MATTHEW J. ELLIOTT, Applicant-Appellant,
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee.
from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Dustria A.
applicant appeals the district court's decision denying
his application for postconviction relief.
L. Mason of JL Mason Law, PLLC, Ankeny, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Louis S. Sloven, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Doyle and McDonald, JJ. Blane,
S.J. takes no part.
Elliott was convicted of willful injury causing serious
injury and child endangerment resulting in death. On appeal,
his convictions were vacated, and the matter was remanded for
a new trial. See State v. Elliott, 806 N.W.2d 660,
675 (Iowa 2011) (concluding the admission of hearsay evidence
resulted in prejudicial error to Elliott and remanding for a
new trial). On retrial, Elliott was again convicted of
willful injury causing serious injury and child endangerment
resulting in death. This court affirmed his convictions
following the retrial. See State v. Elliott, No.
12-1086, 2013 WL 4504926, at *10 (Iowa Ct. App. Aug. 21,
2013). On May 15, 2014, Elliott filed an application for
postconviction relief (PCR) asserting, among other claims,
that his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance in a
number of ways. After an evidentiary hearing on May 28 and
July 8, 2015, the district court denied the application in a
thorough and well-reasoned decision on November 3, 2015.
appeal, Elliott challenges the district court's ruling on
three issues: (1) counsel was ineffective in failing to
pursue a bond-review hearing so that he might have secured
his release between the reversal of his first conviction and
the verdict following his retrial, (2) counsel was
ineffective for failing to move admitted evidence from the
jury's view, and (3) counsel was ineffective in failing
to effectively cross-examine a police officer regarding the
visitor log for the crime scene and failing to investigate
potential witnesses from that log.
court addressed each of these ineffective-assistance claims.
With respect to the first claim raised on appeal, the
district court concluded: "[A]t no point did Mr. Elliott
request that trial counsel seek to set or reduce his bond.
Trial counsel cannot be expected to read the minds of their
clients, and moreover, counsel had more than reasonable
grounds not to request a bond review." In addition,
"Mr. Elliott has not produced sufficient evidence to
indicate that a bond review hearing would have led to his
release prior to the second trial. Even if Elliott had been
released, there is no evidence that the outcome of the trial
would have been different."
issue number two regarding counsel's failure to have
certain admitted evidence moved from the jury's view
during trial, the PCR court stated:
Mr. Elliott has not demonstrated a reasonable probability
that the jury seeing the three-tiered shelf and [the infant
victim's] clothing affected the outcome of the trial. As
correctly noted by trial counsel, the jury was allowed to
view the evidence when it was received and during
deliberation, if it wished. . . . The evidence was not
graphic and did not incite emotion-there is no evidence to
indicate that there was any blood on the baby clothing.
Considering the sheer volume of other evidence the jury
considered throughout the course of the trial, it cannot be
said that the jury's viewing of this evidence influenced
the outcome of the trial.
finally, with respect to Elliott's claim that his counsel
should have cross-examined a police officer regarding the
crime scene visitor log, the court found:
In this case, given counsel's stated concerns about the
log's accuracy, it was not ineffective for counsel to not
offer the dispatch log as evidence or question Officer
McCarty as to its accuracy.
But more importantly, Mr. Elliott cannot demonstrate that he
was prejudiced as a result of counsel's failure to use
the dispatch log in his defense. . . . Upon discovering that
Officer McCarty's dispatch log itself may be inaccurate,
counsel wisely made the decision ...