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People v. Wood

Court of Appeals of Colorado, First Division

September 22, 2016

The People of the State of Colorado, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Patrick K. Wood, Defendant-Appellant.

         Adams County District Court No. 86CR123 Honorable Katherine R. Delgado, Judge

          Cynthia H. Coffman, Attorney General, John J. Fuerst III, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Denver, Colorado, for Plaintiff-Appellee

          Douglas K. Wilson, Colorado State Public Defender, Adam Mueller, Deputy State Public Defender, Denver, Colorado, for Defendant-Appellant

          OPINION

          TAUBMAN, JUDGE.

         ¶ 1 This is the latest chapter in the efforts of defendant, Patrick K. Wood, to vacate his felony murder conviction and thereby to stand convicted only of second degree murder, aggravated robbery, and menacing.

         ¶ 2 In 1986, Wood was convicted of felony murder, second degree murder, aggravated robbery, and menacing. For the past ten years, Wood has sought to remove his felony murder conviction, resulting in a long line of decisions.[1] These cases include Wood's successful appeal to the United States Supreme Court on the issue of the timeliness of his federal habeas corpus petition. Following that decision, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals conditionally granted Wood's habeas corpus petition, directing that his felony murder conviction would be vacated unless a state court acted within a reasonable time to vacate either his felony murder conviction or his second degree murder conviction. The Tenth Circuit remanded to the federal district court to enter the conditional grant. Following the federal district court's entry of a conditional grant of the habeas corpus petition, the state district court granted the People's request to vacate the second degree murder conviction, rather than the felony murder conviction.

         ¶ 3 Wood appeals the state district court's vacation of his second degree murder conviction. He contends that the People did not have authority to request that the state district court vacate his second degree murder conviction, nor did the court have the jurisdiction or authority to do so. Although we conclude that the People had the authority to file their request, we conclude that the district court did not have the authority to rule on it. Accordingly, we vacate the state district court's order. We remand with instructions for the state district court to vacate Wood's felony murder conviction and correct the mittimus accordingly, leaving in place the second degree murder, aggravated robbery, and menacing convictions.

         I. Background

         ¶ 4 In 1986, while attempting to rob a pizza delivery store, Wood shot and killed an assistant store manager. After a bench trial, the court convicted Wood of first degree felony murder, second degree murder, aggravated robbery, and two counts of menacing. The court merged the second degree murder and aggravated robbery convictions into the felony murder conviction and imposed a life sentence.

         ¶ 5 A division of this court affirmed Wood's conviction in an unpublished opinion. See People v. Wood (Colo.App. No. 87CA0273, May 4, 1989) (not published pursuant to C.A.R. 35(f)).

         ¶ 6 In 1995, following his direct appeal, Wood filed a pro se Crim. P. 35(c) motion in the Adams County District Court challenging his felony murder conviction. The district court, however, never acted on the motion. He filed another Crim. P. 35(c) motion in 2004, alleging that the prohibition against double jeopardy was violated because he was convicted of both felony murder and second degree murder of the same victim. The trial court denied his motion under Crim. P. 35(c)(3)(VII), asserting that "each and every one of the grounds asserted could have been presented in an appeal pursued by [Wood] after his conviction."

         ¶ 7 Wood appealed the denial of his Crim. P. 35(c) motion to a division of our court. The division affirmed, concluding that his challenge to his second degree murder conviction was time barred and his challenge to his felony murder conviction was barred because it could have been raised on direct appeal. People v. Wood, (Colo.App. No. 04CA2252, Aug. 3, 2006) (not published pursuant to C.A.R. 35(f)). The supreme court denied certiorari. Wood v. People, (Colo. No. 06SC703, Feb. 5, 2007) (unpublished order).

         ¶ 8 In 2008, Wood filed a second habeas corpus petition, only challenging his felony murder conviction.[2] He contended that convicting him of both felony murder and second degree murder of the same victim violated his right to be free from double jeopardy. Wood v. Milyard, No. CIV.A. 08-CV-00247-W, 2009 WL 1973531, at *1 (D. Colo. July 6, 2009), aff'd, 403 F.App'x 335 (10th Cir. 2010), rev'd and remanded, 566 U.S. ___, 132 S.Ct. 1826 (2012). The Colorado Attorney General did not challenge the timeliness of Wood's habeas corpus petition. After dismissing some claims for failure to exhaust state remedies, the court denied Wood's double jeopardy claim. Id. at *6. Wood appealed.

         ¶ 9 The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals directed the parties to brief whether the statute of limitations barred Wood's petition. The Attorney General argued that Wood's petition was untimely. Wood, 403 F.App'x at 336-37. The Tenth Circuit agreed with the Attorney General and denied habeas corpus relief. Wood filed a petition for certiorari, which the United States Supreme Court granted. The Court held that the Attorney General had forfeited its statute of limitations defense and remanded the case to the Tenth Circuit to consider the merits of Wood's appeal. Wood, 566 U.S. at, 132 S.Ct. at 1830-31.

