Johnson v. Gray – Case Brief Summary (Minnesota)

In Johnson v. Gray (Minn.Ct.App. 1995) 533 N.W.2d 57, Minnesota's version of Uniform Probate Code section 2-803 stated in pertinent part that " 'a final judgment of conviction of felonious and intentional killing is conclusive for purposes of this section.' " (Johnson v. Gray, supra, 533 N.W.2d at p. 60.) Thomas Gray was convicted and sentenced for the second degree murder of his wife. He was the primary beneficiary of his wife's $ 10,000 life insurance policy.

The wife's father, Wayne Johnson, was appointed personal representative of her estate. Johnson sought a declaratory judgment that Gray was divested of Gray's right to the life insurance proceeds because Gray had feloniously and intentionally killed the wife. "Johnson brought a summary judgment motion, arguing Gray's conviction for second degree murder was conclusive evidence that he had feloniously and intentionally killed his wife. Gray argued his murder conviction was not final because he had appealed and his appeal still was pending." (Johnson v. Gray, supra, 533 N.W.2d at p. 59.)

The Minnesota district court granted the summary judgment motion. The appellate court reversed. "The statute does not define 'final judgment of conviction.' Generally, a judgment becomes final when the appellate process is terminated or the time for appeal has expired. Under this general rule, Gray's conviction would be final only when the direct appeal from his conviction has been terminated or the time for appeal has expired. Because Gray's direct appeal from the judgment of conviction was pending when the summary judgment motion was heard, Gray's conviction was not final and the district court erred in granting summary judgment on the issue of whether Gray feloniously and intentionally killed his wife." (Id. at p. 60.)