DANIEL J. DAWSON, Applicant-Appellant,
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee.
from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Henry W.
Latham II, Judge.
applicant appeals from the denial of his application for
postconviction relief challenging his convictions for murder
in the second degree; assault with intent to inflict serious
injury; and domestic abuse assault, second offense.
Hurd of Greenberg & Hurd, LLP, Des Moines, for appellant.
Dawson, Anamosa, pro se.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Timothy M. Hau, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ.
POTTERFIELD, PRESIDING JUDGE.
Dawson appeals from the denial of his application for
postconviction relief (PCR) challenging his convictions for
murder in the second degree; assault with intent to inflict
serious injury; and domestic abuse assault, second offense.
On appeal, Dawson argues for the first time that his trial
counsel provided ineffective assistance by failing to move
for a mistrial during closing arguments based on
prosecutorial error; Dawson maintains all counsel since his
first have been ineffective in failing to raise the issue
sooner. Dawson raises an additional sixteen claims without
the assistance of counsel; we address each one below.
Background Facts and Proceedings.
2005, Dawson was charged with murder in the first degree;
willful injury; and domestic abuse assault, third offense.
All three charges were based on allegations Dawson beat and
stabbed Debra Mead to death in their home in Davenport in
August 2005. Dawson pleaded not guilty and filed notices of a
self-defense and an intoxication defense.
trial, Dawson did not deny that he assaulted and then stabbed
Mead nor that Mead died as a result of the stab wound. Dawson
testified in his own defense that he was angry at Mead for
calling his parents while she was drinking, so he hit her in
the face and kicked her a few times. Mead then got up from
the ground, and Dawson followed her into the kitchen. While
in the kitchen, Dawson noticed Mead was reaching for a large
knife, so he grabbed it first, and the two struggled over the
knife before he stabbed her in the chest.
called 911, and a recording of the phone call was played for
the jury. During the call, Dawson states, "Deb and I got
into a [inaudible] fight for the last time" and,
"She's pretty much dead," before disconnecting
the call. Additionally, the dashboard cameras of some of the
responding police officers recorded the scene outside of
Dawson's and Mead's home as officers arrived and
secured Dawson. In a video that was shown to the jury, Dawson
can be heard saying, unprompted: "Oh, she's
dead"; "I stabbed her"; "I got tired of
getting threatened by her for the last few years";
"No, she'd dead now"; "Fucking bitch
ain't threatening me no more"; and "Her
psychologist can't save her from this one."
police officers found Mead lying on the kitchen floor with a
knife protruding from her chest; Mead died en route to the
hospital. The medical examiner's report indicates Mead
suffered multiple blunt trauma injuries, multiple stab
wounds, and died as a result of a stab wound to the chest.
Dawson was only noted to have one injury-a chunk of skin
missing from one knuckle.
the State rested, Dawson moved for judgment of acquittal
regarding the charge of domestic abuse assault, third
offense, as his first conviction for domestic abuse assault
was too old to qualify as a previous offense. The court
granted the State's motion to proceed with the charge of
domestic abuse assault, second offense.
jury returned verdicts finding Dawson guilty of the
lesser-included offenses of murder in the second degree and
assault with intent to inflict serious injury, which the
district court determined merged. Dawson was sentenced to a
term of incarceration not to exceed fifty years for the
murder conviction. The jury also found Dawson guilty of
domestic abuse assault, and Dawson stipulated to his previous
qualifying conviction; he was sentenced to an additional
two-year term and ordered to serve the sentences
filed a direct appeal of his conviction, alleging he received
ineffective assistance from trial counsel in a number of
ways. The supreme court transferred the appeal to us, and a
panel of our court affirmed Dawson's convictions, ruling,
"Dawson's ineffective assistance of counsel claims
fail because he cannot establish the requisite prejudice. The
evidence against Dawson is fairly characterized as
overwhelming." State v. Dawson, No. 06-0390,
2007 WL 1202384, at *3 (Iowa Ct. App. Apr. 25, 2007).
filed his first application for PCR in 2007 and amended his
application five times before it came on for hearing in
August 2017. The PCR court denied the application in its
Standard of Review.
generally review an appeal from a denial of a PCR application
for correction of errors at law. Goode v. State, 920
N.W.2d 520, 523 (Iowa 2018). However, when the applicant
claims ineffective assistance, because such are
constitutional in nature, our review is de novo. Ledezma
v. State, 626 N.W.2d 134, 141 (Iowa 2001).
raises seventeen unique claims on appeal. He purports to
raise each claim under the ineffective-assistance framework.
In order to succeed on a claim of ineffective assistance,
Dawson has the burden to prove "(1) counsel failed to
perform an essential duty, and (2) prejudice resulted."
State v. Clay, 824 N.W.2d 488, 495 (Iowa 2012);
see also Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687
(1984). Both elements must be proved by a preponderance of
the evidence. Ledezma, 626 N.W.2d at 142. However,
we need not consider each element, as Dawson's inability
to prove either element is fatal. See id.
Prosecutorial Misconduct. Dawson maintains his trial
counsel was ineffective for failing to object to instances of
prosecutorial error during closing arguments in his trial. He
argues the error was so significant as to deprive him of his
right to a fair trial and asks that we remand for new trial.
See State v. Graves, 668 N.W.2d 860, 869 (Iowa 2003)
(providing a new trial is the proper remedy for prosecutorial
error that results in the denial of a fair trial).
lists several statements by the prosecutor that Dawson
believes constitute error. He generally sorts them into two
categories: statements questioning Dawson's ...