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Fountain v. State

Court of Appeals of Iowa

October 23, 2019

EURIC ABRAY FOUNTAIN, Applicant-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Jeanie Vaudt, Judge.

         Euric Fountain appeals the summary disposition of his seventh application for postconviction relief. AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART, AND REMANDED.

          R. Ben Stone of Parrish Kruidenier Dunn Boles Gribble Gentry Brown & Bergmann, LLP, Des Moines, for appellant.

          Euric Fountain, Fort Madison, pro se appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Martha E. Trout, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

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

          MULLINS, JUDGE.

         Euric Fountain appeals the summary disposition of his seventh[1] application for postconviction relief (PCR). The primary issue we consider on appeal is whether the district court erred in concluding Fountain's application was barred by the three-year statute of limitations contained in Iowa Code section 822.3 (2017) because the information presented by Fountain did not amount to newly discovered evidence.[2]

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         The record, when viewed in the light most favorable to Fountain and affording him all legitimate inferences, discloses the following. Fountain and two other men, William Ridley and Will Howard, were charged with first-degree murder in relation to the 1987 death of Theodore Wilt. A jury found Fountain guilty of first-degree murder, Howard was separately convicted, and Ridley pled guilty to a charge of second-degree murder.[3] This court affirmed Fountain's conviction on direct appeal. Procedendo issued in 1990.

         In 1996, Howard sent the attorney representing Fountain in the appeal of the denial of his first PCR application a letter, in which Howard stated his willingness to testify, under oath, that Fountain was not involved in Wilt's death.[4]Also in 1996, Fountain filed his second PCR application, citing Howard's purported testimony as newly discovered evidence. In 1997, the attorney representing Fountain in relation to his second PCR application wrote a letter asking Fountain whether he wanted to pursue a new trial upon Howard's statements, which "completely vindicates [Fountain] and indicates [he was] not even a participant in the murder." The attorney advised he did not believe Howard's testimony, alone, would result in a new trial for Fountain. The attorney also advised if he pursued a new trial using Howard's testimony, there was a possibility he could not use it in conjunction with other new evidence uncovered in the future. Fountain agreed to not pursue a new trial upon Howard's testimony, and the second application was ultimately dismissed for failure to prosecute.

         At the murder trial in 1988, Dennis Daggett testified Ridley came to his residence and reported he and his cousin Euric had killed someone. Blanch Carr testified she saw Fountain, Howard, and Ridley at a bar she worked at the evening of the murder. She further testified at around 8:00 p.m., the three left the bar together. Carr testified the three returned to the bar together around midnight. While speaking with Howard thereafter, Carr observed dark spots on Howard's clothing that he reported was blood, and Howard indicated to her that they had killed someone. Carr also observed a blood smear on Howard's palm. Ridley and Fountain left the bar together about thirty or forty-five minutes after their return. Ridley unequivocally testified that he, Howard, and Fountain were involved in the murder. Ridley's remaining trial testimony was generally in line with that of Carr and Daggett.

         In 2015, Carr and Daggett authored affidavits in which they recanted some of their testimony. Daggett's affidavit is somewhat illegible, but he appears to have asserted he was coached to tell police and later testify Fountain was involved in the murder.[5] Carr recanted her testimony that Fountain left the bar with Ridley and Howard prior to the murder. However, she did state she later observed the three return to the bar together. She also recanted her testimony that Howard told her about a murder and that she observed blood on him. Howard also authored an affidavit in which he again stated Fountain was not involved in Wilt's death.[6]

         In 2017, Fountain filed the instant PCR application in which he argued new evidence of material facts require vacation of his conviction. In a subsequent brief, he argued the alleged new evidence supported a claim of actual innocence. The State moved for summary disposition on statute-of-limitations grounds. The court granted the motion, concluding the information ...


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