review from the Iowa Court of Appeals.
from the Iowa District Court for Woodbury County, Edward A.
defendant seeks further review of a court of appeals decision
affirming summary dismissal/summary judgment of his
postconviction-relief action. DECISION OF COURT OF APPEALS
VACATED; DISTRICT COURT JUDGMENT REVERSED AND CASE REMANDED.
C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Martha J. Lucey,
Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, Sheryl Soich, Assistant Attorney
General, for appellee.
A. Nichols Cook of the State Public Defender's Office,
Des Moines, for amicus curiae Exoneration Project at the
University of Chicago Law School.
W. Lange, Jesse Linebaugh, and Mitch G. Nass of Faegre Baker
Daniels, LLP, Des Moines, for amici curiae The Innocence
Network and The Innocence Project of Iowa.
applicant filed a postconviction-relief action claiming he
was actually innocent although he knowingly and voluntarily
pled guilty to the charged crimes. He based his
actual-innocence claim on a recantation by the victim. The
district court granted the State's motion for summary
dismissal/summary judgment, ruling the applicant cannot use
the recantation to attack his knowing and voluntary guilty
pleas because the recantation was extrinsic to the pleas. The
applicant appealed, and we transferred the case to our court
of appeals. The court of appeals affirmed. The applicant
sought further review, which we granted.
further review, we overrule our cases holding that defendants
may only attack the intrinsic nature-the voluntary and
intelligent character-of their pleas. We now hold the Iowa
Constitution allows freestanding claims of actual innocence,
so applicants may bring such claims to attack their pleas
even though they entered their pleas knowingly and
voluntarily. Accordingly, we adopt a freestanding claim of
actual innocence that applicants may bring under our
postconviction-relief statute. Therefore, we vacate the decision
of the court of appeals, reverse the judgment of the district
court, and remand the case to the district court for further
consideration consistent with this opinion.
Background Facts and Proceedings.
December 19, 2006, the State filed a trial information
charging Jacob Lee Schmidt with sexual abuse in the third
degree in violation of
Code section 709.4(1) (2005). On March 23, 2007, the State
moved to amend the trial information to charge Schmidt with
two additional counts of sexual abuse in the third degree in
violation of section 709.4(2)(b) (counts II and III)
and one count of incest in violation of section 726.2 (count
IV). The district court granted the motion.
minutes of testimony attached to the original trial
information and the police offense report reveal that
witnesses would provide the following testimony. On February
25, 2006, Schmidt, then age seventeen, visited the home of
his stepfather, Peter, and his newly turned fourteen-year-old
half-brother, B.C., with whom Schmidt shares the same mother.
Peter is B.C.'s father. Peter left Schmidt and B.C. alone
at the house to visit his girlfriend. Upon Peter's
departure, Schmidt ordered B.C. into the bedroom and forced
him to get on his knees on the mattress with his pants down.
B.C. complied. Schmidt then removed his own pants, got on his
knees behind B.C., and attempted anal sex.
realized he had forgotten his cigarettes and went back home
to retrieve them. Once inside, he saw neither Schmidt nor
B.C. in the living room, where they had been up until his
departure. Peter thought this was strange, so he looked
around the home and eventually opened the bedroom door and
saw Schmidt attempting to penetrate B.C. anally. Peter
yelled, "What the hell are you doing!" and told
Schmidt to "get the hell out of the house." Schmidt
left the house, and Peter called the police.
Todd Ferry and Kevin Heineman responded. Officer Ferry took
Peter out to the squad car to interview him while Officer
Heineman spoke to B.C. inside the home. Because Peter could
not write or spell well, Officer Ferry used the in-car camera
to record Peter's interview.
Meanwhile, B.C. recounted what had happened to Officer
Heineman. B.C. stated he was "not afraid, " and
Schmidt had only threatened him on a previous occasion when
Schmidt actually penetrated him approximately two or three
months ago. Schmidt had told B.C. not to tell anyone unless
B.C. wanted to get hurt. B.C. defined "penetrate"
as "when he actually went inside his anal area."
B.C. stated he was "positive" Schmidt did not
penetrate him this time and "no part of his body
hurt." All B.C. wanted was for the police to arrest
Schmidt. Officer Heineman asked B.C. to fill out a witness
statement and realized B.C. had difficulty with spelling and
writing. Officer Heineman did not have B.C. continue writing
the witness statement after B.C. had written three or four
home landline phone rang, and Officer Heineman answered it.
Shanna, Schmidt and B.C.'s mother, was on the other end
of the phone. She stated Schmidt had come to her home and she
was going to take him to Mercy Hospital because he was having
suicidal thoughts. At the hospital, Shanna advised Officer
Ferry that Schmidt said Peter was lying about the whole
Christopher Groves followed up on the case. He asked to
interview Schmidt who declined on the advice of his lawyer.
Officer Groves described B.C. as "lower
functioning" and stated he did not interview him because
it was "very evident" he could "lead him [to]
answers." Officer Groves thus scheduled B.C. for an
interview with the Child Advocacy Center, which conducted a
videotaped interview on March 2.
the March 2 interview, B.C. told the interviewer
"[Schmidt] tried to molest him." B.C. stated
Schmidt had penetrated him on at least one occasion, and
"it hurt and he tried to escape." He was thirteen
at the time. B.C. stated he had sucked Schmidt's penis
before but could not say how many times this occurred.
April 2, 2007, Schmidt entered into a plea agreement. He
agreed to plead guilty to assault with intent to commit
sexual abuse, an aggravated misdemeanor in violation of Iowa
Code section 709.11 (amended count I) and incest (count IV).
