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Debates v. State

Court of Appeals of Iowa

December 21, 2016

RICHARD ALAN DEBATES, Applicant-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Nancy S. Tabor, Judge.

         An applicant appeals the dismissal of his application for postconviction relief. AFFIRMED.

          Eric D. Tindal of Nidey Erdahl Tindal & Fisher PLC, Williamsburg, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Sharon K. Hall, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Vaitheswaran and McDonald, JJ. Tabor, J., takes no part.

          VOGEL, Presiding Judge.

         Richard Debates appeals the dismissal of his application for postconviction relief, asserting the statute of limitations should not have applied based on newly discovered evidence that his counsel was ineffective. Because we find Debates could have raised his claim within the statutory time frame, we affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         In May 2007, Debates pled guilty to sexual abuse in the third degree, in violation of Iowa Code section 709.4 (2005). Due to an error in his original sentencing order, Debates was resentenced on October 4, 2007. Debates did not file a direct appeal to his conviction. In March 2011, Debates filed a pro se application for postconviction relief, which claimed his counsel was ineffective. Specifically, Debates stated that he believed his attorney forged documents that were submitted to the court. The application then sat unpursued until July 2015, when Debates filed another pro se application for postconviction relief, asserting the same grounds.[1] An attorney was then appointed to represent Debates. The State filed a motion to dismiss Debates's application based on the applicable three-year statute of limitations contained in Iowa Code section 822.2 (2011). Debates claimed the limitations period did not apply because his application was based on a ground of fact that could not have been raised during the limitations period. On August 7, 2015, the district court issued a ruling that found the grounds for Debates's application could have been discovered through due diligence prior to the expiration of the limitations period and granted the State's motion to dismiss. Debates appeals.

         II. Standard of Review

         Generally, we review decisions regarding applications for postconviction relief for errors at law. Ledezma v. State, 626 N.W.2d 134, 141 (Iowa 2001). This standard applies when we review a statute-of-limitations defense to postconviction actions. Harrington v. State, 659 N.W.2d 509, 519-20 (Iowa 2003). "However, when the applicant asserts claims of a constitutional nature, our review is de novo." Ledezma, 626 N.W.2d at 141.

         III. Statute of Limitations

         Debates asserts the three-year statute of limitations did not apply to his application because it was based on a ground of fact that could not have been raised within the limitations period. Specifically, Debates claims he suspects his attorney forged documents submitted to the court and that he could not have discovered the alleged forgery within the limitations period. The State counters ...


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