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Donald v. State

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 15, 2018

CARLSTON FREDERICK DONALD, Applicant-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Kevin McKeever, Judge.

         Carlston Donald appeals the district court's denial of his postconviction-relief application.

          John G. Daufeldt of Daufeldt Law Firm, PLC, Conroy, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Darrel L. Mullins, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Mullins and McDonald, JJ.

          MULLINS, Judge.

         Carlston Donald appeals the district court's denial of his application for postconviction relief (PCR). He contends the court erred in concluding his appellate counsel was not ineffective in the direct appeal following his criminal conviction. Donald specifically argues his appellate counsel was ineffective in failing to (1) challenge the weight of the evidence underlying the conviction and (2) file a proof brief or follow the protocol for frivolous appeals contained in Iowa Rule of Appellate Procedure 6.1005 (2009).

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         Sometime after 9:00 p.m. on the evening of December 23, 2008, Harold and Frances Kavalier observed a light blue van engaging in odd behavior in a restaurant parking lot in Cedar Rapids. An African American male wearing a hooded sweatshirt with the "hood tied up way around [his] face" eventually emerged from the van, which contained at least two other occupants, and proceeded in the direction of a nearby hotel. Seth Knight was working the front desk at the nearby hotel at approximately 10:00 p.m. when an African American male "with a hooded sweatshirt on really tight around the face" approached him at the front desk, displayed a knife, and directed Knight "to give him all the money." Knight complied, the robber fled, and Knight called the police.

         Donald was ultimately charged by trial information with first-degree robbery in connection with the foregoing events. In July 2009, a jury found him guilty as charged. Donald filed a motion for a new trial, complaining, among other things, the verdict was contrary to the weight of the evidence. The district court denied the motion, and Donald appealed following the imposition of sentence. On direct appeal, the parties filed a joint motion to reverse pursuant to Iowa Rule of Appellate Procedure 6.1006(3) on the ground that the district court improperly ordered Donald to pay restitution for court-appointed attorney fees in excess of the regulatory limit in place at that time. The supreme court sustained the motion and remanded the matter to the district court for vacation of the improper sentencing provision. The judgment and sentence were otherwise affirmed. Procedendo issued in April 2010.

         In August 2011, Donald filed a pro-se PCR application. Following a number of continuances, Donald's court-appointed counsel filed an amended PCR application in March 2016 alleging: (1) perjury of the State's witnesses at trial; (2) prosecutorial, judicial, and juror misconduct at trial; and (3) ineffective assistance of appellate counsel for "failure to appeal any of the above issues." Generally, Donald argued his appellate counsel was ineffective in failing to raise on direct appeal the issues asserted in his motion for a new trial following his conviction, one of which was a weight-of-the-evidence claim.

         Following a hearing, the district court denied Donald's application, concluding none of "the claims he sought to raise on appeal had any merit." As noted, Donald appeals.

         II. Standard of Review

         Appellate review of PCR proceedings is typically for correction of errors at law, but where a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel is forwarded, our review is de novo. See Diaz v. State, 896 N.W.2d 723, 727 (Iowa 2017). Donald must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that (1) his appellate counsel failed to perform an essential duty and (2) prejudice resulted. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984); State v. Lopez, 907 N.W.2d 112, 116 (Iowa 2018). We "may consider either the prejudice prong or breach of duty first, and failure to find either one will preclude relief." State v. McNeal, 897 N.W.2d 697, 703 (Iowa 2017) (quoting State v. Lopez, 872 N.W.2d ...


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