BYRON F. GEISINGER, Petitioner,
STATE OF ALASKA, Respondent
Petition for Review from the Superior Court, Fourth Judicial District, Fairbanks, Bethany S. Harbison, Judge. Trial Court No. 4FA-11-2842 CI. t/w 4FA-06-3452 CR.
Brooke V. Berens, Assistant Public Advocate, Appeals & Statewide Defense Section, and Richard Allen, Public Advocate, Anchorage, for the Petitioner.
Kenneth M. Rosenstein, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals, Anchorage, and Michael C. Geraghty, Attorney General, Juneau, for the Respondent.
Before: Mannheimer, Chief Judge, Allard, Judge, and Hanley, District Court Judge.[*]
This petition for review raises the question of what statute of limitation applies to the filing of an application for post-conviction relief by a defendant who pursued a direct appeal of his sentence but not his conviction.
Byron F. Geisinger was convicted of several crimes after a fatal motor vehicle collision, and he was sentenced to 16 1/2 years to serve. He appealed his sentence, arguing that it was excessive and that the court erred by rejecting his proposed statutory mitigating factor. We affirmed Geisinger's sentence.
Geisinger then filed an application for post-conviction relief, claiming that the attorney who represented him at his trial was incompetent. The superior court dismissed that claim as untimely. The court ruled that, under AS 12.72.020(a)(3)(A), the normal statute of limitation for filing an application for post-conviction relief -- eighteen months from the date judgment was entered in the underlying criminal case -- is not tolled while a defendant appeals his sentence. Geisinger's application was filed well outside that eighteen-month deadline.
Geisinger petitions for review of the superior court's decision and the State concedes
error. We now grant Geisinger's petition for review and, for the reasons explained below, hold that a defendant who appeals his sentence or his conviction, or both, has one year from the date the decision on appeal is final to file an application for post-conviction relief. Because Geisinger's application was filed within that deadline, the superior court erred in granting the State's motion to dismiss.
Facts and proceedings
Geisinger was convicted of manslaughter, leaving the scene of an injury accident, two counts of assault in the first degree, forgery, and driving under the influence. He filed a timely notice in this Court of a " merit appeal" -- an appeal challenging the validity of his convictions. However, Geisinger's appointed counsel later determined that Geisinger had no non-frivolous challenges to his convictions; the attorney therefore limited Geisinger's opening brief to claims attacking his sentence. We rejected those claims and affirmed Geisinger's sentence, and the supreme court denied Geisinger's petition for hearing.
Geisinger's attorney then advised him that he had one year from the date the supreme court rejected his petition for hearing (that is, the date when our decision of his sentence appeal became final to file an application for post-conviction relief. Geisinger filed an application approximately seven months later challenging, inter alia, the competence of his trial attorney. On the State's motion, the superior court rejected as ...