State v. Beam, s. 16542

Decision Date16 June 1988
Docket Number16543,Nos. 16542,s. 16542
Citation766 P.2d 678,115 Idaho 208
PartiesSTATE of Idaho, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Albert Ray BEAM, Defendant-Appellant. Albert Ray BEAM, Petitioner-Appellant, v. STATE of Idaho, Respondent.
CourtIdaho Supreme Court

Jim Jones, Atty. Gen., Lynn E. Thomas, Sol. Gen., Boise (argued), for plaintiff-respondent.

BAKES, Justice.

The appellant, Albert Ray Beam, was convicted of murder and rape and sentenced to death. The conviction and sentence were affirmed by this Court on direct appeal in State v. Beam, 109 Idaho 616, 710 P.2d 526 (1985), cert. denied 476 U.S. 1153, 106 S.Ct. 2260, 90 L.Ed.2d 704 (1986). The complete factual background leading to Beam's murder conviction and sentence is set out in State v. Beam, supra. In sum, Beam and his co-defendant, Scroggins, were convicted of the first degree murder of a thirteen year old girl. Beam was also convicted of raping the girl. The co-defendant, Scroggins, was additionally convicted of attempted rape. Both men were sentenced to death. On direct appeal, Scroggins' death sentence was vacated because it was found to be disproportionate, primarily because of his youth and lack of any significant prior criminal record. State v. Scroggins, 110 Idaho 380, 716 P.2d 1152 (1986). However, this Court affirmed Beam's conviction and death sentence on direct appeal. Thereafter, Beam filed a petition for post conviction relief and an I.C.R. 35 motion to reduce his sentence. Additionally, Beam moved to disqualify the original trial judge from sitting in the post conviction and sentence reduction proceedings.

Beam's motion to disqualify alleged that the trial judge was biased and prejudiced because he had disqualified himself from Scroggins' resentencing, and in the order of disqualification made several statements which indicated that the judge disagreed with the Idaho Supreme Court's reduction of Scroggins' sentence and believed that both Beam and his co-defendant, Scroggins, should have received the death penalty for the heinous murder which they had committed. Beam contended that because of this self-disqualification in the Scroggins resentencing the trial judge could not objectively consider his post conviction relief petition or the I.C.R. 35 request for reduction of sentence. The trial court summarily denied the motion to disqualify. Beam then filed a second motion, this time specifically filing it pursuant to Idaho Criminal Rule 25(b). The second motion further alleged that the trial judge had a predisposed bias with regard to the issue of proportionality. A hearing was conducted on this motion. After the hearing, Beam's motion was denied.

In his post conviction relief petition, Beam alleged that (1) the dual jury procedure used by the trial court deprived him of Beam's I.C.R. 35 motion to correct or reduce the sentence stated as grounds that, because the Idaho Supreme Court had found that the trial court had erroneously sentenced Beam's co-defendant Scroggins to death, Beam's sentence was inherently disproportionate. In denying the Rule 35 motion, the trial court ruled that Beam had failed to carry the burden of (1) proving error, or (2) demonstrating the existence of facts or legal issues which were not considered at trial and which might affect the previously imposed sentence.

[115 Idaho 210] his constitutional rights; (2) the sentence imposed on him was excessive, unduly harsh and disproportionate to the sentence to be served by his co-defendant, Shawn Scroggins; (3) Idaho's statutory capital sentencing procedure violated his right to jury sentencing rather than court sentencing; and (4) I.C. § 19-2719 (which shortened the time in which to bring his post conviction relief petition) deprived him of equal protection of the law. In denying the post conviction relief petition, the trial court refused to relitigate issues settled in the prior appeal and found that I.C. § 19-2719 had a rational and legitimate government basis and therefore did not deny equal protection of the law and was constitutional.

I The Post Conviction Relief Proceeding

On appeal Beam argues that the trial court erred in denying each of his four grounds for post conviction relief. The trial court found three of Beam's grounds barred by the doctrine of res judicata and ruled on the fourth ground, that I.C. § 19-2719 was constitutional. In resolving Beam's challenge to the trial court's disposition of his petition for post conviction relief, we must first examine the issues raised in the petition to determine which were properly before the trial court and which were precluded from consideration because of the res judicata effect of this Court's decision in Beam's direct appeal. State v. Beam, supra.

