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Mablin v. State

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 11, 2019

BENAIAH MABLIN, Applicant-Appellee,
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Clinton County, John D. Telleen, Judge.

         The State appeals the district court's grant of postconviction relief to Benaiah Mablin.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Timothy M. Hau, Assistant Attorney General, for appellant State.

          John J. Wolfe, Clinton, for appellee.

          Considered by Mullins, P.J., Bower, J., and Vogel, S.J. [*]

          BOWER, JUDGE.

         The State seeks reversal of the district court's ruling granting postconviction relief (PCR) to Benaiah Mablin on the ground the court failed to properly analyze the ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims. Because we conclude Mablin has failed to prove the requisite prejudice, we reverse the district court and remand for dismissal of the PCR application.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         On December 13, 2007, at 5:02:57 p.m., a 9-1-1 caller reported finding blood in the building elevator leading to an apartment (Apartment #3) where neighbors found a bloody body after the resident's child opened the door for them. Officers were dispatched to the apartment, found Sandra Chambers-Singh dead, and took statements from the neighbors.

         Neighbors Jeff Howard and Shelia Grant informed the officers they believed Chambers-Singh was selling or using crack cocaine. Howard also told the officers to speak with the tenants of Apartment #1 because they were friends with Chambers-Singh. Howard also informed the officers he had seen the male tenant who lived in Apartment #1, Corey Campbell, knock on Chambers-Singh's door earlier in the day around 1:00 or 2:00 p.m. Another neighbor, Janet Domer, informed police that if Chambers-Singh was dead then "either C-Note or Ren killed her." C-Note-Carley Campbell Sr.-was Corey Campell's uncle. Ren-Lorenzo Dodd-was Chambers-Singh's ex-boyfriend.

         An officer interviewed Ginger Noble, who stated that at about 4:00 p.m. on December 13, she entered the elevator on the second floor of the apartment building and encountered a black male bleeding from his facial area. She stated the black male was approximately six feet tall, wore a red stocking cap, and a blue "puffy" winter coat.

         Corey Campbell gave a statement to Officer Michael Adney, whose report provides, in part:

On 12/13/07, I interviewed Corey Campbell at . . . Apartment #1. Corey told me he lived with his grandmother in that apartment since October 2007.
Corey told he left the apartment at 1700 hrs. Corey said he got back to his apartment somewhere between 1730 and 1800 hrs. He said he went out to get his hair braided, but did not find anyone to braid it.
I asked Corey if he knew who lived in apartment #3. He said a black girl named "Sandra". He said he knew Sandra since about December 2006. He met her through a girl named "Jasmine", Corey Campbell's uncle Carley Campbell's girlfriend.
I asked Corey Campbell if he heard any yelling or noises. Corey said between 1630 and 1640 hrs., he heard arguing and went to his apartment door. The yelling came from Sandra's apartment, so he knocked on her door. Corey said he knocked on Sandra's Apartment, #3, between 1640 or 1650 hrs. He felt unsure on the time. When he knocked on the door, Sandra's son . . . opened the door. Corey saw Sandra sitting on her bed in the bedroom, crying. Corey said he walked in the apartment and stood by the refrigerator while he spoke with Sandra. Corey said he did not see anyone else in the room at the time and did not see any blood. Sandra told Corey she was fine. Corey left.
Corey said he returned between 1730 and 1800 hrs. As he passed by #3, he knocked on the apartment and no one answered, so he assumed no one remained in the apartment.
I asked Corey if he knew if Chambers-Singh owned a vehicle. Corey said she drove a white or tannish minivan.

         Carley Campell Jr. (son of Carley Campbell Sr.) was interviewed by Officer Dannie Howard at about 7:45 p.m. Carley stated he arrived at Apartment #1 at about 5:00 p.m. and used the stairs to get to the second floor. He stated he did not remember seeing anyone in the hallway or the stairway when he arrived. He told the officer he visited with Corey and another person and, when he was leaving at about 6:08 p.m., police asked him to remain in the apartment. Carley stated he had not seen Chambers-Singh on December 13.

