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Wheeler v. State

Court of Appeals of Alaska
Dec 20, 2006
Court of Appeals No. A-9448 (Alaska Ct. App. Dec. 20, 2006)


Court of Appeals No. A-9448.

December 20, 2006.

Appeal from the Superior Court, Third Judicial District, Palmer, Beverly W. Cutler, Judge, Trial Court No. 3PA-02-1173 CI.

James P. Wheeler, in propria persona, Florence, Arizona, for the Appellant.

Kenneth M. Rosenstein, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals, Anchorage, and David W. MÁrquez, Attorney General, Juneau, for the Appellee.

Before: Coats, Chief Judge, and Mannheimer and Stewart, Judges.


James P. Wheeler was convicted of first-degree murder for killing Robert Dawson in Wasilla in October 1993. In January 1995, the superior court sentenced Wheeler and imposed a 99-year term of imprisonment. Wheeler did not appeal.

Several years later, on September 12, 2002, Wheeler filed a pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The superior court granted the State's unopposed motion to convert the petition to an application for post-conviction relief. Ultimately, Wheeler filed an application for post-conviction relief.

Alaska Rule of Criminal Procedure 35.1©) provides that an application for post-conviction relief must be filed within the time limitations set out in AS 12.72.020. Alaska Statute 12.72.020(a)(3)(A) requires the application to be filed within two years of the entry of the judgment of conviction if there is no appeal. Wheeler's judgment was entered on January 31, 1995. Wheeler did not file his application until 2002. Thus Wheeler's application was barred because it was untimely.

Even without considering this procedural bar, Wheeler's substantive claims have no merit. Wheeler claimed that he was illegally sentenced for first-degree murder because the indictment and the judgment cite the second-degree murder statute, AS 11.41.110(a)(1)(A), rather than the first-degree murder statute, AS 11.41.100(a). However, Superior Court Judge Beverly W. Cutler found that the citation to the second-degree murder statute was a "typographical error" and that there was no question that Wheeler was tried and convicted of first-degree murder. (The indictment charges the elements of first-degree murder: "The grand jury charges . . . that . . . Wheeler, with intent to cause the death of another person, did cause the death of Robert (Hank) Dawson.")

See AS 11.41.100(a).

Furthermore, this issue is barred because it could have been raised in a direct appeal. Alaska Statute 12.72.020(a)(2) provides that a post-conviction relief claim is barred when it "could have been but was not" raised on direct appeal.

Wheeler also argues that his 99-year sentence for first-degree murder violates his Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial as defined in Blakely v. Washington. Blakely stands for the proposition that "when a sentencing judge has no authority to exceed a specified sentencing ceiling unless particular aggravating factors are proved, the defendant has a right to demand a jury trial on those aggravating factors."

Haag v. State, 117 P.3d 775, 782 (Alaska App. 2005).

First-degree murder is an unclassified felony with a sentencing range of 20 to 99 years. A sentencing judge is authorized to impose any penalty within that range once the defendant is convicted of first-degree murder. Stated another way, the sentencing judge's authority to impose a sentence within the 20-to 99-year statutory range does not turn on the sentencing judge finding any additional facts. Thus, Blakely presents no obstacle to a sentencing court's decision to impose a term to serve within the 20-to 99-year range for first-degree murder. Conclusion

AS 11.41.100; AS 12.55.125(a).

See Carlson v. State, 128 P.3d 197, 209-10 (Alaska App. 2006).

The judgment of the superior court is AFFIRMED.

Summaries of

Wheeler v. State

Court of Appeals of Alaska
Dec 20, 2006
Court of Appeals No. A-9448 (Alaska Ct. App. Dec. 20, 2006)
Case details for

Wheeler v. State

Case Details

Full title:JAMES P. WHEELER, Appellant v. STATE OF ALASKA, Appellee

Court:Court of Appeals of Alaska

Date published: Dec 20, 2006


Court of Appeals No. A-9448 (Alaska Ct. App. Dec. 20, 2006)