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Martin v. State

Court of Appeals of Iowa

December 5, 2013

ROBERT EUGENE MARTIN, Applicant-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Pottawattamie County, Timothy O'Grady, Judge.

Applicant appeals the decision of the district court denying his request for postconviction relief from his convictions for homicide by vehicle, leaving the scene of an accident, and driving while suspended or revoked.

Brian S. Munnelly, Omaha, Nebraska, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Darrel Mullins, Assistant Attorney General, Matthew D. Wilber, County Attorney, and Marilyn Popp-Reyes, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee State.

Considered by Mullins, P.J., McDonald, J., and Mahan, S.J. [*]

MAHAN, S.J.

I. Background Facts & Proceedings.

On August 27, 2006, after drinking ten beers, Robert Martin drove his ex-wife's vehicle in Pottawattamie County. Martin did not have a driver's license. It was raining that day, and the road was wet. Martin lost control of the vehicle, and it struck Ralph Mathews, who died as a result of his injuries.

Immediately after the accident, Martin called his ex-wife, Gail Daugherty, and told her he had just hit someone. He told her he was going to take the license plates off the vehicle. When officers arrived at the scene, the vehicle had no license plates. However, officers found old citations naming Martin inside the vehicle.

Officers obtained a description of a person wearing blue jeans, a black shirt, and a ball cap running from the scene. After a firefighter and bystanders pointed out the direction the person ran, officers apprehended Martin, who matched the description of the driver. Martin had a strong odor of alcoholic beverages. He was arrested at that time for public intoxication and informed of his Miranda rights. A blood test showed he had an alcohol level of .160, and a breath test showed the level was .126—both above the legal limit.

Martin was charged with homicide by vehicle, in violation of Iowa Code section 707.6A (2005); leaving the scene of an accident, in violation of section 321.261; and driving while license suspended or revoked, in violation of section 321J.21. He waived his right to a speedy trial. The case was tried to the court. Martin's defense was that the accident was due to the weather and not his intoxication. He testified his vehicle had hydroplaned. He also presented the testimony of an accident investigation expert, George Lynch, who stated Martin lost control of the vehicle when it began to hydroplane.

The district court found Martin guilty of homicide by vehicle, leaving the scene of an accident, and driving while license suspended or revoked. The court specifically found Martin was not a credible witness. Martin was sentenced to terms of twenty-five years, five years, and one year, to be served concurrently. He appealed, and his conviction was affirmed on appeal. See State v. Martin, No. 07-0608, 2008 WL 141203 (Iowa Ct. App. Jan. 16, 2008).

Martin filed an application for postconviction relief, claiming he received ineffective assistance because defense counsel (1) failed to file a motion to suppress; (2) failed to fully investigate the case; (3) failed to obtain a plea offer from the State; and (4) advised him to waive his right to a speedy trial. The parties stipulated the matter would be submitted to the court on the underlying criminal file, briefs, affidavits, and depositions of defense counsel and the prosecutor.

The district court denied the application for postconviction relief. The court found a motion to suppress would have been meritless because officers had probable cause to arrest Martin. The court determined Martin had not shown he was prejudiced because defense counsel did not obtain an expert earlier. The court also determined Martin had not shown he received ineffective assistance because the State did not offer him a plea bargain. Finally, the court concluded Martin had not ...


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