         Meanwhile, at 5:03 p.m., Officer Dan Sager was dispatched to a hospital to investigate a man who claimed to have been assaulted. Officer Sager met the man, Mablin. In his report, Officer Sager notes:

Mablin said he was an informant for the police department, which I knew from previous encounters. He told me, he was out near the railroad tracks by Hy-Vee on 11th Avenue South and 4th Street and said he was picked up in a gray Cadillac and was going to purchase some cocaine from a guy he knew as "B."
Mablin said he got into the car, sat in the rear passenger seat, was told to get out and get up in the front driver's side. Mablin said at this point, they drove under an underpass, under the tracks. He said it was out past Hy-Vee, going into south Clinton. He told me once they made it under the under pass, they took an immediate left and then took another immediate left into a curve. He said they drove slowly back here. He said the driver was on the cell phone the whole time and the subject he knew as "B" was calling him a "snitch", calling him a "cop" and said "F him up like this". Mablin told me at this point he was in fear of his safety as they were going into an area he wasn't familiar with in Clinton.
Mablin said the driver grabbed at his arm. I asked which arm and he said it was the left. I did not see any marks on his arm. He then said somebody grabbed his neck. Mablin then opened up the passenger side door and he told me he rolled out. I asked him how he got the marks on his face and the cut on his hand. He said he did not know.

         Mablin told Officer Sager he had $347 with him and had given it to one of the people in the car because he was going to buy crack. The officer "asked if it was okay if l could take his clothes with me as they were part of the assault scene and I thought there may be blood on from the suspects on the clothes." Mablin agreed, and Officer Sager "placed them into some bags I had from the hospital and took them to my squad car."

         Mablin's aunt, Sharon Holmes, had accompanied Mablin to the hospital and told Officer Sager that Mablin arrived at her home at 4:30 p.m. and was bloody. Mablin told her he was in a car with some people, had some money taken, and was pushed out of the car. Holmes said that when Mablin entered he asked to wash his clothes, which included a blue "puffy" winter coat, an orange swimsuit, tan pants, blue polo shirt, underwear, and a pair of socks. Holmes gave Mablin clothes to wear and took him to the hospital.

         Mablin was taken to get x-rays. While Officer Sager was in the waiting room, he received a call from Officer Dean Ottens, "telling me Mablin may be involved in an incident on South 3rd Street."

         Officer Brian Pohl arrived at the hospital about 7:30 p.m. and spoke with Mablin's aunt. Holmes told Officer Pohl that Mablin arrived at her house about 4:30 p.m. and she saw that his left hand was bleeding. He was wearing brown pants and a "black puffy coat." Mablin asked if he could wash his clothes and he "put all his clothes in the washing machine" and started it. Holmes gave Mablin some of his uncle's clothes (Leon Holmes) to put on and then drove him to the emergency room.

         Officer Pohl spoke with Mablin:

I went in to speak with Mablin. I noticed his left [hand] wrapped and a significant amount of blood on the bed sheet, underneath his left hand. I asked Mablin what happened. He stated he got robbed. Mablin indicated he left work from Wal-Mart around 0100 hours on 12/13/07. He walked to Leon Holmes' house, knocked, but nobody answered the door. He ended up with Charles LNU, whom he described as a black male living somewhere off Bluff. Mablin indicated he partied with Charles for a period of time. He received his wages from Wal-Mart on 12/13/07.
Mablin stated the next morning, sometime after he woke up, he walked toward the bread store, down 4th Street, and located "B", driving a silver or gray Cadillac. Mablin indicated he got in with "B", in the front seat. Mablin stated he planned to purchase crack cocaine from "B". Mablin stated two other people sat in the back seat. Mablin indicated they drove around for a short period. "B" drove the vehicle and started accusing of him of being a "narc". Mablin indicated they started fighting, took his billfold, and took the money out of it. Mablin indicated he opened the passenger door and jumped out of the vehicle. In the process, Mablin cut his hand on the door. This happened near the Dairy Queen on Camanche Avenue.

         Angel, who described herself as a former crack addict, approached Officer Pohl at the hospital and stated she knew Mablin, knew he got off work at about 1:00 a.m., and knew he did not show up at the Victory Center after work on December 13. She told the officer she knew "B" or "Big Lord," his real name was Flinda, and he drove a gray colored Cadillac.

         Officer Pohl's report indicates, "I asked Mablin to come down to the police department. I asked if his aunt or uncle could give him a ride. He agreed to go, if they gave him a ride." Leon Holmes agreed to give Mablin a ride, and Sharon informed Officer Pohl she was taking her two small children home. Officer Pohl told Officer Sager to take Sharon Holmes back to her residence and asked Holmes "not to disturb any of Mablin's clothing or blood." Officer Pohl spoke again with Mablin, informed him "Leon planned to bring him to the police department. He agreed to come."

         Officer Pohl's report indicates he remained at the emergency room until Mablin's release and "Mablin got into Leon's vehicle." Officer Pohl arrived at the police station at "2044 hours."

         Mablin and his uncle drove to the police station to provide Mablin's statement about the robbery. Officers Pohl and Department of Criminal Investigations Special Agent Matt George were instructed by their superior to speak with Mablin. A partial transcript of the interview is provided, though the transcriber begins with the caveat, "The first 23:04 minutes of the recording are ...

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