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Turner v. State

Supreme Court of Wyoming

June 13, 2014

ROBERT DANIEL TURNER, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Plaintiff)

Page 101

Appeal from the District Court of Natrona County. The Honorable Catherine E. Wilking, Judge.

Representing Appellant: Robert D. Turner, Pro se.

Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Wyoming Attorney General; David L. Delicath, Deputy Attorney General; Jenny L. Craig, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Caitlin Young, Assistant Attorney General.

Before KITE, C.J., and HILL, BURKE, DAVIS, and FOX, JJ.

OPINION

Page 102

KITE, Chief Justice.

[¶1] Robert Daniel Turner pled guilty to one count of solicitation to commit property destruction. He appeals, pro se, from the judgment and sentence entered by the district court, claiming the district court did not have subject matter jurisdiction to prosecute him because he was in West Virginia at the time of the alleged solicitation and he did not receive effective assistance of counsel. We conclude the factual basis for his guilty plea established the district court had subject matter jurisdiction over the matter and he has not shown ineffective assistance of counsel.

[¶2] We affirm.

ISSUES

[¶3] Mr. Turner presents the following issues on appeal:

I. Did the State have subject matter jurisdiction to prosecute Appellant for the charges specified in the charging Information?
II. Was Appellant's representation by trial counsel so ineffective that it rendered Appellant's guilty plea involuntary?

The State presents essentially the same issues, although phrased in more detail.

FACTS

[¶4] During August and September 2012, Mr. Turner, who was in West Virginia, agreed over the telephone to pay an " associate" $650 to set fire to a vehicle which belonged to his former girlfriend and was located in Natrona County, Wyoming. The associate spoke with law enforcement and took part in a recorded telephone conversation with Mr. Turner about the plan. The associate did not damage the vehicle, and Mr. Turner was arrested when he returned to Wyoming.

[¶5] Mr. Turner pled guilty to one felony count of solicitation to commit property damage in excess of $1,000. In exchange for his guilty plea, the State dismissed two other felony charges--solicitation to commit first degree arson and solicitation to commit third degree arson. At his change of plea hearing, Mr. Turner stated that he was satisfied with his trial counsel and provided a factual basis for his guilty plea.

[¶6] The district court held a sentencing hearing in which it considered the presentence investigation report, the evidence in the case, the intended victim's testimony, Mr. Turner's statement, and the parties' arguments. The State argued Mr. Turner should receive a sentence of seven to ten years in prison, while defense counsel argued for probation. The district court found that probation was not appropriate and sentenced Mr. Turner to serve a term of eight to ten years in prison.

[¶7] Mr. Turner was unhappy with the sentence and filed a notice of appeal. The district court allowed his trial counsel to withdraw and appointed new counsel to represent him on appeal. Mr. Turner filed a pro se motion to correct an illegal sentence on grounds not associated with this appeal, and the district court denied the motion. Mr. Turner requested that the case be remanded to the district court for a hearing under W.R.A.P. 21 regarding the effectiveness of trial counsel. This Court denied the request for a remand because Mr. Turner did not make a sufficient showing of ineffective assistance. Thereafter, Mr. Turner's appellate counsel moved to withdraw pursuant to Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738, 87 S.Ct. 1396, 18 L.Ed.2d 493 (1967), on the basis that the appeal was not meritorious. We granted the motion, and Mr. Turner filed his appellate brief pro se .

DISCUSSION

[¶8] Mr. Turner pled guilty to solicitation to commit property destruction and he did not file a motion to withdraw his guilty plea. " [A]n unconditional guilty plea waives all non-jurisdictional defenses, including claims based on the alleged deprivation of constitutional rights. The only claims not

Page 103

waived by an unconditional guilty plea are those that address the jurisdiction of the court or the voluntariness of the plea." Kitzke v. State, 2002 WY 147, ¶ 8, 55 P.3d 696, 699 (Wyo. 2002) (citations omitted).

1. Jurisdiction

[¶9] Mr. Turner claims the district court did not have subject matter jurisdiction to prosecute him. Subject matter jurisdiction is essential to prosecution of a crime and may not be waived. Rios v. State, 733 P.2d 242, 244 (Wyo. 1987). Jurisdiction is a question of law that may be raised any time and is subject to de novo review on appeal. Dawes v. State, 2010 WY 113, ¶ 10, 236 P.3d 303, 306 (Wyo. 2010). See also Innis v. State, 2003 WY 66, ¶ 8, 69 P.3d 413, 417 (Wyo. 2003).

[¶10] The State charged Mr. Turner with solicitation to commit property damage valued at $1,000 or more, in violation of Wyo. Stat. Ann. § § 6-1-302(a) and 6-3-201(a) and (b)(iii) (LexisNexis 2013). Section 6-1-302(a) states:

(a) A person is guilty of solicitation to commit a felony if, with intent that a felony be committed, he commands, encourages or facilitates the commission of that crime under circumstances strongly corroborative of the intention that the crime be ...

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