from the Iowa District Court for Des Moines County, Cynthia
H. Danielson, Judge.
Thomas Jr. appeals the district court's summary dismissal
of his fourth application for postconviction relief following
his conviction for first-degree murder. AFFIRMED.
William R. Monroe of Law Office of William Monroe,
Burlington, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Martha E. Trout, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Vogel and Vaitheswaran, JJ.
1995, a jury found Raymond Thomas Jr. guilty of first-degree
murder. This court affirmed his judgment and sentence in
1996, with procedendo issuing the same year. Eighteen years
later, Thomas filed his fourth application for postconviction
relief. The application, styled a "motion to correct
illegal sentence, " alleged "the brain is not fully
developed until the age of 25" and Thomas "was 21
years old when said crime was committed, " warranting
resentencing under recent precedent governing juvenile
sentencing. The State filed a motion for summary disposition
asserting the application was time-barred and exceptions to
the time bar did not apply. The postconviction court granted
the motion, and this appeal followed.
relief applications "must be filed within three years
from the date the conviction or decision is final or, in the
event of an appeal, from the date the writ of procedendo is
issued." Iowa Code § 822.3 (2015). "However,
this limitation does not apply to a ground of fact or law
that could not have been raised within the applicable time
period." Id. Thomas' PCR application was
concededly filed outside the three-year limitations period.
to the "ground of fact" exception to the time-bar.
Thomas preliminarily contends this exception was not raised
by the State. But the exception, if it applies, inures to the
benefit of the applicant, not the State. In any event, the
State raised the exception in its motion for summary
disposition, asserting: "The Applicant is not alleging
any ground of fact or law that applies to him. Applicant was
21 when he committed the offense."
states he did indeed raise a ground of fact that could not
have been raised within the three-year limitations period-the
delayed maturation of brains in young adults. But this fact
issue has only been applied to sentences imposed on juvenile
offenders, not to sentences imposed on adult offenders.
See State v. Sweet, 879 N.W.2d 811, 840 (Iowa 2016)
("[A] juvenile offender who is resentenced based on
evidence of rehabilitation acquired after full brain
development has occurred may present a far better case for
parole than an offender who has not completed brain
development."); State v. Lyle, 854 N.W.2d 378,
397 (Iowa 2014) ("The nub of at least some of these
cases is that juveniles are not fully equipped to make
'important, affirmative choices with potentially serious
consequences.'" (quoting Bellotti v. Baird,
443 U.S. 622, 635 (1979))). Thomas concedes he was an adult
when the crime was committed. Accordingly, the "ground
of fact" exception to the time-bar based on incomplete
juvenile brain development did not apply to him, and there
was no basis for further developing the record on this fact
also argues "the work of his Postconviction Attorney was
not effective" and his omissions amounted to
"structural error." His argument is based on
counsel's failure to file a motion for leave to amend the
postconviction relief application. The proposed amended
application raised the same factual issue as his original
application-delayed brain development. Thomas cannot
"circumvent the three-year time-bar by claiming
ineffective assistance of postconviction counsel."
Smith v. State, 542 N.W.2d 853, 854 (Iowa Ct. App.
1995); see also State v. Wilkins, 522 N.W.2d 822,
824 (Iowa 1994) (rejecting applicant's attempt to label
his claim an ineffective-assistance-of-counsel "in the
hope that the court will reach the merits").
Thomas' postconviction relief application was untimely
and did not fall within the ground of fact exception to the
time bar, he may "challenge the legality of a sentence
at any time." State v. Graham, No. 15-1464, ___
N.W.2d ___, ___, 2017 WL 2291386, at *4 (Iowa 2017). As
discussed, Thomas argues his "sentence was illegal"
under recent precedent. See Miller v. Alabama, 132
S.Ct. 2455, 2475 (2012) ("[A] judge or jury must have
the opportunity to consider mitigating circumstances before
imposing the harshest possible penalty for juveniles. By
requiring that all children convicted of homicide receive
lifetime incarceration without possibility of parole,
regardless of their age and age-related characteristics and
the nature of their crimes, the mandatory-sentencing schemes
before us violate this principle of proportionality, and so
the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual
punishment."); Lyle, 854 N.W.2d at 400-01
(holding "all mandatory minimum sentences of
imprisonment for youthful offenders are unconstitutional
under the cruel and unusual punishment clause in article I,
section 17 of our constitution").
Iowa Supreme Court has declined to extend Lyle to
young adults. Lyle, 854 N.W.2d at 403 (stating
"our holding today has no application to sentencing laws
affecting adult offenders"); see also Sweet,
879 N.W.2d at 839 (holding "juvenile offenders
may not be sentenced to life without the possibility of
parole" (emphasis added)). Because the precedent Thomas
cites does not apply to him, Thomas' challenge to the
legality of his sentence ...