The State agreed to dismiss the two other counts of sexual
abuse in the third degree (counts II and III) given the
district court sentenced Schmidt according to the plea
same day, during the combined plea and sentencing hearing,
the court reviewed the consequences of pleading guilty with
Schmidt. Schmidt informed the court he understood the rights
he was giving up and wished to plead guilty to the charges.
Schmidt acknowledged the minutes of testimony accurately
described what he did. The court reviewed the factual basis
for each count, and Schmidt confirmed he understood. The
court accepted Schmidt's pleas and convicted him of
assault with intent to commit sexual abuse and incest.
Pursuant to the plea agreement, the court entered sentences
of incarceration to run consecutively for a total term not to
exceed seven years. Schmidt did not appeal this decision.
23, 2014, Schmidt filed an application for postconviction
relief under Iowa Code section 822.2(1)(d) (2014).
In support of his application, he contended B.C. recanted his
story by "com[ing] forward with the truth." Schmidt
further claimed, "I was not guilty. I was scared so I
pled guilty [be]cause I was fac[ing] over [fifty]
years." Schmidt alleged the victim's recantation was
new evidence supporting postconviction relief. In its answer,
the State denied "each and every ground for
14, 2015, the State filed a motion for summary
dismissal/summary judgment, making two arguments. First, the
State argued the three-year statute of limitations pursuant
to Iowa Code section 822.3 procedurally barred Schmidt's
on the merits, the State asserted Schmidt's
"application [was] in direct contradiction to the record
as well as in direct contradiction to his voluntary and
knowing plea[s] of guilty." It claimed Schmidt pled
guilty after an extensive colloquy, knowing his involvement
or noninvolvement in the alleged sexual act and the evidence
28, Schmidt filed a resistance, arguing B.C.'s
recantation was "new evidence [that] prevented earlier
filing [of his postconviction-relief application] and [that]
establishes actual innocence." Schmidt included
B.C.'s affidavit. In his affidavit, B.C. stated under
When I was 21 years old, I told other people that [Schmidt]
had never touched me in a sexual way or sexually abused me. I
didn't tell anyone before that date that nothing had
really happened, and so [Schmidt] couldn't have known
before then. I decided to tell people when I turned 21 since
I was a full adult at that time.
30, the district court granted the State's motion for
summary dismissal/summary judgment. It did not rule on the
statute of limitations. Rather, relying on an unpublished
court of appeals decision, it stated that "newly
discovered exculpatory evidence does not provide grounds to
withdraw a guilty plea unless intrinsic to the plea
itself." In other words, the court decided Schmidt
waived his claim of actual innocence by pleading guilty.
transferred the case to the court of appeals. Affirming the
district court's grant of summary dismissal/summary
judgment, the court of appeals reasoned the alleged
recantation was not intrinsic to Schmidt's guilty pleas.
It therefore concluded, "[B]ecause Schmidt's
convictions were entered following his guilty pleas, he
cannot challenge those convictions in a
[postconviction-relief] action on the basis of newly
discovered evidence in the form of his alleged victim's
recantation." Schmidt filed an application for further
review, which we granted.
Scope of Review.
principles underlying [a] summary judgment procedure apply to
motions of either party for disposition of an application for
postconviction relief without a trial on the merits."
Manning v. State, 654 N.W.2d 555, 560 (Iowa 2002).
In other words, for a summary disposition to be proper, the
State must be able to prevail as if it were filing a motion
for summary judgment in a civil proceeding. Castro v.
State, 795 N.W.2d 789, 793 (Iowa 2011) ("The
standards for summary judgment in postconviction[-]relief
actions are analogous to summary judgment in civil
review summary dismissals of postconviction-relief
applications for errors at law. Id. at 792. Applying
summary judgment principles, summary disposition is proper
"if the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, show . . . there is no genuine issue of
material fact and . . . the moving party is entitled to a
judgment as a matter of law." Davis v. State,
520 N.W.2d 319, 321 (Iowa 1994) (quoting Iowa R. Civ. P.
237(c), now r. 1.981(3)). The moving party bears the burden
of showing that no material fact exists. C & J
Vantage Leasing Co. v. Wolfe, 795 N.W.2d 65, 73 (Iowa
2011). We view the record in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party. Eggiman v. Self-Insured Servs. Co.,
718 N.W.2d 754, 758 (Iowa 2006). We also draw all legitimate
inferences from the evidence in favor of the nonmoving party.
C & J Vantage, 795 N.W.2d at 73.
Whether Schmidt's Guilty Pleas Preclude Him from Pursuing
His Actual-Innocence Claim. The broad issue we must
decide is whether Schmidt's pleas preclude him from
pursuing a postconviction-relief action. The narrow issue we
must address is whether Schmidt's pleas preclude him from
bringing his actual-innocence claim because such a challenge
is extrinsic to his pleas.
our current law,
[w]hen a criminal defendant has solemnly admitted in open
court that he is in fact guilty of the offense with which he
is charged, he may not thereafter raise independent claims
relating to the deprivation of constitutional rights that
occurred prior to the entry of the guilty plea. He may only
attack the voluntary and intelligent character of the guilty
plea . . . .
State v. Utter, 803 N.W.2d 647, 651 (Iowa 2011)
(alteration in original) (quoting Tollett v.
