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Hiatt v. State

Court of Appeals of Iowa

November 21, 2018

MARTIN RAY HIATT, Applicant-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Pottawattamie County, Richard H. Davidson, Judge.

         Applicant appeals the district court's denial of his application seeking postconviction relief from his convictions of three counts of second-degree sexual abuse and four counts of indecent contact with a child.

          Martin R. Hiatt, Fort Dodge, pro se appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Louis S. Sloven, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., Potterfield, J., and Scott, S.J. [*]

          SCOTT, SENIOR JUDGE.

         Martin Hiatt appeals the district court's denial of his application seeking postconviction relief from his convictions of three counts of second-degree sexual abuse and four counts of indecent contact with a child. Hiatt has not shown he received ineffective assistance of counsel or provided any other basis to support his request for postconviction relief. We affirm the district court's decision denying Hiatt's application for postconviction relief.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings

         Hiatt was convicted of three counts of sexual abuse in the second degree, in violation of Iowa Code sections 709.1(3) and 709.3(2) (2011), and four counts of indecent contact with a child, in violation of section 709.12(2). His convictions were affirmed on appeal. State v. Hiatt, No. 12-0555, 2013 WL 1749917, at *6 (Iowa Ct. App. Apr. 24, 2013). We rejected Hiatt's claim he was entitled to a new trial due to the district court's failure to sequester certain witnesses. Id. at *3‒4. We concluded he had not preserved error on his claim the court improperly responded to a question by the jury. Id. at *4‒5. Additionally, we found Hiatt failed to show he received ineffective assistance because defense counsel did not object when the court failed to administer an oath to a witness or based on the prosecutor's closing argument. Id. at *5‒6.

         Hiatt filed an application for postconviction relief, claiming he received ineffective assistance because defense counsel did not object to: (1) the court's failure to administer the oath to a witness; (2) an improper closing argument by the prosecutor; (3) the court's process of sequestering witnesses; and (4) the court's response to a jury question. The district court found the first three issues had already been decided adversely to Hiatt on direct appeal and he was barred from relitigating these issues in his application for postconviction relief. On the fourth claim, the district court determined Hiatt was not entitled to relief, stating, "Considering the totality of the circumstances, Hiatt has failed to show that the court's instruction coerced the jury to reach a unanimous agreement to convict him on any of the three counts of sexual abuse in the second degree or the four counts of indecent contact with a child." Hiatt appeals the district court's decision.

         II. Ineffective Assistance

         We conduct a de novo review of claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. State v. Maxwell, 743 N.W.2d 185, 195 (Iowa 2008). To establish a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, an applicant must prove (1) counsel failed to perform an essential duty and (2) prejudice resulted to the extent it denied the defendant a fair trial. Id. An applicant's failure to prove either element by a preponderance of the evidence is fatal to a claim of ineffective assistance. State v. Polly, 657 N.W.2d 462, 465 (Iowa 2003).

         A. Hiatt claimed he received ineffective assistance because defense counsel did not properly object when the trial court failed to administer the oath to a witness, when the prosecutor made an improper closing argument, or to the court's process of sequestering witnesses. These issues were decided in Hiatt's direct appeal and cannot be raised in this postconviction action. See Holmes v. State, 775 N.W.2d 733, 735 (Iowa Ct. App. 2009) ("Our decision on direct appeal is thus final as to all issues decided therein, and is binding upon both the postconviction court and this court in subsequent appeals."). A party may not relitigate issues decided in a direct appeal. Id. Therefore, we do not further address these issues.

         B. Hiatt claims he received ineffective assistance because defense counsel did not object to the trial court's response to a jury question.[1] On the second day of deliberations, the jury advised the court they were unable to reach a unanimous verdict on each count. Outside ...


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