State ex rel. Hopkinson v. District Court, Teton County

Decision Date28 February 1985
Docket Number84-193 and 84-212,Nos. 84-144,84-151,s. 84-144
Citation696 P.2d 54
PartiesSTATE of Wyoming ex rel. Mark A. HOPKINSON, Petitioner, v. The DISTRICT COURT, TETON COUNTY, Wyoming, Ninth Judicial District, Respondent. Mark A. HOPKINSON, Appellant (Defendant), v. The STATE of Wyoming, Appellee (Plaintiff). STATE of Wyoming ex rel. Mark A. HOPKINSON, Petitioner, v. The DISTRICT COURT, TETON COUNTY, Wyoming, Ninth Judicial District, Respondent. Mark A. HOPKINSON, Appellant (Petitioner), v. A.G. McCLINTOCK, Wyoming Attorney General, and Duane Shillinger, Warden, Wyoming State Penitentiary, Appellees (Respondents).
CourtWyoming Supreme Court

Leonard Munker, State Public Defender, Martin McClain, Appellate Counsel, State Public Defender, and David S. Vogel, Seattle, Wash., for appellant (petitioner).

A.G. McClintock, Atty. Gen., Gerald A. Stack, Deputy Atty. Gen., and Allen C. Johnson, Sr. Asst. Atty. Gen., for appellees (respondents).

Before THOMAS *, C.J., ROSE and CARDINE, JJ., RAPER, J., Retired, and McEWAN, District Judge.

RAPER, Justice, Retired.

This is the fourth time the appellant/petitioner has been before this Court seeking to vacate his conviction and death sentence. For future reference, this consolidation and disposition of original proceedings and appeals is Hopkinson IV. See Hopkinson v. State, Wyo., 632 P.2d 79 (1981), cert. denied 455 U.S. 922, 102 S.Ct. 1280, 71 L.Ed.2d 463 (1982) [Hopkinson I ]; Hopkinson v. State, Wyo., 664 P.2d 43, cert. denied 464 U.S. 908, 104 S.Ct. 262, 78 L.Ed.2d 246 (1983) [Hopkinson II ]; Hopkinson v. State, Wyo., 679 P.2d 1008, cert. denied 469 U.S. 873, 105 S.Ct. 228, 83 L.Ed.2d 157 (1984) [Hopkinson III ]. Briefly, the facts are that appellant was found guilty of four murders and, as a result of the presence of statutory aggravating circumstances and upon recommendation of a jury, sentenced to death for the murder of Jeff Green. The details of the horrifying and inexcusable deaths and appellant's guilt and culpability justifying the death penalty can be found in Hopkinson I and II, particularly. Hopkinson III affirmed the trial judge's denial of a new trial and in doing so contained many facts with supporting references to the record.

As we view the record and filings in these proceedings and appeals, the only issue is whether appellant's Consolidated Petition for Post-Conviction Relief and Writ of Habeas Corpus, filed in the district court of the county of trial and dismissed by the trial judge upon a motion to dismiss, 1 is sufficient to state a claim. 2 We will not reach the issue raised in the appeal of appellant from an order of the trial judge denying his sweeping motion for "preparation of all of the Grand Jury evidence and testimony touching on any aspect of his case [State v. Hopkinson ]." The trial judge entered an order requiring appellant to state with particularity what it was he was asking for. Appellant filed a response to the trial court's order which, while itemized, would appear to demand all grand jury proceedings relating to appellant. The district judge then denied it on the ground that the request had to do with the substantive issues tried in the two previous jury trials and motion for new trial considered in Hopkinson I, II and III, respectively; and that no showing was made that these issues should be opened for a fourth consideration of the case. 3

We consolidated the appeals and original proceedings before this Court for argument, hearing, and disposition. At the same time, a peremptory writ of prohibition was issued staying execution of appellant's death sentence, subject to later rescheduling if the outcome of the appeals and original proceedings before this Court should be unfavorable to appellant.

We will affirm the orders of the district court denying post-conviction relief and discovery of all grand jury proceedings, deny leave to file petitions for writs of prohibition and mandamus, and direct the trial judge, by appropriate proceedings, to set a new date to carry out the death sentence.