Henderson, 411 U.S. 258, 267, 93 S.Ct. 1602, 1608
(1973)). It is on this basis the district court dismissed and
the court of appeals affirmed the dismissal of Schmidt's
postconviction-relief action. The time has come to reevaluate
this law in regards to an actual-innocence claim. We now turn
to the first issue and begin our analysis by examining our
Code section 822.2 provides, "Any person who has been
convicted of, or sentenced for, a public offense and who
claims any of the following may institute, without paying a
filing fee, a proceeding under this chapter to secure
relief." Iowa Code § 822.2(1).
have previously discussed the meaning of the term
"conviction" under section 822.2 in
Daughenbaugh v. State, 805 N.W.2d 591, 597-99 (Iowa
2011). There we said,
We begin our discussion of Iowa law by examining our approach
to statutory interpretation of the term
"conviction." Like many other jurisdictions, we
have emphasized that "conviction" has an
"equivocal meaning" that depends upon the context
in which it is used. Like many other states, we have said
that, when the word is used in its general and popular sense,
conviction means the establishment of guilt independent of
judgment and sentence. On the other hand, when the term
"conviction" is used in its technical legal sense,
it requires a formal adjudication by the court and the formal
entry of a judgment of conviction.
Id. at 597 (citations omitted). We then stated our
postconviction statute uses the word conviction in its "
'strict legal sense' and not in its broader popular
context." Id. at 598-99. Thus, the technical
legal sense of the word conviction requires adjudication of
guilt and the entry of a judgment. Id. at 599.
another case, we stated the acceptance by the court of a
defendant's plea "constitutes a conviction of the
highest order" and authorizes the court to sentence the
defendant as though the factfinder returned a guilty verdict.
State v. Kobrock, 213 N.W.2d 481, 483 (Iowa 1973).
That is what happened here: Schmidt entered his pleas, the
court accepted his pleas, and sentenced him accordingly. In
doing so, the court adjudicated him guilty and entered
judgment. Adjudication and entry of judgment constitute
conviction, and conviction is a requirement for filing a
postconviction-relief action under section 822.2. See
Daughenbaugh, 805 N.W.2d at 599. Thus, Schmidt's
pleas do not preclude him from filing a postconviction-relief
second issue is whether Schmidt faces any other barriers to
filing his postconviction-relief action after pleading
guilty. Specifically, the issue is whether Schmidt may attack
his pleas by bringing an actual-innocence claim even though
such a challenge is extrinsic to his pleas. First, we discuss
the current state of our caselaw regarding challenges to
pleas. Second, we examine the implication of State v.
Alexander, 463 N.W.2d 421 (Iowa 1990), on the
possibility of challenging a plea in a postconviction-relief
action based on newly discovered evidence. Third, we discuss
the phenomenon of pleading guilty despite actual innocence.
Lastly, we examine our legislature's codification of
section 81.10, which allows postconviction-DNA testing.
plea "waive[s] all defenses and the right to contest all
adverse pretrial rulings." State v. Morehouse,
316 N.W.2d 884, 885 (Iowa 1982), overruled on other
grounds by State v. Kress, 636 N.W.2d 12, 20 (Iowa
2001). However, the defendant may attack his or her plea when
the plea itself contains intrinsic irregularities or the
trial information charges no offense. See State v.
Mattly, 513 N.W.2d 739, 740-41 (Iowa 1994);
Morehouse, 316 N.W.2d at 885.
fashioned the general rule precluding extrinsic challenges to
pleas on the premise that "[a] defendant plead[s] guilty
in open court, with assistance of counsel, knowingly and
understandingly." State v. Delano, 161 N.W.2d
66, 73 (Iowa 1968). Thus, the defendant waives his or her
rights "with respect to conduct of criminal prosecution
and any objection to prior proceedings which may include a
violation of his [or her] rights." Id. This
waiver could preclude certain postconviction-relief actions
under section 822.2(1)(a), which provides relief for
a "conviction or sentence [that] was in violation of the
Constitution of the United States or the Constitution or laws
of this state." Iowa Code § 822.2(1)(a).
does not preclude relief under section 822.2(1)(d),
which provides relief when "[t]here exists evidence of
material facts, not previously presented and heard, that
requires vacation of the conviction or sentence in the
interest of justice." Id. §
822.2(1)(d); accord Alexander, 463 N.W.2d
at 423 (referring to Iowa Code section 663A.2(4) (1989), now
codified at section 822.2(1)(d) (2014)).
Alexander, the defendant pled guilty to going armed
with a dangerous weapon. 463 N.W.2d at 421. After his plea
and sentencing, the defendant filed a motion for new trial
based on newly discovered evidence in the form of witness
testimony supporting a theory of justification or
self-defense. Id. at 422. We examined then rule
23(2)(a) of our rules of criminal procedure. That rule
The application for a new trial . . . shall be made not later
than forty-five days after plea of guilty [or]
verdict of guilty, . . . but in any case not later than five
days before the date set for pronouncing judgment, but
where based upon newly discovered evidence may be made after
judgment as well.
Id. (quoting Iowa R. Crim. P. 23(2)(a), now r.
2.24(2)(a) (emphasis added)).
reasoned "[l]ogic would suggest that the concept of
new trial should have as its predicate the existence
of a former trial." Id. Based on the
legislative history, we then concluded inclusion of the
phrase "plea of guilty" in rule 23(2)(a) was
inadvertent and erroneous, and therefore held rule 23(2)(a)
as written did not allow for a new trial following a guilty
plea. Id. at 422-23. We buttressed this conclusion
We are confident that the legislature did not intend to give
admittedly guilty persons the unfettered right to recant
their admission and proceed to trial on the ground of newly
discovered evidence or any other ground not intrinsic to the
Id. at 423.
reasoned "[n]otions of newly discovered evidence simply
have no bearing on a knowing and voluntary admission of
guilt." Id. However, we noted the defendant was
not without a remedy. Id. We stated the remedy the
defendant sought was available under Iowa Code section
663A.2(4) (1989), now codified at section
822.2(1)(d) (2014), when challenging his plea based
on newly discovered evidence. Id. Thus, in
Alexander, we left the door open for challenging a
plea in a postconviction-relief action based on newly
examine the phenomenon of actually innocent people pleading
guilty. The National Registry of Exonerations reported that
seventy-four exonerations in 2016 arose from pleas. The
National Registry of Exonerations, Exonerations in
2016 2 (2017),
stated "criminal cases in general, and guilty pleas in
particular, are characterized by considerable
uncertainty[.]" State v. Carroll, 767 N.W.2d
638, 642 (Iowa 2009).
