her he had collapsed at a store earlier that evening. The nurse noticed a bruise on Carlton's chest but did not see any blood on Carlton. During the hospital visit, Carlton admitted to having used crack cocaine earlier that day.

The emergency room doctor found that Carlton had low blood pressure, a slightly elevated body temperature, and was extremely sleepy and not verbally responsive.Lab tests revealed that Carlton had a decreased potassium level, which can be caused by alcohol abuse, dehydration, or insufficient food consumption. The doctor diagnosed Carlton with the flu, and gave Carlton intravenous fluids. The emergency department discharged Carlton at 6:55 a.m. on July 9.

Upon his discharge from the hospital, Carlton called his girlfriend, B.S., told her he had been sick, and asked her to come visit him. B.S. arrived at Carlton's apartment around 3:00 p.m. on July 9. When police originally took B.S.'s statement, she stated that she arrived in Minneapolis on July 8, but when interviewed again, she modified her statement to reflect her July 9 arrival. Because Dover's and Carlton's units each began with the same number, “1016,” B.S. accidentally entered Dover's apartment first, but left when she saw women's clothing scattered on the floor and heard Carlton calling to her from outside the building. B.S. testified that she saw nothing unusual in Dover's apartment.

Carlton and B.S. spent the evening at Carlton's apartment watching television. B.S. testified that Carlton was still sick, running a high fever, vomiting, and having diarrhea. That night B.S. slept in the lofted bed in Carlton's apartment while Carlton slept on the couch underneath the bed. After going to bed, B.S. could no longer see or hear Carlton. B.S. slept poorly because noises from upstairs kept waking her. She heard what sounded like heavy boots, a person walking across the floor, somebody throwing something, and a chair screeching across the floor.

When B.S. awoke the next morning, July 10 at 6:00 a.m., Carlton was drying off after taking a shower and no longer appeared sick. Later that day, B.S. noticed what she thought was blood dripping from an overhead light fixture in Carlton's apartment. When she called the pool of “thick,” “red” substance to Carlton's attention, he told B.S. that it was not blood, but instead was cranberry juice. Carlton took the light bulb out of the fixture and wiped the substance away with a rag, and told B.S. that the substance was rust and water. When Carlton and B.S. spoke with the police on July 11, Carlton mentioned the red liquid that had been dripping from his ceiling, explaining to officers that he thought it was a drink spilled at a party. Carlton showed officers the rag he had used to wipe up the substance.

Further police investigation

After discovering Dover's body, the police continued their investigation into her death. Officials discovered that Dover was alive on the evening of July 8. At around 5:45 p.m., a check written by Dover was received by a nearby grocery store. Additionally, an employee in the rental office for Dover's apartment building saw Dover carrying groceries home around 6:00 p.m., and saw her again at 7:30 p.m. when she took out her garbage.

The police also interviewed other residents of Carlton...

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