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State v. Chinberg

Court of Appeals of Iowa

November 22, 2017

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
DENNIS DEAN CHINBERG, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Dallas County, Randy V. Hefner, Judge.

         A defendant appeals his conviction for willful injury causing serious injury alleging his attorney was ineffective in a number of respects. AFFIRMED.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Stephan J. Japuntich, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Timothy M. Hau, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., Tabor, J., and Scott, S.J. [*]

          SCOTT, Senior Judge.

         Dennis Chinberg appeals his conviction for willful injury causing serious injury, in violation of Iowa Code section 708.4(1) (2016). On appeal, he asserts counsel was ineffective in failing (1) to object to a jury instruction regarding his out-of-court statements to the sheriff deputies, (2) to object to the State's impeachment of his chief defense witness with the witness's prior conviction, (3) to object to the State's questions to the sheriff deputies that he contends improperly shifted the burden of proof to the defense. Because we conclude Chinberg cannot prove prejudice, we reject his ineffective-assistance claims and affirm his conviction.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         On March 6, 2016, Chinberg, along with his adult son, Colt, and other acquaintances, went to the house of Tom Talsma to confront Talsma about Talsma's treatment of Chinberg's grandson. An altercation ensued, and Talsma was seriously injured in the fight.

         Charges were brought against Chinberg and others, and the matter proceeded to a jury trial against Chinberg in September 2016. Witnesses to the fight testified for the State that Chinberg participated in the beating of Talsma. Witnesses for the defense testified the fight was just between Chinberg's son and Talsma, and Chinberg did not join in the fray. The jury returned a verdict of guilty as charged, and the court sentenced Chinberg to ten years in prison. He appeals asserting his counsel was ineffective in a number of ways.

          II. Scope and Standard of Review.

         We review ineffective assistance claims de novo as they implicate a defendant's constitutional rights under the Sixth Amendment. State v. Clay, 824 N.W.2d 488, 494 (Iowa 2012).

We ordinarily preserve such claims for postconviction relief proceedings. "That is particularly true where the challenged actions of counsel implicate trial tactics or strategy which might be explained in a record fully developed to address those issues." We will resolve the claims on direct appeal only when the record is adequate.

Id. (citations omitted). We determine the record is adequate to resolve Chinberg's claims on direct appeal.

         III. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel.

         To prove a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, Chinberg must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that counsel failed to perform an essential duty and he suffered prejudice as a result. State v. Thorndike, 860 N.W.2d 316, 320 (Iowa 2015). "Unless a defendant makes both showings, it cannot be said that the conviction . . . resulted from a breakdown in the adversary process that renders the result unreliable." Id. (citation omitted). Thus, if we conclude Chinberg failed to prove he was prejudiced by the inaction of counsel, we need not address whether counsel performed deficiently. See id.

         To prove prejudice, Chinberg must prove "counsel's errors were so serious as to deprive [him] of a fair trial." See id. He must show "there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different." See id. (citation omitted). "A reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome." Id.

         A. ...


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