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Williams v. Spersflage

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Cedar Rapids Division

May 15, 2019



          Leonard T. Strand, Chief Judge


         This case is before me on petitioner Dwayne Williams' petition (Doc. No. 1) for writ of habeas corpus. Both parties have filed merits briefs (Doc. Nos. 40, 45) and Williams has supplemented his brief (Doc. Nos. 41, 42, 46). Oral argument is not necessary. N.D. Iowa L.R. 7(c).


         The Iowa Court of Appeals summarized the facts of Williams' conviction as follows:

At about 10:50 p.m. on January 25, 2009, Michael Ohlenkamp went to the Kwik Star gas station on Franklin Street in Waterloo to buy some groceries. When Ohlenkamp went into the store, he left his vehicle unlocked with the engine running. As Ohlenkamp was inside, video surveillance from the gas station shows a person wearing a black coat with an unfastened belt hanging from it, a white hooded sweatshirt, dark pants, white tennis shoes, and a dark baseball cap open the passenger door to Ohlenkamp's two-door vehicle and get into the backseat.
After purchasing his items, Ohlenkamp returned to his car and began to drive home. As Ohlenkamp exited the gas station parking lot, the person in his backseat grabbed his hair, pulled his head back, and held a knife to his throat. Ohlenkamp attempted to grab the knife, but the knife was tightened against his throat and a male voice told him to let go or he would be killed. The man then demanded money, to which Ohlenkamp replied that he did not have any.
Ohlenkamp was instructed to pull into a Kum & Go gas station approximately five to six blocks down Franklin Street. Ohlenkamp did and parked in front of the store. The man demanded Ohlenkamp's change. Ohlenkamp complied and grabbed “a couple bucks” in coins from his pockets. As Ohlenkamp handed the change to the man in the back seat, some of the coins fell onto the floor. When the man let go of Ohlenkamp's hair to pick up the coins, Ohlenkamp exited his vehicle, shut the door, and stood by the driver's side door watching the man. After the man picked up the coins, he exited from the vehicle's passenger side. Ohlenkamp looked directly at the man for a few seconds and was able to see him “perfectly clear, ” before the man flipped his white hood over his head and calmly walked away.
Lori Snyder, the Kum & Go sales manager, noticed something was wrong as soon as she saw Ohlenkamp park his vehicle. She could see Ohlenkamp leaning back toward the backseat and suspected that someone else was in the car. She called 911 at 10:56 p.m. As Snyder was speaking with the 911 dispatcher, she walked out of the store. At this time, Ohlenkamp was exiting his vehicle followed by another person crawling out of the backseat through the passenger side door. Although Snyder did not see the face of the person crawling from the backseat, she did observe that the person was a tall and skinny black male wearing a black jacket with a white hooded sweatshirt pulled over his head. Snyder watched the man nonchalantly walk around the west side of the store.
As Snyder continued to speak with the dispatcher, others were able to flag down a police officer driving by. The officer was given a description of the man, which was broadcasted as a black male wearing a white hooded sweatshirt. The officer was also pointed in the direction that the man fled.
At 10:58 p.m., approximately three blocks away from the Kum & Go gas station, police saw a man fitting the suspect's description walking down the street by himself. The police turned a spotlight on him and ordered the man to show his hands and get on the ground, but the man ignored them and continued to walk. The officers then noticed the man fidgeting with something in his pockets. When the police officers yelled for a second time, the man stopped and fell into a snow bank with his hands pushed into the snow underneath him. The man was handcuffed and identified as Williams. After Williams was placed into the back of a squad car, officers discovered a knife buried in the snow bank.
At 11:07 p.m., the officers returned Williams to the Kum & Go to see if Ohlenkamp or Snyder could make an identification. As they drove back to the gas station, Williams shook the baseball cap from his head.
At 11:08 pm, Williams was removed from the squad car in handcuffs and his baseball cap was returned to his head. Williams stood by the gas pumps under the lighting of the canopy, while Ohlenkamp and Snyder stood inside the gas station's front doors. As Williams stood by the pumps, his hood was put over his head. Ohlenkamp identified Williams as the robber and told the police that he was positive. Snyder confirmed that Williams' clothing and build was “a perfect match” to the robber. Ohlenkamp and Snyder were later taken to the police station where they provided written statements.
At the police station, Williams's clothing was seized. He was wearing a black leather coat with a missing belt, a dark baseball cap with a white star on the front of it, a white hooded sweatshirt, dark jeans, and white tennis shoes. Williams was also found with $ 2.15 in coins on his person.
Weeks after the incident, Ohlenkamp discovered a black belt on the floor of the back seat of his vehicle. The belt did not belong to him, and no one had been in his car since the incident. Ohlenkamp believed the belt belonged to the robber, so he took it to the police. The belt matched Williams' black coat, and pictures from the night of the incident confirmed that it was in Ohlenkamp's vehicle at that time.