[T]he decision to plead guilty before the evidence is in
frequently involves the making of difficult judgments. All
the pertinent facts normally cannot be known unless witnesses
are examined and cross-examined in court. Even then the truth
will often be in dispute. In the face of unavoidable
uncertainty, the defendant and his counsel must make their
best judgment as to the weight of the State's case.
Counsel must predict how the facts, as he understands them,
would be viewed by a court. If proved, would those facts
convince a judge or jury of the defendant's guilt? On
those facts would evidence seized without a warrant be
admissible? Would the trier of fact on those facts find a
confession voluntary and admissible? Questions like these
cannot be answered with certitude; yet a decision to plead
guilty must necessarily rest upon counsel's answers,
uncertain as they may be. Waiving trial entails the inherent
risk that the good-faith evaluations of a reasonably
competent attorney will turn out to be mistaken either as to
the facts or as to what a court's judgment might be on
(quoting McMann v. Richardson, 397 U.S. 759, 769-70,
90 S.Ct. 1441, 1448 (1970)).
guilty despite actual innocence is not limited to
uncertainty. One of our recent cases recognizes that actually
innocent people plead guilty for many different reasons.
See Rhoades v. State, 880 N.W.2d 431, 436-38 (Iowa
have been known to confess to crimes they did not commit
during police interrogations and such confessions bleed into
their decisions to plead guilty. "A false coerced
confession may undermine the accuracy of a guilty plea . . .
." Kevin C. McMunigal, Guilty Pleas, Brady
Disclosure, and Wrongful Convictions, 57 Case W.
Res. L. Rev. 651, 656 (2007). Because such a confession
increases the chances of conviction at trial, defendants face
pressure to plead guilty even when they are actually
innocent. Id.; see also Rodney Uphoff,
Convicting the Innocent: Aberration or Systemic
Problem?, 2006 Wis. L. Rev. 739, 796 (2006) [hereinafter
Uphoff] ("The difficulty of overcoming so-called
confessions and of successfully attacking a positive
eyewitness identification are just two of a host of factors
that may push a defendant into a guilty plea regardless of
his or her actual innocence.").
innocent defendants plead guilty for reduced charges and
shorter sentences. Rachel E. Barkow, Separation of Powers
and the Criminal Law, 58 Stan. L. Rev. 989, 1034 (2006)
[hereinafter Barkow]; see also Robert E. Scott &
William J. Stuntz, Plea Bargaining as Contract, 101 Yale L.J.
1909, 1912 (1992) [hereinafter Scott & Stuntz]
("Defendants accept bargains because of the threat of
much harsher penalties after trial; they are thus forced to
give up the protections that the trial system's many
formalities provide."). The reality of plea bargaining
is that "[defendants] who do take their case to trial
and lose receive longer sentences than even Congress or the
prosecutor might think appropriate, because the longer
sentences exist on the books largely for bargaining
purposes." Barkow, 58 Stan. L. Rev. at 1034.
put, in economic terms, defendants engage in a cost-benefit
analysis. Entering into a plea agreement is not only rational
but also more attractive than dealing with the uncertainty of
the trial process and the possibility of harsher sentences.
Indeed, "even with competent counsel, going to trial can
be incredibly risky business." Uphoff, 2006 Wis. L. Rev.
at 799. We stated in Rhoades that "[w]hen the
deal is good enough, it is rational to refuse to roll the
dice, regardless of whether one believes the evidence
establishes guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and regardless
of whether one is factually innocent." 880 N.W.2d at
436-37 (alteration in original) (quoting Russell D. Covey,
Longitudinal Guilt: Repeat Offenders, Plea Bargaining,
and the Variable Standard of Proof, 63 Fla. L. Rev. 431,
450 (2011)); accord Jed S. Rakoff, Why Innocent
People Plead Guilty, N.Y. Rev. Books (Nov. 20, 2014),
[https://perma.cc/LT8T-XKAV] ("If [the defendant's]
lawyer can obtain a plea bargain that will reduce his likely
time in prison, he may find it 'rational' to take the
does not weed out the innocent. Rather, a plea is an explicit
agreement between the prosecutor and the defendant
that "establishes a 'going rate.' " John L.
Kane, Plea Bargaining and the Innocent, The Marshall
Project (Dec. 26, 2014, 1:05 PM),
[https://perma.cc/R5FU-Y3T4]. Specifically, "[t]he
anticipated sentence is the central concern in the
negotiation[, ]" but "[t]he problem . . . is that
both innocent and guilty defendants are placed in the same
pot and the goal is to achieve the appearance of justice, not
the realization of it." Id.; see also
Missouri v. Frye, 566 U.S. 134, 144, 132 S.Ct. 1399,
1407 (2012) ("In today's criminal justice system . .
