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Kohland v. State

Court of Appeal of Iowa

June 26, 2013

DALE R. KOHLAND, Applicant-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Clinton County, John D. Telleen, Judge.

Dale R. Kohland appeals from a district court order denying his application for postconviction relief.

Steven J. Drahozal, Dubuque, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Thomas Tauber, Assistant Attorney General, and Michael Wolf, County Attorney, for appellee.

Considered by Eisenhauer, C.J., and Danilson and Bower, JJ.

BOWER, J.

Dale R. Kohland appeals from a district court order denying his application for postconviction relief. Kohland argues his trial counsel was ineffective in failing to move to suppress a confession Kohland argues was the result of an offer of leniency by police. Kohland also argues his counsel was ineffective in appealing his conviction only on sufficiency of the evidence grounds. Because we find counsel was ineffective in failing to file a motion to suppress and prejudice resulted, we reverse and remand for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

On July 7, 2007, two separate fires at 514 7th Avenue South, Clinton, Iowa, were reported to authorities by a resident of the apartment building. The resident, Dale Kohland, first reported a car fire and then reported a fire in the apartment across the hall from his own. The apartment had recently been vacated by Ron and Rachel Champion, who also owned the vehicle. Three days later, Clinton Police questioned Kohland, and he confessed to starting both fires.

Kohland's confession was given during an interview conducted by Corporal Colin Reid of the Clinton Police Department. During the course of the interview, Cpl. Reid made several statements that are important to this appeal. After advising Kohland that certain pieces of evidence might implicate him in the crimes, Cpl. Reid indicated that truthfulness during the interview would allow him to help Kohland. Cpl. Reid stated that people who were honest with the police would be helped differently than those who lied about their guilt and were later implicated by evidence. Cpl. Reid told Kohland he would be allowed to leave the police station that day regardless of what information he provided, and although he would be held responsible for any illegal act committed, Cpl. Reid indicated Kohland might not go to jail and his level of responsibility would depend upon statements made during the interview. Kohland was also told there would be an opportunity to fix the problem if he were honest, and the case would proceed differently than in a criminal investigation following an honest statement. Kohland was charged with two counts of first degree arson on July 23, 2007.

The confession was used, without objection, as evidence during the trial. Kohland's counsel simply requested the full videotaped recording of the confession be shown. Following his conviction on both counts, Kohland appealed, and we affirmed his convictions. See State v. Kohland, No. 08-0227, 2008 WL 4877645 (Iowa Ct. App. Nov. 13, 2008).

Kohland filed his application for postconviction relief on November 23, 2008. An evidentiary hearing was held on November 22, 2011. The district court issued its ruling denying the application on January 13, 2012. In the ruling the district court concluded Kohland had not been coerced into confessing, and under a totality of the circumstances analysis, the confession was properly obtained. The court further concluded trial counsel was not ineffective because there were no valid grounds upon which the confession could have been suppressed.

II. Standard of Review

Claims of ineffective assistance of counsel raise constitutional issues. Castro v. State, 795 N.W.2d 789, 792 (Iowa 2011). We review such claims de novo. Id. We examine the alleged error in light of the totality of the circumstances and examine the ...


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