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Murray v. State

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 12, 2018

AUSTIN LEE MURRAY, Applicant-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Story County, John J. Haney, Judge.

         Austin Murray appeals the summary dismissal of his application for postconviction relief.

          Christopher A. Clausen of Clausen Law Office, Ames, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Thomas E. Bakke, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., Mullins, J., and Mahan, S.J. [*]

          MAHAN, Senior Judge.

         Austin Murray appeals the summary dismissal of his application for postconviction relief (PCR). Murray's application challenges the imposition of lifetime parole and lifetime placement on the sex-offender registry upon his guilty plea to one count of lascivious acts with a child, in violation of Iowa Code section 709.8(1) (2015).

         Generally PCR proceedings are reviewed for legal error. Harrington v. State, 659 N.W.2d 509, 519 (Iowa 2003). However, when constitutional deficiencies are alleged, our review is de novo. Id.; see also Bonilla v. State, 791 N.W.2d 697, 699 (Iowa 2010).

         A PCR court may summarily dismiss an applicant's application pursuant to Iowa Code section 822.6. The dismissal procedure is similar to those set out in our rules of civil procedure. See State v. Manning, 654 N.W.2d 555, 559-60 (Iowa 2002). "Therefore, the principles underlying summary judgment procedure apply to motions of either party for disposition of an application for postconviction relief without a trial on the merits." Id. at 560. Summary dismissal is limited to disputes regarding "the legal consequences of undisputed facts." Wallace v. Des Moines Indep. Cmty. Sch. Dist., 754 N.W.2d 854, 857 (Iowa 2008); see also Iowa Code § 822.6 (permitting the PCR court to grant a party's motion for summary disposition when "there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law").

         Murray was sentenced to a ten-year term of incarceration upon his guilty plea to one count of lascivious acts with a child, in violation of Iowa Code section 709.8(1). As statutorily required, he was also subject to a special sentence committing him into the custody of the director of the division of adult corrections for the rest of his life, with eligibility for parole, pursuant to Iowa Code sections 901.5(13) and 903B.1. This special sentence will commence upon Murray's completion of his ten-year term of incarceration. Finally, the sentencing court required Murray register as a sex offender for a period equal to his special sentence, pursuant to Iowa Code section 692A.106. Murray directly appealed his sentence, contending the sentencing court did not make individualized findings and abused its discretion when sentencing him to ten years imprisonment. See State v. Murray, No. 16-0406, 2017 WL 362599, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. Jan. 25, 2017). This court affirmed his sentence. Id. Procedendo issued on March 22, 2017.

         Acting pro se, Murray filed his application for PCR alleging constitutional violations and claiming his sentence exceeded the maximum authorized by law. He also asserted: "I do not [believe] I should be treated like a person with multiple different cases." His application requested dismissal of his special sentence and sex-offender-registry requirements. PCR counsel was appointed, but no amended application or supporting authority was filed.

         The State moved for summary dismissal of Murray's application. The PCR court held a hearing on the motion roughly three months later. At the hearing, Murray's counsel argued the imposed sentences amounted to cruel and unusual punishment and violated Murray's right to due process. He also contended he should be given more time to provide evidence and fully brief an argument in support of Murray's claims.

         The PCR court concluded State v. Graham, 897 N.W.2d 476, 491 (Iowa 2017) (declining to declare lifetime parole and offender registration cruel and unusual as applied to juvenile offenders), foreclosed Murray's cruel and unusual claims because, as an adult offender, he is afforded fewer safeguards than juveniles subject to the same sentences. It disposed of his due-process claim by noting Iowa Code section 692A.128 provides a means to request relief and the imposition of registration requirements at sentencing is not a due process violation. See State v. Cox, No.16-0102, 2017 WL 4317289, at *6-8 (Iowa Ct. App. Sept. 27, 2017). The court also concluded Murray's claims are not yet ripe for consideration. See id. at *6. Finally, it noted Murray did not claim trial or appellate counsel provided ineffective assistance and Murray failed to provide a sufficient reason why he failed to bring his claims on direct appeal. The court granted the State's motion for summary dismissal, and Murray appeals.

         On appeal, Murray argues the court erred in granting summary dismissal without first providing Murray an opportunity to develop the record and amend his petition as needed. He also argues his PCR trial counsel provided ineffective assistance for failing to seek discovery, evaluate and amend the pro ...


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