. the negotiation of a plea bargain, rather than the
unfolding of a trial, is almost always the critical point for
a defendant."). Pleading guilty does not automatically
mean the defendant is actually guilty. Sometimes, an
innocent defendant is choosing the lesser of two evils:
pleading guilty despite his or her actual innocence because
the odds are stacked up against him or her, or going to trial
with the risk of losing and the prospect of receiving a
defendants may also plead guilty in the face of pressure from
prosecutors and even their own defense counsels. Today,
"our criminal justice system is almost exclusively a
system of plea bargaining, negotiated behind closed doors and
with no judicial oversight." Jed S. Rakoff, Why
Innocent People Plead Guilty, N.Y. Rev. Books (Nov. 20,
2014). Behind these closed doors, prosecutors have broad
discretion: "the prosecutor-dictated plea bargain
system, by creating such inordinate pressures to enter into
plea bargains, appears to have led a significant number of
defendants to plead guilty to crimes they never actually
committed." Id.; see also Innocence
Project, Why Are People Pleading Guilty to Crimes They
Didn't Commit? (Nov. 25, 2015),
Sarokin, a former federal judge, described the plea
bargaining process as involving "intimidation by the
prosecution and incompetence by the defense." H. Lee
Sarokin, Why Do Innocent People Plead Guilty?,
HuffPost (May 29, 2012, 4:39 PM),
[https://perma.cc/6PSQ-6QW4]. He illustrated,
The defendant, frightened, most often poor, uneducated, a
minority member is advised that a trial is likely to end with
a conviction and a long sentence, whereas a plea will
guarantee a much shorter sentence. Despite his protestations
of innocence, the defendant seeks guidance frequently from an
over-worked, underpaid defense lawyer who would much prefer a
quick deal rather than a long drawn out trial. Of course, not
all defense counsel fit that description. Many do not, but
even the best and most devoted are required to put this
draconian choice to their clients-a guaranteed short sentence
versus a potentially long one-possibly life in prison.
Id. We again emphasize the prosecutor's promise
of a shorter sentence is more attractive than going to trial
and possibly losing. Defendants, even those who are actually
innocent and especially those who are indigent, have more to
lose by going to trial than by pleading guilty.
we review the current legislative policy regarding guilty
pleas and actual innocence. In 2005, in passing Iowa Code
section 81.10, the legislature recognized a person who pleads
guilty could be actually innocent. See 2005 Iowa
Acts ch. 158, § 10 (codified at Iowa
§ 81.10). Section 81.10 allows a convicted defendant to
make a motion that, if granted, would require DNA testing
"on evidence collected in the case for which the person
stands convicted." Iowa Code § 81.10 (2014). The
motion must state the following:
b. The facts of the underlying case, as proven at
trial or admitted to during a guilty plea
. . . .
h. The type of inculpatory evidence admitted into
evidence at trial or admitted to during a guilty plea
. . . .
l. Why the DNA evidence would have changed the
outcome of the trial or invalidated a guilty plea if
DNA profiling had been conducted prior to the conviction.
Id. § 81.10(2)(b), (h), and
(l) (emphases added).
the convicted defendant files the motion and the county
attorney files an answer to the motion, the court may order a
hearing on the motion. Id. § 81.10(3), (6). The
court must grant the motion if all of the requirements of
section 81.10(7) apply. One of the requirements recognizes
the applicability of DNA exoneration to pleas. Id.
§ 81.10(7)(d). Section 81.10(7)(d)
provides, "The evidence subject to DNA analysis is
material to, and not merely cumulative or impeaching of,
evidence included in the trial record or admitted to at a
guilty plea proceeding." Id. (emphasis
added). This legislation reaffirms the fact that even
actually innocent persons do in fact plead guilty and should
have a chance for exoneration.
light of these recent developments, we hold convicted
defendants can attack their pleas when claiming actual
innocence even if the attack is extrinsic to the pleas. We
know people plead guilty for all sorts of reasons. Many of
these reasons are unrelated to whether the defendant actually
committed the crime. Additionally, the legislature has set
the policy that the state should not incarcerate actually
innocent people if DNA evidence exonerates them, regardless
of their pleas. We see no reason why we should treat people
exonerated by DNA evidence differently from people exonerated
by other reliable means. For example, when the court
determines the police planted evidence, such as drugs, why
should that defendant remain in prison simply because he or
she pled guilty to a reduced charge in light of the
overwhelming evidence of his or her guilt?
kind of system of justice do we have if we permit actually
innocent people to remain in prison? See Engesser v.
Young, 856 N.W.2d 471, 484 (S.D. 2014) ("Punishment
of the innocent may be the worst of all injustices."
(quoting Jenner v. Dooley, 590 N.W.2d 463, 471 (S.D.
1999))); see also In re Kaufmann, 157 N.E. 730, 733
(N.Y. 1927) (noting that in circumstances in which a
convicted individual establishes his innocence, "the
administration of justice would be subject to reproach if an
implacable law of remedies were to close the door forever
upon the hope of vindication"). It is time that we refuse to
perpetuate a system of justice that allows actually innocent
people to remain in prison, even those who profess guilt
despite their actual innocence.
we overrule our cases that do not allow defendants to attack
their pleas based on extrinsic grounds when they claim actual
innocence. Therefore, we hold Schmidt's pleas do not
preclude his actual-innocence claim merely because he pled
guilty to the charges.
An Actual-Innocence Claim Under Iowa Law.
never addressed whether, under our postconviction-relief
statute, a claim of actual innocence constitutes a gateway
claim or a freestanding claim implicating the Iowa
Constitution. Additionally, we have neither discussed the
standard courts must apply when confronted with
actual-innocence claims nor the vehicle defendants may use to
bring such claims.
Freestanding claim versus gateway claim.
federal system, a habeas petitioner may overcome a procedural
bar to habeas review by bringing a gateway claim of actual
innocence such that the petitioner may obtain review of the
underlying constitutional merits of his or her procedurally
defaulted claim. Herrera v. Collins, 506 U.S. 390,
404, 113 S.Ct. 853, 862 (1993); see also In re
Davis, 557 U.S. 952, 955, 130 S.Ct. 1, 3 (2009) (Scalia,
J., dissenting). "Federal habeas review of state
convictions has traditionally been limited to claims of
constitutional violations occurring in the course of the
underlying state criminal proceedings."
