Tatara v. State, 49076

CourtCourt of Appeals of Idaho
Writing for the CourtGRATTON, JUDGE.
PartiesRYAN ANTHONY TATARA, Petitioner-Appellant, v. STATE OF IDAHO, Respondent.
Docket Number49076
Decision Date04 November 2022

RYAN ANTHONY TATARA, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.

STATE OF IDAHO, Respondent.

No. 49076

Court of Appeals of Idaho

November 4, 2022


UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Lynn G. Norton, District Judge.

Judgment summarily dismissing petition for post-conviction relief, affirmed.

Eric D. Fredericksen, State Appellate Public Defender; Brian R. Dickson, Deputy Appellate Public Defender, Boise, for appellant.

Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General; Kenneth K. Jorgensen, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, for respondent.

GRATTON, JUDGE.

A jury found Ryan A. Tatara guilty of aggravated assault, Idaho Code §§ 18-901(b), 18-905(a)(b); and a persistent violator enhancement, I.C. § 19-2514. Tatara filed a petition for postconviction relief which the district court summarily dismissed. Tatara appeals asserting the district court erred by summarily dismissing his petition without appointing counsel. We affirm.

I.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

While in a convenience store, Tatara was allegedly threatening and swinging a wine bottle at the clerk. At trial, the clerk testified that Tatara tried to hit him with the wine bottle. After the clerk took the wine bottle, he wrestled Tatara to the ground. Tatara hit, kicked, and bit the clerk.

1

Law enforcement arrested Tatara and charged him with aggravated assault.[1] A jury found Tatara guilty of aggravated assault and being a persistent violator based on two prior convictions.

Tatara timely filed a pro se petition for post-conviction relief alleging ineffective assistance of trial counsel. As relevant here, Tatara asserted that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to respond to the requests Tatara made in various letters and failing to discover and address evidence not previously presented that would require vacation of the conviction or of the sentence. Tatara requested appointment of post-conviction counsel.

The district court issued a notice of intent to summarily dismiss Tatara's petition for postconviction relief without appointing counsel. Tatara objected to the notice. The district court denied the request for appointment of counsel and summarily dismissed Tatara's petition. Tatara timely appeals.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

If a post-conviction petitioner is unable to pay for the expenses of representation, the trial court may appoint counsel to represent the petitioner in preparing the petition in the trial court and on appeal. I.C. § 19-4904. The decision to grant or deny a request for court-appointed counsel lies within the discretion of the district court. Grant v. State, 156 Idaho 598, 603, 329 P.3d 380, 385 (Ct. App. 2014). When a district court is presented with a request for appointed counsel, the court must address this request before ruling on the substantive issues in the case. Id. The district court abuses its discretion where it fails to determine whether a petitioner for post-conviction relief is entitled to court-appointed counsel before denying the petition on the merits. Id.

In determining whether to appoint counsel pursuant to I.C. § 19-4904, the district court should determine if the petitioner is able to afford counsel and whether the situation is one in which counsel should be appointed to assist the petitioner. Grant, 156 Idaho at 603, 329 P.3d at 385. In its analysis, the district court should consider that petitions filed by a pro se petitioner may be conclusory and incomplete. Id. Facts sufficient to state a claim may not be alleged because they do not exist or because the pro se petitioner does not know the essential elements of a claim. Id. Some claims are so patently frivolous that they could not be developed into viable claims even with the assistance of counsel. Newman v. State, 140 Idaho 491, 493, 95 P.3d 642, 644 (Ct. App. 2004).

2

However, if a petitioner alleges facts that raise the possibility of a valid claim, the district court should appoint counsel in order to give the petitioner an opportunity to work with counsel and properly allege the necessary supporting facts. Grant, 156 Idaho at 603, 329 P.3d at 385.

III. ANALYSIS

Tatara claims that the district court erred by summarily dismissing his petition for postconviction relief without appointing him an attorney. Specifically, Tatara asserts that the allegations in his petition, along with the clarification he offered in his response to the district court's notice of intent to dismiss his petition, were sufficient to raise the possibility of a valid claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. Tatara argues that counsel should have been appointed for claims that: (1) the existence of material facts not previously presented demonstrating innocence or substantial doubt or reliability of guilt, requiring vacation of his conviction; and (2) the existence of related letters he wrote to counsel, copies of which he has been unable to obtain and as to which appointment of counsel was necessary to obtain. The district court found that Tatara was not entitled to the appointment of counsel and summarily dismissed the petition for post-conviction relief. We affirm.

A. Evidence of Innocence or Substantial Doubt of Guilt

Tatara asserts that the district court erred in determining that he failed to raise the possibility of a valid claim regarding the existence of evidence of innocence or substantial doubt of guilt and ineffective assistance of counsel relative thereto.

A claim of ineffective assistance of counsel may properly be brought under the Uniform Post-Conviction...

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