Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Robert P. Ranschau, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.
Anthony A. Hoeck, Fort Madison, pro se.
Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Richard J. Bennett Sr., Assistant Attorney General, Michael J. Walton, County Attorney, for appellee.
We must decide the constitutionality of the applicant's sentence on his conviction for first-degree kidnapping. The applicant was a juvenile at the time of the kidnapping. He was originally sentenced to life in prison without parole for the kidnapping. The jury also found him guilty of murder in the second degree, robbery in the first degree, conspiracy, possession of an offensive weapon, and criminal gang participation. The court imposed consecutive sentences on these convictions. The combined sentences on these charges amounted to a possible total of ninety-five years in prison.
In 2011, after the United States Supreme Court decided Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48, 130 S.Ct. 2011, 176 L.Ed.2d 825 (2010), the applicant filed a motion to correct an illegal sentence on the kidnapping conviction. The applicant only raised the constitutionality of his sentence under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution in his motion. He claimed the sentence was illegal under the Federal Constitution because the sentence imposed life in prison without the possibility of parole. Finding the sentence illegal under the Federal Constitution, the district court corrected the applicant's sentence on the kidnapping conviction to life in prison with immediate parole eligibility. On appeal, the applicant continues to claim his sentence is unconstitutional under the United States Constitution. For the first time on appeal, however, he also claims his sentence is unconstitutional under the Iowa Constitution.
In his pro se supplemental brief filed in his appeal, the applicant raised several additional issues. These include the district court's failure to have him present at the sentence correction hearing, its failure to articulate reasons for imposing consecutive sentences at the original sentencing, and its failure to advise the applicant of his
right of allocution at the original sentencing.
We transferred his appeal to the court of appeals. The court of appeals affirmed the applicant's conviction and sentence as corrected. On further review, we find the applicant's sentence is constitutional under the Federal Constitution because he is immediately eligible for parole. We do not reach the applicant's claim that his sentence is illegal under the Iowa Constitution. Instead, if the applicant timely amends his application to correct an illegal sentence under the Iowa Constitution, we remand this case to the district court to decide the claims he made under our state constitution. We will let the court of appeals decision stand as our final decision as to all other issues raised by the applicant. Therefore, we conditionally affirm the decision of the court of appeals and the judgment of the district court.
I. Background Facts and Proceedings.
On May 13, 1994, a jury convicted Anthony Hoeck of kidnapping in the first degree, among other charges. For the kidnapping in the first-degree conviction, the district court sentenced Hoeck to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The district court also sentenced Hoeck to a combined possible ninety-five years under the other counts.
Hoeck appealed his original convictions. See State v. Hoeck, 547 N.W.2d 852, 855 (Iowa Ct.App.1996). In that appeal, he challenged the district court's decision to overrule his motion for change of venue, the admission of evidence at trial, and the sufficiency of the evidence. Id. at 856. Hoeck also raised an ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim. Id. The court of appeals affirmed his convictions. Id. at 863. Nine years later, he filed an application for postconviction relief, which the court of appeals determined was untimely. Hoeck v. State, No. 09-0830, 791 N.W.2d 710, 2010 WL 4484543, at *2 (Iowa Ct.App. Nov.10, 2010) (unpublished opinion).
His present appeal involves a motion to correct an illegal sentence filed on May 24, 2011. Hoeck alleged in his motion that pursuant to Graham, his sentence of life in prison without parole for the kidnapping charge was unconstitutional. The district court granted the motion, correcting the sentence for the kidnapping conviction to life in prison with immediate parole eligibility. Hoeck was not present for the sentence correction hearing. Thereafter, Hoeck filed a pro se motion asking the court to vacate its order and resentence him with him present. The court denied this motion.
Hoeck filed a notice of appeal. Hoeck also filed a pro se supplemental brief. We transferred the case to the court of appeals. The court of appeals affirmed the district court's ruling. It held the corrected sentence for kidnapping did not violate the United States Constitution. It also held the district court was not required to vacate all of Hoeck's sentences on the nonkidnapping convictions when it corrected Hoeck's sentence on the kidnapping conviction. Rather, the district court could sever the illegal sentence from the other legal sentences and correct only the illegal sentence. Furthermore, the court of appeals held Hoeck did not have to be present to correct an illegal sentence so long as the disposition would not be aided by Hoeck's presence and the modification does not make the sentence more onerous. Finally, the court of appeals held the other issues raised by Hoeck were not preserved; thus, they were not properly before the court. Hoeck filed for further review, which we granted.
When we accept a case on further review, " we have the discretion to review all or some of the issues" the parties raised on appeal and in the application for further review. State v. Clay, 824 N.W.2d 488, 494 (Iowa 2012). We exercise our discretion to review only Hoeck's substantive claim that his sentence of life in prison with immediate parole eligibility is categorically unconstitutional under the Federal Constitution. For the reasons stated later in this opinion, we will not reach Hoeck's claims that his sentence is unconstitutional under the Iowa Constitution. We choose not to address the other issues raised by Hoeck in this appeal and will allow the court of appeals decision on those issues to stand as our final decision. See id. (recognizing the court of appeals decision is our final decision on issues we choose not to review).
III. Standard of Review.
We normally review claims a sentence is illegal for correction of errors at law. State v. Davis, 544 N.W.2d 453, 455 (Iowa 1996). A defendant may challenge an illegal sentence at any time. State v. Pearson, 836 N.W.2d 88, 94 (Iowa 2013). A defendant's claim a sentence is unconstitutional because it is cruel and unusual punishment is a claim the sentence is illegal. Bonilla v. State, 791 N.W.2d 697, 699 ...