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Alexander v. State

Court of Appeal of Iowa

September 18, 2013

JONAS ALEXANDER, Applicant-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Charles H. Pelton, Judge.

Jonas Alexander appeals the district court ruling denying his application for postconviction relief.

Steven J. Drahozal of Drahozal Law Office, P.C., Dubuque, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Kyle Hanson, Assistant Attorney General, Michael J. Walton, County Attorney, and Gerald Feuerbach, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.

Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Vaitheswaran and Bower, JJ.

BOWER, J.

Jonas Alexander appeals the district court ruling denying his application for postconviction relief. Alexander argues he was entitled to a spoliation inference due to the destruction of video tapes showing his interrogation and confession, and his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to file a motion to suppress. Because Alexander cannot show either the videotapes were destroyed intentionally or there were any valid grounds to suppress his confession, we affirm.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

Jonas Alexander was charged with robbery in the first degree, burglary in the first degree, felon in possession of a firearm, and two counts of forgery. Alexander reached a favorable plea agreement with the State and was sentenced to consecutive terms of imprisonment. The crimes occurred as follows: On May 4, 2004, Alexander posed as a flower delivery person at the home of Jane Martin. After Martin opened the door to her home, Alexander displayed a handgun and threatened to shoot Martin and her pet. An accomplice was allowed to enter the home from the rear. Alexander and the accomplice stole various items from Martin's home including checks. The checks turned up at a local casino the next day when three individual—including Alexander—while under surveillance, attempted to cash one of the checks. One of the three individuals, Julie Thompson, was arrested and informed police she had been recruited to commit the crimes by Alexander and his girlfriend, Rebecca Tracy, who also appeared on the casino surveillance recording. Police later located Alexander, Tracy, and a silver handgun

Tracy was interviewed by the police. She identified Alexander as the individual who had posed as a flower delivery person and who had used the handgun. Tracy admitted she entered the victim's home from the rear and stole various items including the checks.

Alexander was interviewed and agreed with Tracy's statement to police. He contends, however, the police officer induced him to confess by promising to help him if he admitted his involvement in the crimes. Police also interviewed James Ochoa, who acknowledged acting as a lookout, driving the getaway car, and planning the crimes.

Christine Dalton[1] was appointed as Alexander's trial counsel.[2] Dalton reviewed the surveillance videos, which depicted Alexander at the casino with Tracy, and the expected testimony of the other co-conspirators. Dalton also viewed Alexander's taped confession and viewed it a second time with him. She did not believe there was any legal theory upon which the tapes could be suppressed. Dalton suggested Alexander accept a plea bargain which could reduce his sentence. Alexander pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a term of imprisonment not to exceed fifty years. He did not appeal.

Alexander filed his first application for postconviction relief, pro se, in November 2005. In it, he raised two grounds. First, he argued the consecutive sentences imposed were unconstitutional. Second, he argued vindictiveness on the part of the prosecutor. Shortly thereafter, Dalton sent Alexander a letter that drew attention to two recent appellate court cases in which the police officer who questioned Alexander was found to have improperly obtained confessions by promises of leniency.

On August 20, 2007, Alexander sent his postconviction relief counsel, Jack Dusthimer, a letter concerning several issues he wished to address within the framework of the ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim, including references to the videotaped confessions. The case was scheduled for trial on July 3, 2008. On the trial date an unreported motion to continue was granted at Alexander's request. On July 7, 2008, Dusthimer sent Alexander a letter containing an amended application addressing the issue of promissory leniency. The videotapes were destroyed on October 8, 2008. The amended application was filed pro se on January 13, 2009. Alexander filed a request for production of the tapes on January ...


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