State v. Williams, No. 10-1254, 2011 WL 5394366, at *1-3 (Iowa Ct. App. Nov. 9, 2011).


         A. State Proceedings

         Williams was charged by trial information on February 5, 2009, with one count of robbery in the first degree in violation of Iowa Code § 711.2. Id. at *3. During trial, the victim identified Williams as the robber and stated, “I am one hundred percent positive that's him.” Id. In his defense, Williams presented testimony from Otto MacLin, an associate professor in the psychology department at the University of Northern Iowa. Id. MacLin testified to the procedures normally used to ensure positive identifications but did not offer an opinion as to whether the identification procedures used in Williams' case conformed with the standards. Id. The jury returned a guilty verdict. Id. Williams was sentenced to 25 years' imprisonment and, under Iowa law, must serve at least 70 percent of that sentence. Id.

         On direct appeal, Williams argued that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to file a motion to suppress based on the allegedly-flawed identification procedures. Id. at *1. The Iowa Court of Appeals denied Williams' claim on the basis that he could not establish the “prejudice” element, given the independent evidence that corroborated the identification. Id. at *4. Williams timely filed an application for further review with the Iowa Supreme Court, which was denied on February 3, 2012.

         Williams filed a state postconviction relief (PCR) action on August 7, 2012. Williams had issues with his counsel during this case. His first appointed attorney was removed after Williams asserted that they had a breakdown in communication and counsel informed the court that she had a potential conflict of interest. Doc. No. 22-5; Doc. No. 22-7; Doc. No. 22-8. Williams filed a motion to remove his second appointed counsel after an apparent disagreement over the merits of some of Williams' PCR claims. Doc. No. 22-9. This motion was denied. Doc. No. 22-10. Williams then filed a motion to void the first order removing his first appointed attorney. Doc. No. 22-11. This was denied. The second appointed attorney does not appear to have filed anything substantive on Williams' behalf. The PCR petition was summarily dismissed September 18, 2013, for failing to state a claim. While Williams alleged that the trial court violated his rights by allowing him to represent himself, the record demonstrated that he was represented by counsel during his trial. Doc. No. 22-16.

         Williams filed a second PCR petition on February 4, 2014. He argued that his conviction was invalid because (1) he was present at a preliminary hearing without the assistance of counsel, (2) the trial information was not properly signed or approved by a judge, (3) the state failed to formally arraign him, (4) the clerk's office failed to provide transcripts of pre-trial hearings, (5), the state violated his right to a speedy indictment, (6) the state violated his right to a speedy trial, (7) the clerk's office, judges, and prosecuting attorney committed misconduct by falsifying documents in the court trial, (8) the Iowa court did not have jurisdiction over his trial, and (9) his trial, appellate, and first PCR counsel were ineffective. After a hearing, the Iowa District Court denied the second PCR petition. Doc. No. 23-37. Specifically, the court found that the first eight grounds lacked factual support in the record and that Williams failed to establish that his trial and appellate counsel breached an essential duty in failing to object as to any ...

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