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Moon v. State

Supreme Court of Iowa

April 20, 2018

STATE OF IOWA, Appellee.

         On review from the Iowa Court of Appeals.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Clarke County, Gary G. Kimes, Judge.

         An applicant asks for further review of a court of appeals decision dismissing his postconviction-relief action. DECISION OF COURT OF APPEALS VACATED; DISTRICT COURT JUDGMENT AFFIRMED.

          Christine E. Branstad of Branstad Law, P.L.L.C., Des Moines, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Thomas E. Bakke, Assistant Attorney General, and Michelle M. Rivera, County Attorney, for appellee.

          WIGGINS, Justice.

         An applicant filed a postconviction-relief action alleging the State committed a Brady[1] violation by withholding potentially exculpatory information regarding the statements made by a witness who ultimately did not testify at the applicant's criminal trial. The applicant further alleged this information constituted newly discovered evidence. The district court declined to reach the merits of the applicant's substantive claims. Rather, the court applied the newly-discovered-evidence test, instead of the new-ground-of-fact test, to hold that the three-year statute of limitations barred all claims.

         The applicant appealed, and we transferred the case to our court of appeals. The court of appeals affirmed, holding the applicant failed to establish a nexus between the new ground of fact and the applicant's conviction. The applicant applied for further review, which we granted.

         On further review, we hold the statute of limitations does not bar the applicant's substantive claims. However, the applicant fails to establish a Brady violation and fails to demonstrate a viable newly-discovered-evidence claim. Accordingly, we vacate the decision of the court of appeals and affirm the judgment of the district court summarily dismissing the applicant's postconviction-relief application.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         In August 1990, Kevin Dickson was shot and killed. Nine years later, the State charged Martin Moon and Casey Brodsack with first-degree murder. Brodsack pled guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for testifying truthfully at Moon's trial.

         Brodsack testified he, Moon, and Dickson roomed together on the second floor of a house in Winterset while their neighbor, Scott Aukes, lived with his roommate on the first floor. Brodsack testified he, Moon, Dickson, and Aukes went to an abandoned farmhouse to look for marijuana left by Moon's drug dealer. While Brodsack was checking for drugs behind the water heater in the basement, he heard six or seven gunshots. Brodsack went around and saw Dickson lying on the ground, with Moon holding a gun in his hand. Aukes was not present in the basement during this episode. Moon handed Brodsack the gun. With another gun, Moon forced Brodsack at gunpoint to shoot Dickson because Moon allegedly did not want to be the only one involved. Brodsack shot Dickson three times.

         Brodsack further testified he, Moon, and Aukes went back to Winterset to retrieve a sledgehammer. They then returned to the farmhouse and tried to knock in one of the basement walls to cover up Dickson's body. When that plan failed, they dragged Dickson's body outside and discarded it into a cistern.

         According to Brodsack, sometime in 1996, he and his coworker Brett Lovely were painting fire hydrants near the farmhouse. Brodsack apparently told Lovely about the murder and showed him what was left of Dickson-just bones-in the cistern. Lovely kept the secret for a few years but eventually told law enforcement about it in 1999.

         Before trial, the State included a man by the name of Brandon Lee Boone as a witness in the minutes of testimony. The State anticipated Boone to testify that law enforcement had conducted an interview of him on or about May 8, 1999. Boone would also testify he and Moon were inmates incarcerated at the same prison in 1995 or 1996. During this time, while Boone and Moon were walking together in the yard, Moon allegedly stated he and Brodsack killed Dickson and threw the body into a cistern.

         Moon moved to exclude Boone from testifying at trial for a number of reasons: the State advised Moon that Boone was unwilling to cooperate, and Moon did not have an opportunity to depose Boone or investigate Boone's May 1999 interview. Moon also alleged the admission of any statements made by Boone to law enforcement was hearsay and a violation of his Sixth Amendment confrontation rights.

         In response to Moon's motion, the State alleged it had provided to Moon the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) report containing the interview. Moreover, the State informed Moon that Boone had refused to cooperate since his arrest as a material witness, and the State did not know whether Boone would cooperate at trial. Although the record is unclear as to the district court's ruling on the motion to exclude, Boone ultimately did not testify at trial.

         In June 2000, the jury found Moon guilty as charged, and the district court sentenced him to a mandatory life term in prison. The court of appeals affirmed Moon's conviction. Following that appeal, the clerk issued procedendo in July 2002.

         On October 31, Moon filed his first pro se application for postconviction relief. On August 19, 2004, Moon's appointed postconviction counsel filed an amended application alleging ineffective assistance of counsel and trial court error. The district court denied the application, and the court of appeals affirmed.

