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Enderle v. State

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 12, 2014

CHAD ENDERLE, Applicant-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee

Editorial Note:

This decision is published in table format in the North Western Reporter.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Nancy S. Tabor, Judge. Chad Enderle appeals the denial of his application for postconviction relief.

Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Dennis D. Hendickson, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Thomas H. Miller, Assistant Attorney General, and Michael J. Walton, County Attorney, for appellee.

Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Vaitheswaran and Potterfield, JJ. Tabor, J., takes no part.

OPINION

VAITHESWARAN, J.

Chad Enderle appeals the denial of his application for postconviction relief.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

Gregory Harris was found dead in Davenport, Iowa. The State charged Enderle with first-degree murder and willful injury, and the case proceeded to trial.

On the murder count, the jury was instructed that the State would have to prove Enderle either: " (a) acted willfully, deliberately, premeditatedly and with a specific intent to kill Gregory L. Harris; or (b) was participating in the offense of Willful Injury resulting in serious injury to Gregory L. Harris." The second alternative has come to be known as the felony-murder rule. See State v. Heemstra, 721 N.W.2d 549, 552 (Iowa 2006) .

A jury found Enderle guilty as charged, and Enderle appealed. While his appeal was pending, the Iowa Supreme Court overruled existing precedent relating to the felony-murder rule. Id. at 558. The supreme court held " if the act causing willful injury is the same act that causes the victim's death, the former is merged into the murder and therefore cannot serve as the predicate felony for felony-murder purposes." Id. The court reversed and remanded for a new trial. Id. at 563.

The court proceeded to address whether this holding would be applied retroactively. The court stated, " The rule of law announced in this case regarding the use of willful injury as a predicate felony for felony-murder purposes shall be applicable only to the present case and those cases not finally resolved on direct appeal in which the issue has been raised in the district court." Id. at 558.

After Heemstra was filed, Enderle sought to amend his appellate brief to include the successful merger argument. The court denied his request. Later, the court affirmed his judgment and sentence. See State v. Enderle, 745 N.W.2d 438, 443 (Iowa 2007).

Enderle applied for postconviction relief. The district court held a hearing and denied the application in its entirety. Enderle appealed, raising several issues and sub-issues.

II. Merger of Wilful Injury Count--Retroactive Application of Heemstra

Relying on Heemstra, Enderle contends his willful injury conviction should have merged with the murder conviction. He raises the issue in a number of ways, which we will now parse.

First, Enderle contends we should independently revisit and expand the limited retroactivity rule announced in Heemstra . In his view, Heemstra should apply to his case because his appeal was pending when Heemstra was decided.

Heemstra 's retroactivity rule was clear: the court's substantive holding would apply retroactively to cases pending on appeal only if the merger issue was " raised in the district court." Heemstra, 721 N.W.2d at 558. It is not our prerogative to overrule this directive. See State v. Eichler, 248 Iowa 1267, 83 N.W.2d 576, 578 (Iowa 1957) ( " If our previous holdings are to be overruled, we should ordinarily prefer to do it ourselves." ).

Second, Enderle argues his trial attorney was ineffective in failing to foresee the substantive holding of Heemstra and object to the jury instruction on that ground. To prevail, Enderle must establish (1) counsel breached an essential duty and (2) prejudice resulted. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984).

Enderle's ineffective-assistance claim fails on the breach prong because Heemstra announced a change in the law, and it is established that counsel has no obligation to anticipate changes in the law. See Heemstra, 721 N.W.2d at 558 (overruling State v. Beeman, 315 N.W.2d 770 (Iowa 1982) and its progeny); see also Goosman v. State, 764 N.W.2d 539, 545 (Iowa 2009) (noting that the ruling in Heemstra was clearly a change in the law and not merely a clarification); Snethen v. State, 308 N.W.2d 11, 16 (Iowa 1981) (" Counsel need not be a ...


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