Herrera, 506 U.S. at 416, 113 S.Ct. at 869. The
United States Supreme Court has declined to stretch the reach
of federal habeas review to freestanding claims of actual
innocence when there is a state avenue to provide for
pardons. Montoya v. Ulibarri, 163 P.3d 476, 482
(N.M. 2007); People v. Cole, 765 N.Y.S.2d 477, 484
(Sup. Ct. 2003).
overcome a procedural bar to federal habeas review, a
petitioner must generally show "cause for the default
and prejudice from the asserted error." House v.
Bell, 547 U.S. 518, 536, 126 S.Ct. 2064, 2076 (2006).
"Cause" turns on the question of "whether the
prisoner can show that some objective factor external to the
defense impeded counsel's efforts to comply with the
State's procedural rule." Murray v.
Carrier, 477 U.S. 478, 488, 106 S.Ct. 2639, 2645 (1986).
The United States Supreme Court has vaguely defined
"prejudice" but "prejudice" at least
entails an "actual prejudice" standard that
requires a showing that "is 'greater than the
showing required to establish plain error on direct
appeal.' " Engle v. Isaac, 456 U.S. 107,
134-35, 102 S.Ct. 1558, 1575 (1982) (quoting Henderson v.
Kibbe, 431 U.S. 145, 154, 97 S.Ct. 1730, 1736-37
the showing of cause and prejudice,
a court may not reach the merits of: (a) successive
claims that raise grounds identical to grounds heard and
decided on the merits in a previous petition, . . .; (b) new
claims, not previously raised, which constitute an abuse
of the writ, . . .; or (c) procedurally defaulted
claims in which the petitioner failed to follow
applicable state procedural rules in raising the claims[.]
Sawyer v. Whitley, 505 U.S. 333, 338, 112 S.Ct.
2514, 2518 (1992) (citations omitted).
procedural default doctrine arises from the principles of
comity and finality, and the conservation of judicial
resources. House, 547 U.S. at 536, 126 S.Ct. at
2076. However, in certain circumstances, such principles
"must yield to the imperative of correcting a
fundamentally unjust incarceration." Id.
(quoting Carrier, 477 U.S. at 495, 106 S.Ct. at
2649); see Kuhlmann v. Wilson, 477 U.S 436, 454, 106
S.Ct. 2616, 2627 (1986) (holding the miscarriage-of-justice
exception allows successive claims given the petitioner shows
"under the probative evidence he has a colorable claim
of factual innocence"); Carrier, 477 U.S. at
496, 106 S.Ct. at 2649 (holding "in an extraordinary
case, where a constitutional violation has probably resulted
in the conviction of one who is actually innocent, " the
merits of a procedurally defaulted claim could be reached).
For purposes of this appeal, we focus on the
fundamental-miscarriage-of-justice, or actual-innocence,
Schlup v. Delo, in considering a petitioner's
actual-innocence claim accompanied by an assertion of
constitutional violations at trial, the Supreme Court
explained what constitutes a gateway claim and articulated
the gateway standard. 513 U.S. 298, 315-17, 326-27, 115 S.Ct.
851, 861-62, 867 (1995). The Court defined the
petitioner's gateway claim of actual innocence as
"not itself a constitutional claim, but instead a
gateway through which a habeas petitioner must pass to have
his otherwise barred constitutional claim considered on the
merits." Id. at 315, 115 S.Ct. at 861 (quoting
Herrera, 506 U.S. at 404, 113 S.Ct. at 862). In
other words, the petitioner's claim of actual innocence
does not alone provide a basis for a court to vacate his
conviction. See id. Rather, his claim of actual
innocence depends on the validity of his underlying
constitutional claims. See id.
held a petitioner asserting a gateway claim must demonstrate
that in light of all the evidence, including the new
evidence, "it is more likely than not that no reasonable
juror would have found petitioner guilty beyond a reasonable
doubt." Id. at 327, 115 S.Ct. at 867 (adopting
"the Carrier 'probably resulted'
standard"); accord Kenfield v. State, 377 P.3d
1207, 1211-12 (Mont. 2016); Berry v. State, 363 P.3d
1148, 1155 (Nev. 2015); In re Personal Restraint of
Weber, 284 P.3d 734, 740 (Wash. 2012) (en banc). This
more-likely-than-not standard "ensures that
petitioner's case is truly 'extraordinary, ' . .
. while still providing petitioner a meaningful avenue by
which to avoid a manifest injustice." Schlup,
513 U.S. at 327, 115 S.Ct. at 867 (quoting McCluskey v.
Zant, 499 U.S. 467, 494, 111 S.Ct. 1454, 1470 (1991)).
The petitioner does not need to establish with absolute
certainty that he or she is innocent. House, 547
U.S. at 538, 126 S.Ct. at 2077. In declining to adopt a clear
and convincing standard, the Court stated that
actual-innocence claims "pose less of a threat to scarce
judicial resources and to principles of finality and comity
than do claims that focus solely on the erroneous imposition
of the death penalty." Schlup, 513 U.S. at 324,
115 S.Ct. at 865.
on the foregoing, we carefully distinguish between the two
forms of an actual-innocence claim: a gateway claim of actual
innocence with an underlying constitutional challenge and a
freestanding claim of actual innocence that is itself the
substantive basis for relief.
