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Ramos v. State

Court of Appeals of Iowa

June 7, 2017

VINCENT A. RAMOS, Applicant-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Des Moines County, John G. Linn, Judge.

         Vincent Ramos appeals from the summary dismissal of his postconviction relief application. AFFIRMED.

          Edward W. Bjornstad of Bjornstad Law Office, Spirit Lake, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kyle Hanson, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

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

          DANILSON, Chief Judge.

         Vincent Ramos appeals from the summary dismissal of his 2015 postconviction-relief (PCR) application challenging his 2003 conviction for first-degree kidnapping. Ramos asserts the jury instructions given at trial were defective because they failed to include language that would comply with State v. Rich, 305 N.W.2d 739 (Iowa 1981), [1] and "more importantly the recent case of State v. Robinson, " 859 N.W.2d 464, 480 (Iowa 2015). He contends trial and appellate counsel were ineffective in failing to challenge the faulty instructions and the Robinson case restarted the limitation period for filing a PCR application. See Iowa Code § 822.3 (2015).[2]

         "Generally, an appeal from a denial of an application for postconviction relief is reviewed for correction of errors at law." Perez v. State, 816 N.W.2d 354, 356 (Iowa 2012) (citation omitted). "However, when the applicant asserts claims of a constitutional nature, our review is de novo. Thus, we review claims of ineffective assistance of counsel de novo." Ledezma v. State, 626 N.W.2d 134, 141 (Iowa 2001) (internal citation omitted).

         The PCR court rejected the limitation-period argument and also concluded that Robinson offered no relief. Robinson involved the question of whether "the State offered sufficient evidence that a jury could find beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant's confinement of the victim substantially increased the risk of harm, significantly lessened the risk of detection, or significantly facilitated escape." 859 N.W.2d at 481. Finding that the evidence of confinement was not sufficient to qualify for the Rich "intensifier" language, the court was required to determine the proper disposition of the case. Id. at 482. The Robinson court concluded:

We cannot determine, however, whether the jury found Robinson guilty of sexual abuse in the second degree, which requires an additional finding that during the commission of the sexual abuse, Robinson used or threatened to use force creating a substantial risk of death or serious injury to B.S. Compare Iowa Code § 709.3(1) (2011) (sexual abuse in the second degree), with Iowa Code § 709.4(1) (sexual abuse in the third degree). This element is not a prerequisite to a kidnapping in the first-degree verdict.
In light of the record, we conclude the State may pursue one of two options in this case on remand. The State has the option of standing on the jury's necessary determination that Robinson was guilty of sexual abuse in the third degree and ask the court to enter judgment on that offense and to sentence Robinson accordingly. In the alternative, however, the State may on remand elect to retry Robinson on sexual abuse in the second degree, an offense which the jury verdict in this case was not required to decide.

Id. at 482-83.

         Even assuming Ramos could avoid the three-year limitations bar, [3] the PCR court considered the record and-unlike in Robinson-determined no factual insufficiency regarding confinement existed in this case. As stated by the PCR court:

Robinson mentions cases of kidnapping and sexual abuse when victims were bound or a weapon is used. These are factors which demonstrate that confinement or removal has significance apart from the sexual abuse and the confinement or removal is more than incidental to the commission of the sexual abuse. The court of appeals in the ruling on [Ramos]'s direct appeal of his conviction[4]noted that the jury could have found that Ramos confined the victim for a period of time over two days and the victim was beaten and sexually abused. At one point, the victim was struck with the stick end of a plunger. Ramos threatened the victim with a knife. The knife was held to the victim's throat. The victim was sexually abused over the course of several days, and at one point, Ramos threatened the victim with a shotgun and put it in the victim's mouth. The victim's face was covered with a towel so she could not see at one point. The victim was barricaded in a bedroom with furniture placed in ...

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