State v. Goynes

Decision Date08 April 2016
Docket NumberNo. S–15–352.,S–15–352.
Citation293 Neb. 288,876 N.W.2d 912
Parties State of Nebraska, appellee, v. Daunte L. Goynes, appellant.
CourtNebraska Supreme Court

Daunte L. Goynes, pro se.

Douglas J. Peterson, Attorney General, and Nathan A. Liss, Lincoln, for appellee.

Heavican, C.J., Wright, Connolly, Miller–Lerman, Cassel, and Stacy, JJ.

Miller–Lerman, J.

NATURE OF CASE

Daunte L. Goynes was convicted of murder in the second degree and use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony for the death of Aaron Lofton. Goynes was sentenced to imprisonment for a term of 60 years to life for the murder conviction and a term of 10 to 20 years for the weapon conviction, to be served consecutively. On direct appeal, we affirmed Goynes' convictions and sentences. See State v. Goynes, 278 Neb. 230, 768 N.W.2d 458 (2009).

On August 27, 2012, Goynes filed his first motion for post-conviction relief, which the district court for Douglas County denied. On August 28, 2013, we dismissed his appeal to this court in case No. S–13–464.

On February 5, 2015, Goynes filed a second motion for postconviction relief, which the district court denied without holding an evidentiary hearing. The district court thereafter denied Goynes' motion to alter or amend. Goynes appeals. We determine that Goynes' second motion for postconviction relief was barred by the limitation period set forth in the Nebraska Postconviction Act, Neb.Rev.Stat. § 29–3001 et seq. (Reissue 2008 & Cum. Supp. 2014), and therefore, we affirm the district court's order denying Goynes' second motion for postconviction relief.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

The events underlying Goynes' convictions and sentences involve the shooting death of Lofton. The shooting occurred in February 2007, on the day before Goynes turned 18 years old. In our opinion on direct appeal, we set forth the facts of the case in detail. See State v. Goynes, supra.

After a trial, the jury found Goynes guilty of murder in the second degree and use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony. Goynes was sentenced to imprisonment for a term of 60 years to life for the murder conviction and a term of 10 to 20 years for the weapon conviction, to be served consecutively.

Goynes had the same counsel at trial and on direct appeal. Goynes assigned two errors on direct appeal, generally arguing that the trial court erred when it excluded certain evidence and when it denied his motion for a new trial. In our opinion on direct appeal, we found no merit to Goynes' assignments of error and affirmed his convictions and sentences. See State v. Goynes, supra.

On August 27, 2012, Goynes filed his first motion for postconviction relief, claiming that his counsel at trial and on appeal was ineffective for various reasons. In his first motion for postconviction relief, Goynes did not allege that his sentence was unconstitutional pursuant to Miller v. Alabama, –––U.S. ––––, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 183 L.Ed.2d 407 (2012), which had been decided within the year preceding the filing of his first motion for postconviction relief.

On January 23, 2013, the district court filed an order in which it denied Goynes' first postconviction motion without holding an evidentiary hearing. On August 28, 2013, his appeal to this court was dismissed in case No. S–13–464.

On February 5, 2015, Goynes filed his second motion for postconviction relief. This is the motion at issue in this appeal. In his second motion for postconviction relief, Goynes claimed that his constitutional right to be free from cruel or unusual punishment was violated because the sentencing court failed to hold an individualized hearing regarding possible mitigating factors based on his juvenile status and because he received the functional equivalent of a life sentence without parole. Goynes further alleged that his constitutional rights to effective counsel and due process were violated because his attorney failed to request, and the trial court failed to give, a jury instruction regarding Goynes' culpability to commit second degree murder because of his juvenile status and mental and emotional development at the time of the crime. On appeal, Goynes has abandoned his claims with respect to the jury instructions.