Writs of habeas corpus are governed by §§ 1-27-101 through 1-27-134, W.S. The Wyoming Constitution makes little reference to the writ other than recognizing it as a constitutional right and that "[t]he privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended unless, when in case of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it." Article 1, § 17, Wyoming Constitution. The Wyoming Supreme Court is granted original jurisdiction in habeas corpus, Art. 5, § 3, Wyoming Constitution, as are district courts, Art. 5, § 10, Wyoming Constitution. Habeas corpus may be regulated by statute, provided such regulations do not infringe upon the constitutional right of the writ. Miskimins v. Shaver, 8 Wyo. 392, 404, 58 P. 411 (1899). There is no appeal from denial by a district court of a writ of habeas corpus, but that does not prevent petitioning the Supreme Court by original proceedings for issuance of the writ. State ex rel. Klopotek v. District Court of Sheridan County, Wyo., 621 P.2d 223 (1980); Foster v. Warden of Wyoming State Penitentiary, Wyo., 489 P.2d 1166 (1971); Ex parte Brugneaux, 51 Wyo. 103, 63 P.2d 800 (1937); Miskimins v. Shaver, supra.

Appellant agrees that he could have filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to § 1-27-104, W.S., with the District Court for Carbon County, Second Judicial District, where he is incarcerated in the Wyoming State Penitentiary. However, he elected to consolidate the petition for habeas corpus with a petition for post-conviction relief and file in the district court for the county of trial. The latter procedure for post-conviction relief is provided by §§ 7-14-101 through 7-14-108, W.S. He explained in his petition that the consolidation and filing were made in the Ninth Judicial District "in order to facilitate the proceedings and promote judicial economy." That is a basic foundation for the modern procedure of filing a petition for post-conviction relief in the county of trial, conviction, and sentencing as set out in § 7-14-101, W.S.:

"Any person imprisoned in the penitentiary who asserts that in the proceedings which resulted in his conviction there was a substantial denial of his rights under the constitution of the United States or of the state of Wyoming, or both, may institute proceedings under this act [§§ 7-14-101 through 7-14-108]. The proceeding shall be commenced by filing with the clerk of the court in which the conviction took place a petition verified by affidavit * * *." (Emphasis added.)

It is generally understood that the type post-conviction statute such as that employed in Wyoming, which is analogous to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 (1982), is now considered in view of the historical context in which it was adopted as simply providing in the sentencing court a remedy commensurate, to a large extent, with that which had previously been available by habeas corpus in the court of the district where the prisoner was confined. See Sanders v. United States, 373 U.S. 1, 83 S.Ct. 1068, 10 L.Ed.2d 148 (1963); and Hill v. United States, 368 U.S. 424, 427, 82 S.Ct. 468, 471, 7 L.Ed.2d 417, reh. denied 369 U.S. 808, 82 S.Ct. 640, 7 L.Ed.2d 556 (1962), as to § 2255 and principles applicable to the Wyoming version. The post-conviction relief statutes, both Wyoming and federal, do not suspend the right of habeas corpus by impinging upon prisoners' rights to collaterally attack their convictions. Rather, the principal purpose was to minimize the administrative difficulties encountered in habeas corpus hearings by affording the same rights in another and more convenient forum. United States v. Hayman, 342 U.S. 205, 72 S.Ct. 263, 96 L.Ed. 232 (1952) 4; Dionne v. State, 93 Idaho 235, 459 P.2d 1017 (1969). These concepts, as far as the case now before us is concerned, apply to Wyoming's post-conviction relief statute.

The record of the conviction is present in the county of trial, and usually the matter can be heard by the district judge who presided over the trial, has an intimate connection to and knowledge of the files and record, and is less likely to be misled by false or misleading allegations as to what occurred. He is thus in a better position to consider the petition on an accessibility and knowledgeable basis than the district judge of the district wherein is located the penitentiary where petitioner is confined, when a stranger to the trial proceedings. 5

Appellant indicates he must pursue these proceedings before he can access any federal court remedy by way of habeas corpus. 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (1982) provides that an application for habeas corpus cannot be granted unless the applicant has exhausted remedies available in the courts of the state. A reason put forth for creating a state post-conviction remedy is to cut down the number of federal habeas corpus proceedings. 6 The rationale is apparently that if a more complete means of collateral attack on a judgment and sentence is furnished at the state level, federal courts will be more confident with the reliability of, and less likely to review, state court convictions. Comity between the jurisdictions is thus promoted. There has been complaint made in various state government circles that federal courts have usurped and interfered with the state judicial function. It has been held that a ground for entertaining a petition for habeas corpus seeking relief from a state conviction in the federal court establishment is the absence of an effective state corrective process and that this may be a denial of due process under the Fourth Amendment. Case v. Nebraska, 381 U.S. 336, 85 S.Ct. 1486, 14 L.Ed.2d 422 (1965). 7 We acknowledge our obligation, and always have, that "[s]tate courts are 'equally bound to guard and protect rights secured by the [United States] Constitution.' " Duckworth v. Serrano, 454 U.S. 1, 3-4, 102 S.Ct. 18, 19-20, 70 L.Ed.2d 1 (1981). ...

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