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Sierra v. State

Court of Appeals of Iowa

November 22, 2017

GUSTAVO SIERRA, Applicant-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Louisa County, Mary Ann Brown (summary disposition) and Michael J. Schilling (postconviction trial), Judges.

         Gustavo Sierra appeals the summary dismissal of his application for postconviction relief. AFFIRMED.

          Eric D. Tindal of Keegan & Farnsworth, Iowa City, for appellant.

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

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Bower, JJ.

          VAITHESWARAN, Presiding Judge.

         Gustavo Sierra appeals the partial summary disposition of his application for postconviction relief. He contends he raised a genuine issue of material fact as to (1) whether his plea attorney was ineffective in failing to request a second competency hearing and (2) whether the district court neglected its obligation to consider competency issues.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         Sierra was charged with several crimes in connection with the death of his wife. He moved to suspend the proceedings on the ground that he was not competent to stand trial. The district court granted the motion and committed Sierra to the Iowa Medical and Classification Center for a competency evaluation. At a subsequent hearing, the district court found him competent to stand trial.

         In 2007, Sierra pled guilty to second-degree murder and first-degree burglary. This court affirmed his conviction and sentence. See State v. Sierra, No. 07-1913, 2008 WL 2752111, at *3 (Iowa Ct. App. July 16, 2008).

         Sierra filed a postconviction relief application and multiple amendments to the application, raising several claims. The postconviction court granted the State's motion for summary disposition of four ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims. The court ultimately dismissed the remaining claims on the merits. This appeal followed.[1]

          II. Analysis

         Sierra takes issue with the court's summary disposition of his claims that his plea attorney was ineffective in failing to request a second competency hearing and in failing to file a motion in arrest of judgment on this basis. He contends a psychiatrist's letter he submitted more than four years after the plea proceeding raised a genuine issue of material fact on his competency at the time of the plea proceeding.

         "[W]hen claims of ineffective assistance of counsel are properly raised in a postconviction relief application, 'an evidentiary hearing on the merits is ordinarily required.'" See Manning v. State, 654 N.W.2d 555, 562 (Iowa 2002) (quoting Foster v. State,395 N.W.2d 637, 638 (Iowa 1986)). However, "the court may grant a motion by either party for summary disposition of the application, when it appears from the [record] that there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Iowa Code ยง 822.6 (2016). A postconviction relief applicant alleging ineffective assistance of counsel must make the required showing of both deficient performance and ...


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