         ¶ 10 On remand, the Tenth Circuit held that the Double Jeopardy Clause precluded the imposition of two convictions for a single murder, notwithstanding that the district court had merged the convictions for sentencing purposes. Wood v. Milyard, 721 F.3d 1190, 1194-98 (10th Cir. 2013) ("Double jeopardy doctrine prohibits cumulative punishments the legislature hasn't authorized. And it's long since settled that a conviction, even a conviction without a corresponding sentence, amounts to a punishment for purposes of federal double jeopardy analysis."). The Tenth Circuit ordered the federal district court to grant Wood conditional habeas corpus relief and vacate the felony murder conviction, unless the Adams County District Court corrected the double jeopardy error by vacating "either of the two murder convictions":

Because vacating either murder conviction will suffice to remedy Mr. Wood's double jeopardy complaint, the most equitable result in this case would be one that permits the elimination of his lesser, second degree murder conviction - or at least permits the Colorado courts that tried him to choose which conviction will go. Toward that end, we think the appropriate way forward is to remand this case to the district court with instructions to grant the writ of habeas corpus conditionally. It should vacate the first degree murder conviction Mr. Wood challenges in federal court and over which we have the power of review if and only if no state court vacates either of the two murder convictions within a reasonable time.

Id. at 1197. On remand, the federal district court entered a conditional habeas corpus writ with similar instructions for the Adams County District Court. See Wood v. Milyard, No. 08-CV-00247-WYD, 2014 WL 321075, at *2 (D. Colo. Jan. 29, 2014).

         ¶ 11 The People then filed the motion for resentencing at issue here in the Adams County District Court. At the resentencing hearing, the People told the court:

The Order [from the federal district court] requires that the Court to [sic] do a re-sentencing of the Defendant. . . . [T]he Opinion is requiring that the Prosecutor make a selection between Felony Murder and Second Degree Murder at the re-sentencing hearing.[3]

         ¶ 12 The People did not request that Wood be resentenced, but requested that the court vacate the second degree murder conviction. The district court subsequently vacated the second degree murder and aggravated robbery convictions and issued an amended mittimus which, contrary to its order, still contained the second degree murder and aggravated robbery convictions, albeit with a note that they were vacated. Thereafter, the federal district court vacated the conditional habeas corpus petition. Wood, 2014 WL 321075, at *2.

         ¶ 13 On appeal, Wood contends that the Adams County District Court erred in vacating his second degree murder conviction rather than his felony murder conviction for three reasons: (1) the People had no authority to file the "Motion for Resentencing"; (2) the district court lacked jurisdiction and authority to vacate the second degree murder conviction; and (3) equity dictated that the district court should have vacated the felony murder conviction under the verdict maximization doctrine and the doctrine of laches. In the alternative, Wood contends that if the People had authority to request and the district court had jurisdiction and authority to vacate the second degree murder conviction, we must remand to the district court because the district court entered the mittimus incorrectly.

         ¶ 14 Following oral arguments, we asked for supplemental briefs on (1) how People v. Spykstra, 234 P.3d 662 (Colo. 2010), and People in Interest of E.G., 2016 CO 19, 368 P.3d 946, apply to either the People's ability to file the motion for resentencing or the district court's authority to decide the People's motion; (2) whether section 13-1-115, C.R.S. 2016, grants the district court authority or ancillary jurisdiction; (3) whether section 20-1-102, C.R.S. 2016, provides authority for the People's motion for resentencing; and (4) whether the district court had inherent authority to hear this case.

         ¶ 15 We conclude that the People had authority to file the motion "to resentence." We also conclude that the district court had subject matter jurisdiction over the motion. However, we conclude that the district court did not have authority to rule on the motion and, therefore, it erred in vacating Wood's second degree murder conviction. Thus, we do not address Wood's contention that equity dictated that the court should have vacated the felony murder conviction, or his contention that we should remand for the district court to remove the second degree murder and aggravated robbery convictions from his mittimus.

         II. People's Authority to File the "Motion for Resentencing"

         ¶ 16 Wood contends that the People had no authority to file their motion for resentencing. We conclude that the People had authority to file their motion.

         A. Standard of Review

         ¶ 17 Whether the People had the authority to file a motion before the district court is a question of standing. See generally People v. Brothers, 2013 CO 31, ¶ 8, 308 P.3d 1213, 1215 (holding that whether the district attorney could move to quash third-party subpoenas was a question of standing). Standing is a question of law that we review de novo. Spykstra, 234 P.3d at 666.

         B. Applicable Law

         ¶ 18 In relation to the People's authority, we asked the parties to discuss how two cases - Spykstra and E.G. - apply to the People's ability to file their motion and to the district court's authority to decide the People's motion. We conclude that Spykstra addresses the People's authority to act and E.G. addresses a district court's authority to act. We discuss E.G. in detail in Part III.C.1.

         ¶ 19 In Spykstra, the district court denied the People's motion to quash two subpoenas duces tecum served by the defendant on the parents of the victim in a child sexual assault case. 234 P.3d at 667. The supreme court held the People had authority to move to quash the subpoenas because they had general authority to act and no statute prohibited them from filing such a motion. Id. Further, the limited exceptions to a district attorney's general authority to appear on behalf of the State - such as disqualification and express legislative limitation - did not apply. Id.

         ¶ 20 The court concluded that a district attorney has the general authority to appear and participate in proceedings to which the People are a party under section 20-1-102(1). Id. The court further held that only a specific statute or rule can limit the People's general authority.

         C. Analysis

         ¶ 21 First, we must address the substance of the People's motion. While the People titled their motion a "motion for resentencing, " we do not necessarily consider it as such. See People v. Collier, 151 P.3d 668, 670 (Colo.App. 2006) (holding that the substance of a motion controls its designation). At the hearing on the motion for resentencing, the People did not request that the court resentence Wood. Rather, they requested that the court vacate Wood's second degree murder conviction. The People also argue that their motion was simply a motion to alert the state district court to the federal district court's conditional grant of habeas corpus. Therefore, we consider the People's motion to have been seeking two different objectives: (1) to notify the state district court about the federal district ...


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