         On January 12, 2012, Moon filed his second pro se postconviction-relief application, almost a decade after the issuance of procedendo. Moon made two allegations. First, pursuant to Iowa Code sections 822.2(1)(a) (2011), [2] he claimed the sentence and judgment violated the Due Process Clauses of the United States and Iowa Constitutions. Second, pursuant to section 822.2(1)(g), he claimed the sentence and judgment were subject to collateral attack because the trial information was insufficient and unconstitutional.

         Moon attached affidavits to this application. Of importance are Boone's and Moon's affidavits. In his January 4, 2011 affidavit, Moon claimed he had never seen any police reports or investigative notes concerning Boone's alleged false statements to law enforcement.

         In his April 7, 2011 affidavit, Boone declared he had given several false statements to law enforcement at the behest of Brodsack. He attested law enforcement contacted him multiple times between the years 1998 and 1999 regarding Dickson's murder. Boone declared Brodsack had prepared him to give false statements implicating Moon in the death of Dickson. Moreover, Boone gave the false statements because he was under the impression he would receive leniency from the State on the pending charges against him if he provided information implicating Moon in Dickson's murder.

         Boone further declared, "I tried in each of those statements, even back then, to convey to authorities that they were in fact false" but law enforcement "intentionally ignored my attempts." Boone attested, "[T]hese indications of falsehood can be found in each of my original written and initialed statements taken by state law authorities from late 1998 to May of 1999." Furthermore, Boone stated, "[The] Minutes of Testimony . . . does not contain the exact words or statements that I gave to law enforcement authorities." In sum, Boone stated, "I had no information of [Moon's] involvement in [Dickson's murder] other than what Casey told me to say whenever any law enforcement authorities approached me asking questions."

         On October 22, 2012, Moon submitted a supplemental petition of pro se issues, claims, and grounds for relief. On March 16, 2015, Moon filed a motion to amend his application. The amended application alleged pursuant to Iowa Code section 822.2(1)(d) (2015), newly discovered evidence requires vacation of his original sentence and judgment.[3] Specifically, this newly discovered evidence is the contents of Boone's 2011 affidavit. Additionally, Moon alleged the State's suppression of exculpatory evidence, such as police reports, recordings, and interviews concerning Boone, amounts to a Brady violation.

         The State moved for summary dismissal of Moon's second postconviction-relief application pursuant to section 822.6. The State argued the application was untimely under the three-year statute of limitations set out in section 822.3 because the clerk issued procedendo in July 2002, and Moon filed the instant application in January 2012. The State therefore claimed the district court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case because the statute of limitations had run. The State also argued Moon's claims in his application and supplemental petition were meritless.

         Moon resisted the State's motion, arguing the limitations period did not apply to his claims because a new ground of fact exists. Moon then applied the newly-discovered-evidence test to his substantive claim based on section 822.2(1)(d). He also argued he provided sufficient evidence to create factual questions regarding his due process claim based on a Brady violation.

         On October 16, the district court granted the State's motion for summary dismissal, concluding Moon's application was untimely by applying the newly-discovered-evidence test rather than the ground-of-fact test. The court reasoned the evidence was not material but merely impeaching. The court did not address the alleged Brady violation.

         Moon appealed. The court of appeals affirmed the summary dismissal, concluding the ground-of-fact exception did not apply. Moon filed an application for further review, which we granted. We lay out additional facts as necessary.

         II. Issues.

         The threshold issue is whether the three-year statute of limitations bars Moon's claims. The substantive issues are whether the State suppressed Brady material by withholding potentially exculpatory information regarding Boone's statements to law enforcement and whether this information constitutes newly discovered evidence.

         III. Scope of Review.

         We generally review postconviction proceedings, including summary dismissals of postconviction-relief applications, for errors at law. Castro v. State, 795 N.W.2d 789, 792 (Iowa 2011). When the basis for relief implicates a violation of a constitutional dimension, our review is de novo. Everett v. State, 789 N.W.2d 151, 155 (Iowa 2010); Bugley v. State, 596 N.W.2d 893, 895 (Iowa 1999), superseded by statute on other grounds, 2004 Iowa Acts ch. 1017, § 2 (codified at Iowa Code § 814.7 (2005)), as recognized in State v. Johnson, 784 N.W.2d 192, 197 (Iowa 2010).

         However, the district court summarily disposed of this case under section 822.6. We apply our summary judgment standards to summary disposition of postconviction-relief applications. Schmidt v. State, N.W.2d, (Iowa 2018); Manning v. State, 654 N.W.2d 555, 559-60 (Iowa 2002). Therefore, on further review we will apply our summary judgment/disposition standards. Summary disposition is appropriate

if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show . . . there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and . . . the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.

Iowa R. Civ. P. 1.981(3). The moving party bears the burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue of material facts. 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 draw all legitimate inferences from the record in ...

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