Freestanding claims of actual innocence in Iowa.
argues the "in the interest of justice" language of
Iowa Code section 822.2(1)(d), unlike federal
habeas, gives a substantive basis for actual-innocence
claims. Schmidt states section 822.2(1)(a) also
provides a means to raise a freestanding claim of actual
innocence because "[i]f a person is convicted of a crime
he did not commit[, ] such a conviction violates the Iowa
Constitution." Thus, Schmidt contends, because his claim
of actual innocence is itself a substantive claim, it does
not need to pass through the actual-innocence gateway.
federal circuit courts of appeals remain unsettled on the
question of whether a freestanding claim of actual innocence
exists. John M. Leventhal, A Survey of Federal and State
Courts' Approaches to a Constitutional Right of Actual
Innocence: Is There a Need for a State Constitutional Right
in New York in the Aftermath of CPL §
440.10(1)(G-1)?, 76 Alb. L. Rev. 1453, 1464-65 nn.83-95
(2013) (citing cases). If a freestanding claim of actual
innocence exists, it would have to overcome an
"extraordinarily high threshold." Id. at
1464 & n.85 (collecting cases); see also Carriger v.
Stewart, 132 F.3d 463, 476 (9th Cir. 1997)
("Requiring affirmative proof of innocence is
appropriate, because when a petitioner makes a freestanding
claim of innocence, he is claiming that he is entitled to
relief despite a constitutionally valid conviction.").
state level, a number of jurisdictions acknowledge
freestanding claims of actual innocence. Engesser,
856 N.W.2d at 481 n.3 (collecting cases and statutes that
allow freestanding claims of actual innocence). States that
do recognize freestanding claims of actual innocence apply
varying standards. Compare People v. Washington, 665
N.E.2d 1330, 1337 (Ill. 1996) (holding the defendant must
present new evidence that is " 'of such conclusive
character' as would 'probably change the result on
retrial' " (quoting People v. Silagy, 507
N.E.2d 830, 834 (Ill. 1987))), with State ex rel. Amrine
v. Roper, 102 S.W.3d 541, 548 (Mo. 2003) (en banc)
(holding the petitioner must "make a clear and
convincing showing of actual innocence that undermines
confidence in the correctness of the judgment").
Washington, the Illinois Supreme Court explicitly
addressed whether a freestanding claim of actual innocence
based on new evidence implicated the due process clause of
the Illinois Constitution. 665 N.E.2d at 1335-37. In regards
to procedural due process, the court reasoned "to ignore
such a claim would be fundamentally unfair."
Id. at 1336.
terms of substantive due process, the court stated
"[i]mprisonment of the innocent would also be so
conscience shocking as to trigger operation of substantive
due process." Id. It stated, "The [United
States] Supreme Court rejected substantive due process as
means to recognize freestanding innocence claims because of
the idea that a person convicted in a constitutionally fair
trial must be viewed as guilty." Id. In
declining to adopt the reasoning of the United States
Supreme Court, the court stated, "The stronger the
claim-the more likely it is that a convicted person is
actually innocent-the weaker is the legal construct dictating
that the person be viewed as guilty." Id.
Because "no person convicted of a crime should be
deprived of life or liberty given compelling evidence of
actual innocence[, ]" the court held the due process
clause of the Illinois Constitution gives credence to
freestanding claims of actual innocence and affords convicted
defendants additional process. Id. at 1336-37.
Montoya, the New Mexico Supreme Court held the New
Mexico Constitution, specifically the due process clause and
the prohibition against infliction of cruel and unusual
punishment, provides protection to actually innocent people.
163 P.3d at 484. The court reasoned it would be
"fundamentally unfair" to convict, incarcerate, or
execute an innocent person. Id. The court further
reasoned "the incarceration of an innocent person [fails
to] advance any [acceptable] goal of punishment, and . . .
the punishment is indeed grossly out of proportion to the
severity of the crime." Id.
turn to the Iowa Constitution. First, we note the Iowa
Constitution vests authority to grant pardons with the
Governor. Iowa Const. art. IV, § 16; State v.
Ragland, 836 N.W.2d 107, 118 (Iowa 2013). Thus, the
incarceration of an actually innocent person in Iowa does not
violate the Federal Constitution. See Montoya, 163
P.3d at 482; Cole, 765 N.Y.S.2d at 484. We therefore
address the possibility of a freestanding claim of actual
innocence pursuant to Iowa constitutional jurisprudence.
Iowa Constitution affords individuals greater rights than
does the United States Constitution. See, e.g.,
State v. Lyle, 854 N.W.2d 378, 395 (Iowa 2014)
(noting "we expanded the reach of the Supreme
Court's reasoning in a trilogy of juvenile justice cases
decided under the Iowa Constitution"). Moreover, we have
discretion to construe the Iowa Constitution in such a way as
to "provid[e] greater protection for our citizens'
constitutional rights." Nguyen v. State, 878
N.W.2d 744, 755 (Iowa 2016). Because we "jealously"
safeguard our authority to interpret the Iowa Constitution on
our own terms, we do not employ a lockstep approach in
following federal precedent although United States Supreme
Court cases are "persuasive." See State v.
Ochoa, 792 N.W.2d 260, 267 (Iowa 2010).
I, section 9 of the Iowa Constitution prohibits the
deprivation of liberty without due process of law. Iowa
Const. art. I, § 9 (due process clause). We have
enforced "the due process clause of article I, section 9
. . . in a wide variety of settings." Godfrey v.
State, 898 N.W.2d 844, 871 (Iowa 2017). In fact,
"[t]he Iowa constitutional provision regarding due
process of law is . . . not a mere hortatory command, but it
has been implemented, day in and day out, for many, many
years." Id. We see no reason why article I,
section 9 would not be enforceable for purposes of
vindicating defendants who prove they are factually innocent
and believe their incarceration triggers the due process
innocent person has a constitutional liberty interest in
remaining free from undeserved punishment. Holding a person
who has committed no crime in prison strikes the very essence
of the constitutional guarantee of substantive due process.