On February 17, 2015, the district court filed an order in which it denied Goynes' second motion for postconviction relief without conducting an evidentiary hearing. The district court determined that Goynes' motion was barred by the limitation period found in the Nebraska Postconviction Act, § 29–3001(4), which provides:

A one-year period of limitation shall apply to the filing of a verified motion for postconviction relief. The one-year limitation period shall run from the later of:
(a) The date the judgment of conviction became final by the conclusion of a direct appeal or the expiration of the time for filing a direct appeal;
(b) The date on which the factual predicate of the constitutional claim or claims alleged could have been discovered through the exercise of due diligence;
(c) The date on which an impediment created by state action, in violation of the Constitution of the United States or the Constitution of Nebraska or any law of this state, is removed, if the prisoner was prevented from filing a verified motion by such state action;
(d) The date on which a constitutional claim asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court of the United States or the Nebraska Supreme Court, if the newly recognized right has been made applicable retroactively to cases on postconviction collateral review; or
(e) August 27, 2011.

The district court noted that Goynes was sentenced on July 2, 2008, and that his convictions were affirmed by this court on July 31, 2009. See State v. Goynes, 278 Neb. 230, 768 N.W.2d 458 (2009). The district court reasoned that § 29–3001(4)(e) applied and that Goynes had 1 year from August 27, 2011, to file his postconviction motion. The court determined that because Goynes filed his second motion for postconviction relief on February 5, 2015, his second motion was barred by the August 27, 2011, deadline contained in § 29–3001(4)(e). Alternatively, the district court determined that Goynes' second motion for postconviction relief was procedurally barred as a successive motion, because Goynes' claims were known or knowable at the time of his first post-conviction proceeding.

On February 27, 2015, Goynes filed a motion to alter or amend in which he contended that his second motion for postconviction relief was not untimely or barred as a successive motion, because he was asserting a constitutional claim filed within 1 year of recognition of a new right. See § 29–3001(4)(d). Goynes asserted he was relying on new case law from Miller v. Alabama, –––U.S. ––––, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 183 L.Ed.2d 407 (2012), which was filed on June 25, 2012, and State v. Mantich, 287 Neb. 320, 842 N.W.2d 716 (2014), which was filed February 7, 2014. In Miller, the U.S. Supreme Court held that it is unconstitutional to sentence a juvenile who was younger than 18 years old at the time of the homicide to a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. In Mantich, we held that the rule in Miller should be applied retroactively to collateral proceedings. In his motion to alter or amend, Goynes argued that his second postconviction motion was timely pursuant to § 29–3001(4)(d), because it was filed on February 5, 2015, which was within 1 year after Mantich was filed on February 7, 2014. Goynes further argued that his second postconviction motion should not be barred as a successive motion, because Mantich was not filed until after his first postconviction proceeding had concluded.

On March 23, 2015, the district court filed an order in which it denied Goynes' motion to alter or amend. The court reasoned that Goynes' second motion for postconviction relief "never makes any reference to Mantich" and that in any event, Miller and Mantich"are not applicable to the case at hand, because [Goynes] did not receive a mandatory life sentence without the consideration of parole."

Goynes appeals.

ASSIGNMENT OF ERROR

Goynes assigns, restated, that the district court erred when it denied his motion for postconviction relief without holding an evidentiary hearing on his claim that his constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment was violated when he received "a sentence of the functional equivalent of life for an offense [Goynes] committed when [Goynes] was a juvenile."

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Statutory interpretation presents a question of law, for which an appellate court has an obligation to reach an independent conclusion irrespective of the determination made by the court below. State v. Irish, 292 Neb. 513, 873 N.W.2d 161 (2016).

ANALYSIS

Goynes generally claims that the district court erred when it denied his second motion for postconviction relief without holding an evidentiary hearing. Specifically, Goynes asserts that his motion should have been granted or that at least the court should have conducted an evidentiary hearing on his motion, because his constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment was violated when he received a sentence that is the functional equivalent to life for a crime that he committed when he was under the age of 18. Although our reasoning differs from that of the district court, for the reasons set forth below, we determine that the district court did not err when it found Goynes' motion time barred and denied Goynes' second motion for postconviction relief.

A court must grant an evidentiary hearing to resolve the claims in a postconviction motion when the motion contains factual allegations which, if proved, constitute an infringement of the defendant's rights under the Nebraska or federal Constitution. State v. DeJong, 292 Neb. 305, 872 N.W.2d 275 (2015). If a postconviction motion alleges only conclusions of fact or law, or if the records and files in the case affirmatively show that the defendant is entitled to no relief, the court is not required to grant...

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