from the Iowa District Court for Pottawattamie County, Duane
E. Hoffmeyer, Judge.
applicant appeals the denial of his application for
D. Nerenstone, Council Bluffs, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Bridget A. Chambers,
Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.
Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Bower and McDonald, JJ.
POTTERFIELD, Presiding Judge.
Wheeldon appeals from the denial of his application for
postconviction relief (PCR).
2002, Wheeldon was charged with murder in the first degree,
attempted murder, and willful injury. He later filed a notice
of defense, stating he intended to rely on the defense of
insanity and listing the doctor he intended to call in
support of that defense.
October 31, a hearing was held on the issue of Wheeldon's
competency. The parties submitted written records, including
reports of evaluations from three mental-health experts. One
of the experts, Dr. Bruce Gutnik, who evaluated Wheeldon on
August 23 and August 29, diagnosed Wheeldon with
Schizoaffective Disorder and opined that Wheeldon was not
competent to stand trial. The doctor based this, in part, on
Wheeldon's symptoms of psychosis and auditory
hallucinations. The other two experts, Dr. Y Scott Moore-who
evaluated Wheeldon on October 25-and Dr. Mario J. Scalora-who
evaluated Wheeldon on September 6 and October 25-opined that
Wheeldon was competent to stand trial. Dr. Scalora stated:
While Mr. Wheeldon's mental condition would place him at
a higher risk for decompensation when under stress, Mr.
Wheeldon's improved mental status with recent changes in
medication as well as his self-report suggests that he
presents with the requisite skills to manage potential
stressors if he remains medication compliant. . . . His
mental functioning has improved significantly during the
course of this evaluation.
the district court issued a ruling on Wheeldon's
competency, Wheeldon accepted a plea agreement and entered
guilty pleas to murder in the second degree and attempted
colloquy with Wheeldon, including discussion of his
mental-health history and the fact that one doctor did not
believe he was competent to stand trial, the court accepted
Wheeldon's guilty pleas. The same day, the court
sentenced Wheeldon to a fifty-year term of incarceration and
a twenty-five-year term; the court ordered Wheeldon to serve
the two sentences consecutively. Wheeldon did not file a
in December 2011, Wheeldon filed his first application for
PCR, in which he argued he was incompetent at the time of the
plea and sentencing hearing. The State resisted
Wheeldon's application, arguing it was time-barred due to
the statute of limitations. See Iowa Code §
822.3 (2011) ("All other applications must be filed
within three years from the date the conviction or decision
is final . . . ."). The PCR court granted the
State's motion for summary disposition, and Wheeldon
appealed. A panel of our court recognized, "If Wheeldon
were incompetent at the time of his plea and sentencing, and
for a period of years thereafter, he would not have been
aware of his incompetency until after the statute had
limitations had passed." Wheeldon v. State, No.
12-0598, 2013 WL 2107300, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App. May 15, 2013).
The court determined Wheeldon had provided sufficient
evidence that "a question of material fact exists as to
whether [he] was incompetent and could not have been alerted
to the question in a timely manner." Id. The
court reversed the PCR court's summary disposition of the
application and remanded for an evidentiary hearing on the
merits of the application. Id.
evidentiary hearing took place in August 2017. In the PCR
court's written ruling, it found that Wheeldon had not
proved he was incompetent at the time of his plea,
sentencing, or during the subsequent three-year period for
filing his PCR application. In other words, the court found
Wheeldon had failed to establish the application could not
have been filed within three years of the date of ...