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Luchtenburg v. State

Court of Appeals of Iowa

June 20, 2018

BRIAN J. LUCHTENBURG, Applicant-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, David F. Staudt, Judge.

         Brian Luchtenburg appeals the denial of his postconviction-relief application.

          Brian S. Munnelly, Omaha, Nebraska, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Sharon K. Hall, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and Tabor, JJ.

          VAITHESWARAN, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         A jury found Brian Luchtenburg guilty of possession of marijuana, possession of methamphetamine, and a drug tax stamp violation as a repeat and habitual offender. On direct appeal, this court affirmed his convictions. State v. Luchtenburg, No. 15-0924, 2016 WL 3273869, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. June 15, 2016). Luchtenburg subsequently filed a postconviction-relief application, which the district court denied following an evidentiary hearing. In this appeal, Luchtenberg argues his trial attorneys were ineffective in (1) "failing to call [a witness] at the suppression hearing" and "failing to effectively cross-examine [the same witness] at trial, " (2) "failing to obtain a video from [a] police car, " and (3) failing to raise claimed conflicts of interest of the attorney and judge.

         To prevail, Luchtenberg must show (1) deficient performance and (2) prejudice. See Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984). Our review is de novo. Diaz v. State, 896 N.W.2d 723, 727 (Iowa 2017).

         1) Witness

         Luchtenberg's first claim relates to a woman with a package of marijuana who was stopped by law enforcement officers and who told them she was delivering the package to Luchtenberg and another person at a specified address. See Luchtenberg, 2016 WL 3273869, at *1.[1] Luchtenberg's attorney did not call the woman to testify at the suppression hearing. In Luchtenberg's view, "[T]rial counsel could have severely discredited [her] had he independently and thoroughly investigated matters." (emphasis added). Had she been called, he argues, "The information obtained from a thorough cross-examin[ation] . . . would have been useful to corroborate [his] side of the story."

         Luchtenberg elaborated on his claim at the postconviction-relief hearing. He testified the woman implicated him to get herself off the hook and to curry favor with the police, who never arrested or charged her. When asked by the court why he wanted her to testify at the suppression hearing, he stated, "[W]e could have proved at that point how unreliable of a witness she is." In response to a follow-up question, he stated,

Well this entire case is based on her receiving a package of drugs through the mail and she threw it in my yard. So the entire case stems from her. I wanted to be able to put her on the witness stand to be able to show that she's the one to receive the package. It was sent to her mother's address, it was sent in the name of her alias, she's got a criminal history, and she was never arrested or charged with any crime. So I wanted to be able to put her on the witness stand to bring all that to the light of day.

         Counsel's failure to put the woman on the stand at the suppression hearing does not require reversal because Luchtenberg's attorney elicited the same testimony he could have elicited from the woman through cross-examination of the State's witnesses.

         Counsel asked one of the police officers who stopped the woman, "Did you entertain the possibility that she, with this package now in her car, stopped by the police, wants to dump it off, literally and figuratively, onto someone else at someone else's house rather than [i]t being hers, did you consider that?" The officer responded, "That's always a possibility." Defense counsel continued, "So as far as we know, at that point she could just be saving herself in a fashion by saying I'll deliver it, I'll tell these officers that I'm supposed to deliver it somewhere else?" The officer testified it was "more ...


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