In September 2013, Kara Monson and Chris Panitzke were found murdered in a Granite Falls residence.
As a result, Andrew Joseph Dikken was convicted of first-degree murder and received a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The Minnesota Supreme Court recently affirmed that conviction after an appeal submitted by Dikken had alleged that the first-degree murder conviction had been handed down erroneously. The argument made on behalf of Dikken stated that he had entered an unconditional guilty plea to second-degree murder. Second degree murder was the initial charge.
According to the Minnesota Supreme Court opinion, which was filed June 21, before the omnibus hearing Dikken had filed a plea of guilty to the second-degree charges, but prior to the start of the hearing, the State of Minnesota announced that it intended to call a grand jury in order to seek a first-degree murder charge.
The opinion states the court then denied Dikken’s petition to plead guilty to the second-degree charges. The grand jury then was convened and returned an indictment charging Dikken with six counts of first-degree murder.
The opinion further states, “Dikken ultimately reached a plea agreement with the state under which he pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree premeditated murder and one count of first-degree murder while committing a burglary. The plea was accepted and Dikken was sentenced to two concurrent life sentences, one which included “without the possibility of release.”
Dikken later filed a petition requesting he be allowed to withdraw the first-degree guilty plea and instead plead guilty to the original second-degree murder charges.
Dikken argued that the post-conviction court that heard the initial appeal abused its discretion when it denied his request to withdraw the plea.
Dikken further argued that the district court committed an error when it failed to accept the initial second-degree murder plea and that the error was so significant that, in Dikken’s view, it impaired his ability to voluntarily and intelligently enter the plea of guilty to first-degree murder charges.
Based on case law, the Supreme Court opinion determined the court was correct in its acceptance of the first-degree murder plea, adding it had been entered “voluntarily and intelligently” by Dikken.
Dikken further argued that after the second-degree murder plea was rejected he was left with no other choice but to plead guilty to the first-degree murder charges. The Supreme Court opinion states that Dikken did have other choices, including the option to proceed to trial.
“Dikken had meaningful choices, just not the specific choice he preferred,” stated the Supreme Court in its opinion.
The case was filed under the manifest injustice standard, and in the opinion the Supreme Court states, “Dikken had the burden to prove that his plea was invalid because it was inaccurate, involuntary or unintelligent.”
Due to the fact that Dikken “failed to raise a factual dispute on any of these elements, much less prove that they were absent,” the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that the post-conviction court did not abuse its discretion when it denied his petition.
For those reasons, the Supreme Court affirmed the conviction, which means Dikken will spend the rest of his life in jail for the first degree murder of Kara Monson and Chris Panitzke.