December 18, 2014

Colorado Court of Appeals: Doctrine of Laches Barred Appellate Review of 24-Year-Old Ineffective Assistance Claims

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Lanari on Thursday, June 5, 2014.

Crim P.35(c)—Doctrine of Laches—Prejudice.

In 1987, a jury convicted Lanari of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, and four crime of violence sentencing enhancers. On November 2, 2010, Lanari filed a pro se Crim.P. 35(c) motion, alleging that trial and appellate counsel were ineffective for various reasons. The People moved to dismiss the motion, arguing that it was barred by the doctrine of laches. After a hearing, the district court agreed and dismissed the Crim.P. 35(c) motion.

On appeal, Lanari argued in his opening brief that his Crim.P. 35(c) motion was not barred by the doctrine of laches. There is no statutory time limit to file a post-conviction motion if a defendant has been convicted of a class 1 felony. However, the doctrine of laches is still available to bar such motions based on prejudice to the prosecution. Here, Lanari conceded that he knew about the facts underlying his ineffective assistance of trial counsel claims either before or by the conclusion of his trial in 1987. Additionally, he knew about the facts that formed the basis of his ineffective assistance of appellate counsel claims by the conclusion of his appeal in 1997. The People were not required to show that they detrimentally relied on Lanari’s failure to file a post-conviction motion within a reasonable time. Because Lanari filed his post-trial motion almost twenty-four years after his trial in January 1987, the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that the People were prejudiced by such delay. The judgment was affirmed.

Summary and full case available here.

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