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Rydbom v. Ames

Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia

December 20, 2019

Dennis Rydbom, Petitioner Below, Petitioner
v.
Donnie Ames, Superintendent, Mt. Olive Correctional Complex, Respondent Below, Respondent

          Wood County 00-P-62

          MEMORANDUM DECISION

         Petitioner Dennis Rydbom, pro se, appeals the December 22, 2016, order of the Circuit Court of Wood County denying his petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Respondent Donnie Ames, Superintendent, Mt. Olive Correctional Complex, [1] by counsel Caleb A. Ellis, filed a response in support of the circuit court's order. Petitioner filed a reply.

         The Court has considered the parties' briefs and the record on appeal. The facts and legal arguments are adequately presented, and the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument. Upon consideration of the standard of review, the briefs, and the record presented, the Court finds no substantial question of law and no prejudicial error. For these reasons, a memorandum decision affirming the circuit court's order is appropriate under Rule 21 of the Rules of Appellate Procedure.

         On February 6, 1998, petitioner was convicted by a jury in the Circuit Court of Wood County of first-degree murder. The circuit court sentenced petitioner to a life term of incarceration without the possibility of parole. On June 1, 1999, this Court refused petitioner's criminal appeal. Following his appeal, petitioner initiated the instant proceeding challenging his conviction on May 24, 2000, by filing a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the circuit court. Though petitioner was initially appointed habeas counsel, the case laid dormant from 2003 to 2007.

         On May 3, 2007, petitioner filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in this Court due to the dormancy of his habeas case. This Court dismissed the mandamus petition on October 22, 2007, following the resumption of activity in the habeas proceeding.[2] Eventually, petitioner proceeded in the habeas case pro se with standby counsel. The circuit court held the omnibus hearing on November 9, 2016. Petitioner raised numerous issues, including the ineffective assistance of trial counsel, under ten general categories: (1) violation of petitioner's speedy trial rights; (2) denial of both petitioner's right to represent himself and his right to counsel; (3) unconstitutional searches and seizures; (4) denial of petitioner's right to a fair trial given the admission of pieces of underwear allegedly belonging to the victim; (5) denial of petitioner's right to a fair trial due to the extensive participation by the State of Ohio in the West Virginia criminal prosecution;[3] (6) improper admission of hearsay evidence; (7) violation of petitioner's right against self-incrimination; (8) prejudicial pretrial publicity; (9) biased judge; and (10) cumulative error. On December 22, 2016, the circuit court entered a comprehensive order rejecting petitioner's grounds for relief and denying the habeas petition. Petitioner now appeals the circuit court's December 22, 2016, order denying habeas relief.

         In Syllabus Point 1 of Anstey v. Ballard, 237 W.Va. 411, 787 S.E.2d 864 (2016), we held:

"In reviewing challenges to the findings and conclusions of the circuit court in a habeas corpus action, we apply a three-prong standard of review. We review the final order and the ultimate disposition under an abuse of discretion standard; the underlying factual findings under a clearly erroneous standard; and questions of law are subject to a de novo review." Syl. Pt. 1, Mathena v. Haines, 219 W.Va. 417, 633 S.E.2d 771 (2006).

See also Syl. Pt. 1, State ex rel. Postelwaite v. Bechtold, 158 W.Va. 479, 212 S.E.2d 69 (1975) (holding that "[f]indings of fact made by a trial court in a post-conviction habeas corpus proceeding will not be set aside or reversed on appeal by this Court unless such findings are clearly wrong").

         On appeal, petitioner argues that the circuit court erred in denying his habeas petition.[4]Respondent counters that the circuit court properly denied petitioner's habeas petition. We agree with respondent. Having reviewed the circuit court's December 22, 2016, "Opinion and Order," we hereby adopt and incorporate the circuit court's well-reasoned findings and conclusions, which we find address petitioner's assignments of error. The Clerk is directed to attach a copy of the

         December 22, 2016, order to this memorandum decision. Accordingly, based on our review of the record, we conclude that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying habeas relief.

         For the foregoing reasons, we affirm the circuit court's December 22, 2016, order denying petitioner's petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

         Affirmed.

          CONCURRED IN BY: Chief Justice Elizabeth D. Walker Justice Margaret L. Workman Justice Tim Armstead Justice Evan ...


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