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Trowbridge v. State

Court of Appeals of Iowa

June 7, 2017

RYAN NICHOLAS TROWBRIDGE, Applicant-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Karen A. Romano, Judge.

         Ryan Trowbridge appeals from the denial of his application for postconviction relief. AFFIRMED.

          Alfredo Parrish of Parrish Kruidenier Dunn Boles Gribble Gentry Brown & Bergmann, L.L.P., Des Moines, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Tyler J. Buller, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

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

          DANILSON, Chief Judge.

         Ryan Trowbridge appeals from the denial of his application for postconviction relief (PCR). He claims trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective in failing to "accurately and properly advise [him] in waiving his constitutional right to confrontation as to Dr. [Carole] Jenny and allowing her to testify in rebuttal by telephone."

         Generally, our review of PCR proceedings is for correction of errors at law. Ledezma v. State, 626 N.W.2d 134, 141 (Iowa 2001). "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." Id.

         "To prevail on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, a claimant must satisfy the Strickland [v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984)] test by showing '(1) counsel failed to perform an essential duty; and (2) prejudice resulted.'" State v. Clay, 824 N.W.2d 488, 495 (Iowa 2012) (citation omitted). "Both elements must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence." Ledezma, 626 N.W.2d at 142.

         After an eight-day bench trial, Trowbridge was convicted of first-degree murder and child endangerment resulting in the death of his four-month-old child. State v. Trowbridge, No. 12-2272, 2014 WL 955404, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. Mar. 12, 2014). There was extensive expert witness evidence as to the cause of the child's death. See id. at *1-3.

         On direct appeal, Trowbridge contended the trial court erred in allowing the rebuttal testimony of Dr. Jenny over defendant's objection. He argued the rebuttal testimony concerning the conclusion the child died from abusive head trauma was submitted merely to "corroborate, reiterate and repeat the State's theory of the case." Id. at *6. This court concluded the trial court was "well within its discretion" to allow testimony it determined "was offered to explain, controvert, or disprove the testimony of the defense experts." Id. The supreme court denied further review.

         In his PCR application, Trowbridge asserts his trial counsel failed to perform the essential duty of adequately advising him of his right to confront Dr. Jenny. He asserts prejudice may be presumed because counsel committed structural error as recognized in Lado v. State, 804 N.W.2d 248 (Iowa 2011).[1]The district court rejected these claims, as do we.

         Trowbridge testified he did not know that Dr. Jenny was going to testify in rebuttal "until the very last second." He stated his defense attorneys "brought it up to me" that he had a right to confront that witness and ask her questions in person. When asked to characterize the discussion, he testified, "We had a brief talk prior to what's on the record, " which he could not remember at the time of the PCR hearing. He knew Dr. Jenny would be testifying over the telephone.

         The record indicates the State first informed the court it would call Dr. Jenny in rebuttal on the sixth day of trial, with Dr. Jenny expected to testify on the seventh day of trial. However, the court was advised on the seventh day of trial that Dr. Jenny was not available that date but would testify the following day. Defense counsel ...


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