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Barela v. State

Supreme Court of Wyoming

June 30, 2016

STEVEN R. BARELA, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Plaintiff).

         Appeal from the District Court of Albany County The Honorable Jeffrey A. Donnell, Judge

          Representing Appellant: Pro se.

          Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Attorney General; David L. Delicath, Deputy Attorney General; Christyne M. Martens, Senior Assistant Attorney General.

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

          BURKE, Chief Justice.

         [¶1] Appellant, Steven R. Barela, challenges the district court's denial of his motion to correct an illegal sentence under W.R.Cr.P. 35(a). We affirm.

         ISSUE

         [¶2] Appellant presents several issues, which we combine and restate as follows:

         Did the district court err in denying Appellant's motion to correct an illegal sentence?

         FACTS

         [¶3] In 1995, Appellant pled guilty to second-degree murder for killing his wife. He did not pursue a direct appeal from his conviction. However, in April 1996, Appellant filed a petition for modification of his sentence based on a claim that the district court had not considered that he had experienced a serious head injury when he was an infant. The district court denied the petition. We affirmed that decision in Barela v. State, 936 P.2d 66 (Wyo. 1997). In 1999, Appellant filed a petition for post-conviction relief, claiming that: (1) his guilty plea was not supported by a proper factual basis; (2) his in-custody confession and consent to a search were involuntary; (3) the district court exceeded its authority in imposing restitution; and (4) his trial counsel was ineffective. The district court dismissed the petition, and we dismissed Appellant's subsequent appeal. In 2000, five years after his conviction, Appellant filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea based on ineffective assistance of counsel. The district court denied the motion. We dismissed the appeal after concluding that the district court did not have jurisdiction to consider Appellant's motion because the time for taking a direct appeal from the court's judgment and sentence had expired. Barela v. State, 2002 WY 143, 55 P.3d 11 (Wyo. 2002).

         [¶4] The present case was initiated in August 2015, when Appellant, acting pro se, filed a "Motion For: Writ of Habeas Corpus, Withdrawal of Plea, and/or Correction/Reduction of an Illegal Sentence." The district court denied the motion. With respect to Appellant's motion for writ of habeas corpus, the court concluded that Appellant's claims of error were not cognizable in a habeas corpus proceeding because he did not challenge the trial court's jurisdiction to convict and sentence him. With respect to the motion to correct illegal sentence, the court concluded that Appellant "gives no specific grounds for his contention that this sentence is illegal." The court noted that Appellant claimed that his sentence was illegal because the court failed to provide a firearms disqualification advisement at the time of sentencing, in 1995. However, because the advisement statute, Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 7-11-507, was not enacted until 2009, the court noted that it was inapplicable to Appellant's case. Finally, the court concluded that Appellant's sentence of 28 years to life was permitted under Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-2-104. This appeal followed.

         [¶5] In December 2015, Appellant filed a motion to proceed in forma pauperis in this appeal. We denied the motion due to the fact that Appellant was already proceeding in forma pauperis per the district court's order. Additionally, we clarified that the only matter properly before this Court was the denial of Appellant's motion to correct an illegal sentence:

To the extent Appellant seeks habeas corpus relief, this appeal is improper. "It is the settled rule in this jurisdiction that there is no appeal from the disallowance of a writ of habeas corpus by a district court. The proper remedy is an application for such a writ to this court." Foster v. Warden of Wyoming State Penitentiary, 489 P.2d 1166, 1166 (Wyo. 1971). To the extent Appellant seeks to challenge the denial of his post-sentence motion to withdraw guilty plea, this Court is without jurisdiction to consider this matter. This Court made that clear in an earlier appeal involving Appellant:
In the instant case, appellant filed his Motion to Withdraw Guilty Plea over five years after the entry of his plea and over five years after his sentence was imposed. Pursuant to Nixon [v. State, 2002 WY 118, 51 P.3d 851 (Wyo. 2002)], appellant's criminal case became final for purposes of the motion to withdraw his guilty plea at the expiration of the time for taking a direct appeal from the district court's judgment and sentence. Accordingly, the district court was without jurisdiction to consider the motion to withdraw appellant's guilty plea and, because this ...

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