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Oliver v. State

Court of Appeals of Iowa

July 6, 2017

CHARLES JAMES DAVID OLIVER, Applicant-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Guthrie County, Paul R. Huscher, Judge.

         An applicant appeals the district court's denial of his application for postconviction relief.

          Angela L. Campbell and Gary D. Dickey of Dickey & Campbell Law Firm, P.L.C., Des Moines, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Genevieve Reinkoester, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Heard by Vogel, P.J., and Doyle and McDonald, JJ.

          VOGEL, Presiding Judge.

         Charles Oliver appeals the district court's denial of his application for postconviction relief (PCR), following his conviction for third-degree sexual abuse, in violation of Iowa Code sections 709.1 and 709.4(2)(b) (2009). Specifically, Oliver claims his counsel was ineffective in failing to seek his accuser's mental-health and substance-abuse records and in failing to move to suppress recorded phone conversations. He also claims his right to a speedy trial was violated and he should be resentenced because there was a conflict in the available sentencing statutes. Because we find no reversible error, we affirm the denial of Oliver's application for PCR.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         In 2010, Oliver was convicted of third-degree sexual abuse, in violation of Iowa Code sections 709.1 and 709.4(2)(b). Because Oliver stipulated that he had a prior conviction for third-degree sexual abuse, the trial court applied the class "A" felony enhancement under Iowa Code section 902.14 and subsequently sentenced Oliver to a life-without-parole term of imprisonment. Our supreme court affirmed Oliver's sentence on direct appeal. State v. Oliver, 812 N.W.2d 636, 654 (Iowa 2012).

         On May 21, 2012, Oliver filed an application for postconviction relief, which he later amended. In his application, Oliver claimed his trial counsel was ineffective, his right to a speedy trial was violated, and the sentencing enhancement he received conflicts with another sentencing provision. After a hearing, the PCR court issued a ruling on December 8, 2015, that denied Oliver's application in its entirety.

         Oliver appeals.

         II. Scope and Standard of Review

         Generally, we review challenges to rulings on applications for PCR for 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." Id.

         III. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

         Oliver claims that his trial counsel was ineffective. Specifically, Oliver claims his trial counsel was ineffective in failing to attempt to acquire his accuser's mental-health and substance-abuse records and in failing to move to suppress recordings of conversations Oliver had with his wife while he was in jail. The State disagrees.

         "In order to succeed on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, a defendant must prove: (1) counsel failed to perform an essential duty; and (2) prejudice resulted." State v. Maxwell, 743 N.W.2d 185, 195 (Iowa 2008). Counsel's performance is measured "objectively by determining whether [it] was reasonable, under prevailing professional norms, considering all the circumstances." State v. Clay, 824 N.W.2d 488, 495 (Iowa 2012) (alteration in original) (quoting State v. Lyman, 776 N.W.2d 865, 878 (Iowa 2010)). Additionally, "strategic decisions made after 'thorough investigation of law and facts relevant to plausible options are virtually unchallengeable.'" Ledezma, 626 N.W.2d at 143 (quoting Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 690-91 (1984)). In assessing counsel's performance, we look to the totality of the circumstances. Maxwell, 743 N.W.2d at 196. To demonstrate prejudice, a claimant must show "a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different." Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694. "In determining whether this standard has been met, we must consider the totality of the evidence . . . ." State v. Graves, 668 N.W.2d 860, 882-83 (Iowa 2003).

         A. Mental-Health and Substance-Abuse Records

         At trial, Oliver claimed, contrary to his accuser's testimony, he did not have sex with the victim. Thus, Oliver contends his counsel should have attempted to acquire the mental-health and substance-abuse records of the accuser in order to impeach her credibility. At the PCR trial, trial counsel testified that while he was aware of some of the accuser's personal issues, he did not believe the records would be admissible because he did not believe he could make a connection between the accuser's issues and her truthfulness. When asked whether he could find an expert to make the connection, trial counsel said:

I happen to deal with a great deal of bipolar and substance abuse in defending violent sexual offenders, I deal with some of the best experts there are, and I know they wouldn't say it. Unless the bipolar is so manic it could cause delusions, and there was no evidence of that . . . .

         He also testified that raising seemingly unhelpful personal issues of an alleged victim can be "a two-edged sword" because the jury may turn against the defendant ...


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