Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Richard G. Blane II, Judge.
A postconviction relief applicant contends a case decided after his conviction in relation to a willful injury jury instruction renders his conviction invalid.
Randy D. Jones, Fort Madison, appellant pro se.
Emily Tisinger of Springer & Laughlin Law Offices, P.C., Des Moines, for appellant.
Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Elisabeth S. Reynoldson, Assistant Attorney General, John P. Sarcone, County Attorney, and George Karnas, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee State.
Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Vaitheswaran and Bower, JJ.
We must decide whether a postconviction relief application is barred by a three-year statute of limitations.
I. Background Proceedings
A jury found Randy Jones guilty of first-degree murder after receiving alternate instructions, one for premeditated murder and one for felony murder with willful injury as the predicate felony. This court affirmed Jones's judgment and sentence, and procedendo issued in 1997.
In the ensuing years, Jones filed two postconviction relief applications. The district court denied the applications, and this court affirmed. See Jones v. State, No. 09-0119, 2010 WL 200047 (Iowa Ct. App. Jan. 22, 2010), abrogated by Nguyen v. State, 829 N.W.2d 183 (Iowa 2013); Jones v. State, No. 02-0854, 2003 WL 22438596 (Iowa Ct. App. Oct. 29, 2003).
Jones filed a third postconviction relief application in 2010. His attorney subsequently amended the application to allege in part that "state and federal due process" required retroactive application of the Iowa Supreme Courts opinion in State v. Schuler, 774 N.W.2d 294 (Iowa 2009).
Schuler disavowed the precise language of a jury instruction used in Jones's trial. 774 N.W.2d at 299. The instruction required the State to prove several elements of willful injury, including that "[t]he victim sustained a serious injury." Id. at 298 (emphasis added). The court pointed out that Iowa Code section 708.4(1), addressing willful injury, uses the word "cause " rather than 'sustain." Id. It concluded "cause " and "sustain " are "two different words with two different meanings." Id. The court held, "The jury instruction for willful injury causing serious injury is faulty as it allows the jury to convict without finding all of the elements as prescribed by Iowa Code section 708.4(1), namely that the defendants actions caused the victim's serious injury." Id. at 299.
In response to Jones's amended petition, the State filed a motion to dismiss on the ground that the applicable three-year statute of limitations had expired. The State also filed a motion for summary disposition. The district court denied the motion to dismiss, reasoning that the three-year limitation period did 'not apply to a ground of fact or law that could not have been raised within the applicable time period" and "Schuler was not decided until 2009 and Jones . . . filed the current application within three (3) years of that decision." The court granted the motion for summary disposition, reasoning in part that Schuler announced "a substantive ...