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Rohn v. State

Court of Appeal of Iowa

December 18, 2013

EDWARD ALAN ROHN, Applicant-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Johnson County, Ian K. Thornhill, Judge.

A postconviction-relief applicant appeals the district court's denial of his application.

Lars Anderson of Holland & Anderson L.L.P., Iowa City, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Kevin Cmelik, Assistant Attorney General, Janet M. Lyness, County Attorney, and Anne Lahey, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.

Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Vaitheswaran and Potterfield, JJ.

DANILSON, C.J.

Edward Rohn appeals the district court's denial of his application for postconviction relief. He argues his trial attorney was ineffective for failing to challenge the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his conviction for burglary in the first degree, pursuant to Iowa Code section 713.3 (2009). Because we find there was sufficient evidence to support Rohn's conviction, we conclude trial counsel was not ineffective, and we affirm.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

As both parties did, we accept the factual background provided by the district court in its ruling on the application for postconviction relief:

On July 22, 2009, Vernon Nerad, an elderly man in his late seventies, was contacted by his friend, Tammy Long, for a ride. After picking Ms. Long up in his car, Mr. Nerad felt uncomfortable and asked Ms. Long to exit the vehicle. Approximately one hour later, Ms. Long came to Mr. Nerad's residence. While inside the home, Ms. Long went to the back door and unlocked it. She later left through the front door of the residence.
The subsequent events of the evening were disputed at trial. Rita Sotelo-Henry, who lived across the street from Mr. Nerad's home, noticed two men were lingering outside of his house. The State presented evidence that Mr. Nerad was watching television in his living room when two men came into his home through the back door. At trial, Mr. Nerad testified that one of the men had a knife and pointed it at him. Mr. Nerad testified that he was frightened for his life and immediately tried to escape by running to the front door. Testimony at trial indicated that Mr. Nerad had trouble opening the front screen door, and one of the men sprayed him in the face with pepper spray. Mr. Nerad also testified that one of the men also punched him in the jaw. Once he reached the front door, Mr. Nerad yelled for help. Several of Mr. Nerad's neighbors heard him shouting, and they called the police. Hearing the commotion, Ms. Sotelo-Henry looked out her front door and saw the same two men walking away from Mr. Nerad's house.
Mr. Nerad's neighbors found him on his knees in his doorway, with blood on his face and shirt. Mr. Nerad later noticed that some checkbooks and two phones were missing from his home. Once the police responded, they searched the area for the two men. Officers found two men, who matched [. . .] Ms. Sotelo-Henry's general description, walking on different sides of the street nearby. Ms. Sotelo-Henry subsequently identified the two men, Larry Halligan and Applicant, as the men she saw outside Mr. Nerad's home earlier that night.
At trial, testimony indicated that Mr. Nerad owed Ms. Long fifty dollars. Evidence also showed that earlier in the day Ms. Long had requested Mr. Nerad pay her and he refused, scaring her in the process. Applicant and Mr. Halligan agreed to help Ms. Long by going to Mr. Nerad's house and collecting her money. The defense argued that when the men arrived at the house. Applicant became uncomfortable by the situation and did not enter the house. The defense argued Applicant walked away, and Mr. Halligan caught up with him shortly thereafter. It was the defense's theory that Mr. Halligan pepper sprayed Mr. Nerad and either Mr. Halligan or Ms. Long took Mr. Nerad's missing property.
At the criminal proceeding, the police officers testified that they looked that night for the pepper spray canister, which Mr. Halligan told officers he discarded while fleeing. The police officers did not look for a knife because they were unaware that a knife was used during the intrusion. However, the officers did testify that they would have picked up a knife had they discovered one. The officers testified that the area had quite a bit of vegetation and brush, as well as drainage ...

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