First we note that the Idaho legislature has adopted the Uniform Post-Conviction Procedure Act which is found in Title 19, chapter 49, of the Idaho Code. All post conviction relief actions must be brought pursuant to the statutory grounds set forth in I.C. § 19-4901. The Uniform Post-Conviction Procedure Act is designed to avoid repetitious and successive applications for appellate action and to eliminate confusion while still protecting the applicant's constitutional rights. Dionne v. State, 93 Idaho 235, 459 P.2d 1017 (1969). An application for post conviction relief is a special proceeding, civil in nature, and is an entirely new proceeding, distinct from the criminal action which led to the conviction. Paradis v. State, 110 Idaho 534, 716 P.2d 1306 (1986); State v. Bearshield, 104 Idaho 676, 662 P.2d 548 (1983). The statute specifically provides that "[a]ny issue which could have been raised on direct appeal, but was not, is forfeited and may not be considered in post conviction proceedings, unless it appears to the court, on the basis of a substantial factual showing by affidavit, deposition or otherwise, that the asserted basis for relief raises a substantial doubt about the reliability of the finding of guilt and could not, in the exercise of due diligence, have been presented earlier." I.C. § 19-4901(b). See also Palmer v. Dermitt, 102 Idaho 591, 635 P.2d 955 (1981); Kraft v. State, 100 Idaho 671, 674, 603 P.2d 1005, 1008 (1979); Hernandez v. State, 100 Idaho 581, 602 P.2d 539 (1979); Potter v. State, 114 Idaho 612, 759 P.2d 903 (Ct.App.1988).

Beam's post conviction relief petition did not raise factual material "not previously presented and heard" under I.C. § 19-4901(a)(4). Rather, it raised only legal issues under I.C. § 19-4901(a)(1). A review of our decision in Beam's direct appeal demonstrates that Beam had previously litigated three of the four legal grounds that he asserts in seeking post conviction relief. In State v. Beam, supra, we upheld (1) the constitutionality of the dual jury procedure used in Beam's trial, (2) the constitutionality of Idaho's capital sentencing procedures, and (3) the proportionality and legality of Beam's death sentence. Thus, the trial court correctly refused to relitigate those issues because

                [115 Idaho 211] they had previously been decided on direct appeal and thus were res judicata.  Kraft v. State, supra; Potter v. State, supra.   That leaves only Beam's final ground for post conviction relief, i.e., the constitutionality of I.C. § 19-2719, which is purely a legal issue which we now address
II Constitutionality of I.C. § 19-2719

Beam argues that I.C. § 19-2719 is an unconstitutional violation of his equal protection rights. The filing requirements under general provisions of the Uniform Post-Conviction Procedure Act provide that "[a]n application may be filed at any time within five (5) years from the expiration of the time for appeal or from the determination of an appeal or from the determination of a proceeding following an appeal, whichever is later." I.C. § 19-4902. However, the legislature has adopted special appellate and post conviction procedure rules for capital cases in I.C. § 19-2719. The basis for Beam's claim that I.C. § 19-2719 is unconstitutional is I.C. § 19-2719's filing requirement which mandates that "[w]ithin forty-two (42) days of the filing of the judgment imposing the punishment of death, and before the death warrant is filed, the defendant must file any legal or factual challenge to the sentence or conviction that is known or reasonably should be known." Beam argues that this requirement violates his constitutional right to equal protection because it creates a suspect class, and that the statute does not meet a compelling state interest because there is no justification for requiring those sentenced to death to bring their post conviction relief petitions within 42 days when all other criminal defendants are allowed up to five years to bring their petitions.

A constitutional equal protection analysis first requires the identification of (1) the classification which is being challenged and (2) the standard under which the classification will be judicially reviewed. Davis v. Moran, 112 Idaho 703, 735 P.2d 1014 (1987); Tarbox v. Tax Comm'n, 107 Idaho 957, 695 P.2d 342 (1984). Secondly, it must be determined whether the appropriate equal protection standard has been satisfied. State v. Breed, 111 Idaho 497, 725 P.2d 202 (Ct.App.1986).

There is no authority to support Beam's argument that I.C. § 19-2719's special procedure for capital cases involves a suspect class for equal protection analysis purposes. Suspect classes are those classes which have historically been encumbered with disabilities or have been subjected to unequal treatment or have been excluded from the majoritarian political process. See Mathews v. Lucas, 427 U.S. 495, 96 S.Ct. 2755, 49 L.Ed.2d 651 (1976); San Antonio Ind. School Dist. v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1, 93 S.Ct. 1278, 36 L.Ed.2d 16, reh'g denied 411 U.S. 959, 93 S.Ct....

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