See Cole, 765 N.Y.S.2d at 485 (holding "the
conviction or incarceration of a guiltless person violates
elemental fairness, deprives that person of freedom of
movement and freedom from punishment[, ] and thus runs afoul
of the due process clause of the [New York] State
if defendants allege substantive due process violations, they
must meet the demanding actual-innocence standard to prove
the validity of their actual-innocence claims-a standard we
articulate in the next section. Thus, there are limits on
actually innocent people should have an opportunity to prove
their actual innocence. Montoya, 163 P.3d at 484
(holding "the conviction, incarceration, or execution of
an innocent person violates all notions of fundamental
fairness" and thus actually innocent people "must
be permitted to assert a claim of actual innocence").
The incarceration of actually innocent people therefore
implicates procedural due process.
I, section 17 of the Iowa Constitution prohibits cruel and
unusual punishment. Iowa Const. art. I, § 17 (cruel and
unusual punishment). This prohibition "embraces a
bedrock rule of law that punishment should fit the
crime." Lyle, 854 N.W.2d at 384 (quoting
State v. Bruegger, 773 N.W.2d 862, 872 (Iowa 2009));
accord Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551, 560, 125
S.Ct. 1183, 1190 (2005) ("[T]he Eighth Amendment
guarantees individuals the right not to be subjected to
excessive sanctions."). Applying this bedrock principle,
we believe "punishing an actually innocent person is
disproportionate to the crime (or lack of crime) committed
and violates the cruel and inhuman treatment clause."
Cole, 765 N.Y.S.2d at 485; accord Herrera,
506 U.S. at 431, 113 S.Ct. at 876 (Blackmun, J., dissenting)
(noting punishment "grossly out of proportion to the
severity of the crime" is unconstitutional and excessive
(quoting Coker v. Georgia, 433 U.S. 584, 592, 97
S.Ct. 2861, 2866 (1977) (plurality opinion))).
we agree with Justice Blackmun's dissent in
Herrera that "it is crystal clear that the
execution of an innocent person is 'at odds with
contemporary standards of fairness and decency.' "
506 U.S. at 431, 113 S.Ct. at 876 (quoting Spaziano v.
Florida, 468 U.S. 447, 465, 104 S.Ct. 3154, 3165 (1984),
overruled on other grounds by Hurst v. Florida, 577
U.S.__, __, 136 S.Ct. 616, 621 (2016)). We believe Justice
Blackmun's reasoning also applies to the conviction and
incarceration of an innocent person because "the basic
concept underlying the prohibition against cruel and unusual
punishment 'is nothing less than the dignity' of
humankind." Lyle, 854 N.W.2d at 384 (quoting
Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 86, 100, 78 S.Ct. 590, 597
reject the notion that the rationale used in cases involving
trials cannot be applied to those involving
pleas. We find these cases informative because
the same policy reason informs convictions based after trials
as those based on pleas. See Ex parte Tuley, 109
S.W.3d 388, 391-92 (Tex. Crim. App. 2002); see also
People v. Tiger, 48 N.Y.S.3d 685, 700-01 (App. Div.
2017) (citing Ex parte Tuley, 109 S.W.3d at 393)
(holding a defendant's plea does not bar the defendant
from bringing a freestanding claim of actual innocence). This
policy reason is protecting against violations of
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals permits freestanding claims
of actual innocence even if the applicant pled guilty. Ex
parte Tuley, 109 S.W.3d at 393. In Tuley, the
applicant pled guilty to aggravated sexual assault.
Id. at 390. Years later, the applicant pursued
postconviction relief when the complainant recanted her
allegation. Id. The court sought to answer the
question of whether the applicant's plea precluded his
freestanding actual-innocence claim. Id. It reasoned
the policy behind allowing freestanding actual-innocence
claims was to protect innocent individuals from punishment.
Id. at 390-91. Specifically, the court reasoned,
this policy "is the same for an applicant regardless of
whether his case was heard by a judge or jury or whether he
[pled] guilty or not guilty." Id.
court further reasoned that "[c]onvicting courts should
. . . give great respect to knowing, voluntary, and
intelligent pleas of guilty." Id. at 391.
However, "we should not foreclose relief because a
defendant [pled] guilty when the policy behind granting
relief on a bare innocence claim is the same."
Id. Moreover, "[t]here is nothing equitable
about permitting an innocent person to remain in prison when
he produces new evidence that unquestionably shows that he
did not commit the offense for which he is
incarcerated." Id. at 392. Thus, the court held
an applicant must "show by clear and convincing
evidence that, despite the evidence of guilt that supports
the conviction, no reasonable juror could have found the
applicant guilty in light of the new evidence."
Id. We agree with the Texas Court of Criminal
Appeals that the same rudimentary policy reason-safeguarding
against violations of due process-form a substratum for
claims of actual innocence, regardless of whether defendants
pled guilty or went to trial.
we now find the Iowa Constitution permits freestanding claims
of actual innocence. Furthermore, freestanding claims of
actual innocence permitted by the Iowa Constitution are
available to applicants even though they pled guilty.
The standard to apply to freestanding actual-innocence
that have adopted freestanding actual-innocence claims
require a higher burden than that of a gateway claim for an
applicant to succeed. We again note the United States Supreme
Court adopted a more-likely- than-not standard in proving
gateway claims of actual innocence. Schlup, 513 U.S
at 327, 115 S.Ct. 851 at 867.
Jamison v. State, a case involving newly discovered
evidence that would allegedly support an applicant's
self-defense theory, the South Carolina Supreme Court adopted