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Nicholas Graves v. State

Court of Appeals of Iowa

April 18, 2018

JOHN LESLIE NICHOLAS GRAVES, Applicant-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, William P. Kelly, Judge.

         John Graves appeals from the dismissal of his application for postconviction relief.

          Daniel M. Northfield, Urbandale, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Louis S. Sloven, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Vaitheswaran and Bower, JJ.

          DANILSON, Chief Judge.

         John Graves appeals from the dismissal of his third application for postconviction relief (PCR), arguing the district court improperly granted summary judgment to the State. Finding no error in the dismissal of the application, we affirm.

         In an appeal from the denial of Graves's first PCR application, this court rejected Graves's argument that "his trial, appellate, and postconviction counsel rendered ineffective assistance for failing to object to the felony murder and willful injury jury instructions." Graves v. State, No. 06-0369, 2007 WL 1484512, at *3 (Iowa Ct. App. May 23, 2007). We observed,

Graves's argument is based on the application of State v. Heemstra, 721 N.W.2d 549, 558 (Iowa 2006), to his case. That case, however, was decided after Graves's trial and direct appeal. Until Heemstra, the instructions given at Graves's trial were commensurate with the law. See Heemstra, 721 N.W.2d at 557-58. His counsel had no duty to anticipate the change. See State v. Liddell, 672 N.W.2d 805, 814 (Iowa 2003).
Furthermore, according to Heemstra,
The rule of law announced in this case regarding the use of willful injury as a predicate felony for felony-murder purposes shall be applicable only to the present case and those cases not finally resolved on direct appeal in which the issue has been raised in the district court.

Id.

Graves relies on Teague v. Lane, 489 U.S. 288, 299-300 (1989), for the proposition that "once a new [constitutional rule of criminal procedure] is applied to the defendant in the case announcing the rule, evenhanded justice requires that it be applied retroactively to all who are similarly situated." Graves's argument is inapposite. We need not reach the question of retroactivity Graves urges because Heemstra did not announce a new constitutional rule of criminal procedure. Instead, the case interpreted a state statute. The Supreme Court cannot construe a state statute, whether it is procedural or substantive in nature, differently from the construction rendered ...

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