from the Iowa District Court for Pottawattamie County,
Richard H. Davidson, Judge.
postconviction applicant appeals the district court order
denying relief on his multiple felony convictions.
S. Munnelly of Munnelly Law Office, Omaha, Nebraska, for
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Tyler J. Buller, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Vogel and Tabor, JJ.
Armstrong is serving a prison sentence not to exceed
twenty-five years after a jury convicted him of multiple
offenses for his part in a violent home invasion. He now
appeals the district court's denial of postconviction
relief (PCR). He raises several claims of ineffective
assistance of counsel, contending his criminal trial attorney
should have (1) objected to the admission of cell phone
records and a black bandana bearing his DNA, (2) challenged
the State's process for obtaining his DNA, (3) refrained
from impeaching his own client, (4) produced an alibi witness
at the criminal trial, and (5) called out prosecutorial
misconduct. Armstrong also alleges he received ineffective
assistance of appellate counsel on direct appeal. Finally, he
claims he suffered prejudice from the cumulative impact of
counsel's errors. Because Armstrong cannot show a
reasonable probability of a different outcome even if counsel
had followed the playlist developed in the PCR application,
we affirm the order denying relief.
Facts and Prior Proceedings
jury reached its guilty verdicts after the following
presentation of the facts. In the early morning hours of July
21, 2011, Armstrong and two accomplices, Alonzo Murray and
Spencer Scott, broke into a Council Bluffs home looking for
money or marijuana. According to Murray's testimony for
the State, Armstrong and Scott covered their faces with
bandanas. The intruders ordered four of the home's seven
occupants out of their bedrooms at gunpoint and
"pistol-whipped" a fifth victim. One occupant
managed to escape and call 911 before returning to the house
with a hammer to confront the assailants. The three intruders
fled from the house, and Scott fired at an occupant as they
left. A few blocks away, police arrested Murray-seizing his
gun and cell phone. Murray identified Armstrong and Scott as
his accomplices in the home invasion.
State charged Armstrong with attempted murder, six counts of
kidnapping in the second degree, six counts of robbery in the
first degree, burglary in the first degree, and carrying
weapons. Armstrong filed an alibi defense. But at trial, his
alibi witness, Justine Dubois, failed to appear. Armstrong
testified in his own defense, telling the jury he was with
his girlfriend, Dubois, and not at the break-in.
January 6, 2012, the jury returned guilty verdicts on
first-degree burglary, first-degree robbery, five counts of
kidnapping in the third degree, carrying weapons, and assault
with intent to inflict serious injury (a lesser included
offense of attempted murder). On direct appeal, our court
affirmed Armstrong's convictions for burglary, robbery,
carrying weapons, and assault with intent.
Armstrong, 2013 WL 2107400, at *1. We reversed his
kidnapping convictions based on his trial counsel's
failure to object to a faulty jury instruction and remanded
for retrial on those five counts. Id. On remand, the
State dismissed the kidnapping counts.
February 2014, Armstrong filed his PCR application, alleging
ineffective assistance of both trial and direct appeal
counsel. The district court denied relief. Armstrong now
Scope and Standards of Review
generally review PCR proceedings for correction of legal
error. Lamasters v. State, 821 N.W.2d 856, 862 (Iowa
2012). But when the application alleges ineffective
assistance of counsel, our review is de novo. Allison v.
State, 914 N.W.2d 866, 870 (Iowa 2018).
Ineffective Assistance of Trial Counsel
PCR applicant, Armstrong must show, by a preponderance of the
evidence, trial counsel breached an essential duty and
prejudice resulted. See Strickland v. Washington,
466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984); Lamasters, 821 N.W.2d at
866. We will affirm the district court's PCR denial if
either prong is unsatisfied. Anfinson v. State, 758
N.W.2d 496, 499 (Iowa 2008).
breach-of-duty prong, we presume trial counsel was competent,
and Armstrong bears the burden of proving the representation
fell below "prevailing professional norms." See
Lamasters, 821 N.W.2d at 866. Miscalculated trial
strategies or simple mistakes in judgment generally do not
rise to the level of ineffective assistance of counsel.
Id. On the prejudice prong, Armstrong must
demonstrate a different outcome would have been reasonably
probable but for counsel's errors. See id. A
reasonable probability is sufficient to undermine our
confidence in the outcome. Strickland, 466 U.S. at
694. If Armstrong can only show the errors
"conceivably" influenced the bottom line, the
standard is not met. See id.
Cell Phone Records ...