from the Iowa District Court for Grundy County, George L.
appeals from the denial of his application for postconviction
R. Frese of Kaplan & Frese, LLP, Marshalltown, for
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Aaron J. Rogers, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Mullins and McDonald, JJ.
Huffman appeals from the denial of his application for
postconviction relief. By way of background, Huffman was
convicted of five counts of sexual abuse in the second
degree, one count of sexual abuse in the third degree, and
one count of assault with intent to commit sex abuse arising
out of the abuse of two minors. On direct appeal, this court
affirmed his convictions. See State v. Huffman, No.
14-1143, 2015 WL 5278980, at *9 (Iowa Ct. App. Sept. 10,
2015). More recently, this court affirmed the denial of
Huffman's motion for new trial, in which Huffman
contended one of the victims recanted the abuse allegations.
See State v. Huffman, No. 16-0980, 2017 WL 6513562,
at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. Dec. 20, 2017) (affirming denial and
explaining the witness did not recant but actually reasserted
the allegations of abuse in a later deposition).
appeal, Huffman contends his trial counsel provided
constitutionally deficient representation in failing to
object to a single sentence in the testimony of a forensic
interviewer that allegedly vouched for the credibility of the
victims. To establish his claim of ineffective assistance of
counsel, Huffman must establish that his trial counsel failed
to perform an essential duty and that this failure resulted
in prejudice. See State v. Westeen, 591 N.W.2d 203,
207 (Iowa 1999). To show a breach of an essential duty,
Huffman must establish "the attorney performed below the
standard demanded of a reasonably competent attorney."
Ledezma v. State, 626 N.W.2d 134, 142 (Iowa 2001).
The attorney's performance is measured against
"prevailing professional norms, " and it is
presumed the attorney performed competently. See id.
The ultimate inquiry regarding prejudice is whether
counsel's allegedly deficient performance caused a
complete "breakdown in the adversary process" such
that the convictions are unreliable. See Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984). This requires a
showing "there is a reasonable probability that, but for
counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the
proceeding would have been different." Collins v.
State, 588 N.W.2d 399, 402 (Iowa 1998) (citation and
quotation marks omitted). "A reasonable probability is a
probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome
of the defendant's trial." Id.
district court concluded Huffman failed to establish he
suffered constitutional prejudice from the alleged breach of
duty. Huffman contends this was error because prejudice
should be presumed when an expert bolsters the credibility of
the witnesses. We disagree. In an
ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim challenging the
failure to object to allegedly impermissible vouching
testimony, the defendant must still prove he suffered
constitutional prejudice. See State v. Basquin, No.
17-0057, 2018 WL 1858378, at *3 (Iowa Ct. App. Apr. 18, 2018)
(rejecting vouching claim on prejudice grounds); State v.
Simonich, No. 16-1906, 2017 WL 5179004, at *7 (Iowa Ct.
App. Nov. 8, 2017) (finding no prejudice in resolving
improper vouching claim); State v. Aguilar, No.
14-1225, 2015 WL 5965076, at *6 (Iowa Ct. App. Oct. 14, 2015)
also contends he has proved constitutional prejudice. We
disagree. First, this court has already rejected
substantially the same claim on direct appeal. In
Huffman's direct appeal, he contended his "trial
counsel was ineffective for allowing the expert witness to
vouch for the witness's credibility without proper
objections." Huffman, 2015 WL 5278980, at *1.
In his direct appeal, Huffman identified the specific
testimony to which he claimed his counsel should have
objected. This court rejected the claim, concluding Huffman
was not "prejudiced by counsel's failure to
object." Id.; see also id. at 6 ("We also
do not believe Huffman has established that he suffered
prejudice because of trial counsel's failure to
act."). Like the prior panel, we conclude Huffman has
not established constitutional prejudice. Second,
Huffman's claim is barred res judicata. See Iowa
Code § 822.8 ("Any ground finally adjudicated or
not raised, or knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently
waived in the proceeding that resulted in the conviction or
sentence, or in any other proceeding the applicant has taken
to secure relief, may not be the basis for a subsequent
application."); Lambert v. Iowa Dep't of
Transp., 804 N.W.2d 253, 257 (Iowa 2011) ("A valid
final judgment on a claim generally precludes relitigation of
the same claim or any part of it. The rule governing claim
preclusion is based on the principle that a party may not
split or try his claim piecemeal, but must put in issue and
try his entire claim or put his entire defense in the case on
trial."); Holmes v. State, 775 N.W.2d 733, 735
(Iowa Ct. App. 2009) ("A post-conviction proceeding is
not intended as a vehicle for relitigation, on the same
factual basis, of issues previously adjudicated, and the
principle of res judicata bars additional litigation on this
district court did not err in denying Huffman's