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Jimenez v. State

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

December 11, 2018

Mariano Jimenez
State of Rhode Island

          Providence County Superior Court, PM 16-386 Robert D. Krause

          For State: Paul Dinsmore, Esq.

          For Defendant: Aaron L. Weisman Department of Attorney General

          Justices Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.



         On November 15, 2016, Mariano Jimenez petitioned this Court for the issuance of a writ of certiorari to review a September 19, 2016 judgment denying his application for postconviction relief in Providence County Superior Court. On December 1, 2017, this Court granted his petition for a writ of certiorari. He contends that he was denied effective assistance of counsel in his 2000 criminal trial and in his 2003 direct appeal to this Court. This case came before the Supreme Court pursuant to an order directing the parties to appear and show cause why the issues raised in this case should not be summarily decided. After a close review of the record and careful consideration of the parties' arguments (both written and oral), we are satisfied that cause has not been shown and that this case may be decided at this time. For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we affirm the judgment of the Superior Court.


         Facts and Travel

         On September 11, 2000, applicant was charged by criminal indictment with: murder in the first degree (Count One); felony assault with a dangerous weapon (Count Two); carrying a pistol without a license (Count Three); and possession of a firearm by a fugitive (Count Four). Those charges stemmed from an incident that occurred on April 9, 2000, during which applicant fatally shot Manuel Clemente "in the back of the neck as Clemente was leaving an apartment building on Dartmouth Avenue in Providence" after a confrontation between the two at a party. State v. Jimenez, 882 A.2d 549, 550 (R.I. 2005). On December 1, 2000, a jury found applicant guilty of Counts One, Two, and Three.[1] The trial justice denied applicant's motion for a new trial on December 8, 2000. He was thereafter sentenced to life imprisonment on the first-degree murder count, as well as concurrent ten-year terms of imprisonment on Counts Two and Three, suspended, with probation, to be served consecutively to the life sentence.

         Mr. Jimenez appealed that judgment to this Court in 2003, "contending that the trial justice committed reversible error (1) in permitting him to be questioned concerning his previous experience with the pistol that fired the fatal shot and (2) in failing to instruct the jury on the lesser-included offense of manslaughter because of his alleged diminished capacity." Jimenez, 882 A.2d at 550. This Court rejected these contentions and affirmed the conviction in Jimenez, which sets forth a comprehensive recitation of the facts. Id. at 557.

         In 2016, Mr. Jimenez filed the instant application for postconviction relief, alleging that he was denied effective assistance of counsel by his trial attorney in 2000 and by his appellate counsel in his direct appeal in 2003. In due course, an evidentiary hearing was held on his postconviction relief application on July 7, 2016.[2] We summarize below the salient aspects of what transpired at that hearing.


         The Testimony at the Postconviction Relief Hearing

         1. The Testimony of Applicant

         Mr. Jimenez testified at the evidentiary hearing that his trial counsel never offered to give him a copy of the indictment against him, police reports, or other documents about the case, saying that he "never got any paper of anything." In addition, applicant responded in the negative when his postconviction relief attorney asked him if his trial counsel had prepared him to testify on his own behalf.[3] Mr. Jimenez also testified under redirect examination that he did not know before the trial that he would be called upon to testify on his own behalf. The applicant additionally testified that he told his appellate counsel that his trial counsel had acted ineffectively, but that appellate counsel declined to comply when he asked her to "deliver" "a letter to the prosecutor" about his trial counsel's allegedly ineffective representation.

          2. The Testimony of Applicant's Trial Counsel

         The applicant's trial counsel also testified at the postconviction relief hearing. When asked whether he "provided Mr. Jimenez with the package that was put together by the police" in the course of their investigation of the murder of Manuel Clemente, trial counsel responded: "I don't remember whether or not I did give it to him. I know it was my practice to make copies and especially if my people are out in the prison, I would bring them a copy * * *." Trial counsel added that he had no independent recollection of going to the prison and giving applicant physical copies of the documents. Trial counsel further testified as follows:

"I recall speaking to [Mr. Jimenez] about his testimony and what he had to say. I don't recall if we sat down and did a question-by-question preparation, but I remember telling him what he had to say. How he had to say it. How he had to maintain himself in front of the jury. How to behave with the prosecution."


         The Hearing Justice's Decision

         On September 19, 2016, the hearing justice denied Mr. Jimenez's application for postconviction relief, holding that, taking into account the criteria set forth in Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984), [4] he had not met his burden of proving that either his trial counsel or his appellate attorney had failed to provide effective assistance of counsel. In a thirteen-page written decision, the hearing justice specifically determined as follows:

"In all, Jimenez has completely failed to present any evidence which overcomes his prodigious burden of demonstrating that even if his attorney's efforts were somehow substandard (and this Court expressly finds that they were not), the result would have been different. * * * The conviction in this case was not a result of petitioner's attorney but, rather, the weight of the credible evidence against [him]." (Internal quotation marks omitted.)

         On December 1, 2017, Mr. Jimenez filed a petition for the issuance of a writ of certiorari for review of the judgment denying his application for postconviction relief, which petition this Court subsequently granted.


         Issues on Appeal

         Mr. Jimenez has sought review of the decision denying his application for postconviction relief, arguing that the hearing justice erred and that his decision warrants reversal due to: (1) ineffective assistance by his trial counsel in that said attorney "never provided him with any documents" and did not prepare him to testify in his own defense; and (2) ineffective assistance of his appellate counsel for failure to argue ineffective assistance of trial counsel as part of his direct appeal.[5]


         Standard of Review

         When reviewing the denial of an application for postconviction relief, "this Court accords great deference to the hearing justice's findings of fact." Lynch v. State, 13 A.3d 603, 605 (R.I. 2011). As such, "[t]his Court will uphold the decision absent clear error or a determination that the hearing justice misconceived or overlooked material evidence." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). However, this Court will "review de novo any post-conviction relief decision involving questions of fact or mixed questions of law and fact pertaining to an alleged violation of an applicant's constitutional rights." Bustamante v. Wall, 866 A.2d 516, 522 (R.I. 2005) (internal quotation marks omitted). Nevertheless, even when the de novo standard is applied with respect to constitutional issues, "we still accord a hearing justice's findings of historical fact, and inferences drawn from those facts, great deference in conducting our review." Gomes v. State, 161 A.3d 511, 518 (R.I. 2017) (internal quotation marks ...

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