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Schreiber v. State

Court of Appeals of Iowa

November 6, 2019

BENJAMIN E. SCHREIBER, Applicant-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Wapello County, Crystal S. Cronk, Judge.

         Benjamin Schreiber seeks to resurrect his third postconviction-relief application after the district court granted the State's motion to dismiss. AFFIRMED.

          Denise M. Gonyea of McKelvie Law Office, Grinnell, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kyle Hanson, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Considered by Bower, C.J., and Potterfield and Greer, JJ.

          POTTERFIELD, JUDGE.

         Benjamin Schreiber seeks to resurrect his third postconviction-relief (PCR) application after the district court granted the State's motion to dismiss. Schreiber was convicted of murder in the first degree in violation of Iowa Code sections 707.1 and 707.2 (1996). He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. On appeal, he alleges the district court made several errors in the course of handling his PCR application, including (1) denying him a meaningful opportunity to respond by failing to provide him adequate notice of the hearing on the State's motion to dismiss, failing to record the proceedings, and dismissing his application without an evidentiary hearing; (2) requiring him to pay 20% of the filing fee for the PCR application; and (3) denying his application for court-appointed counsel.[1] For the reasons below, we affirm.

         The events forming the basis for Schreiber's PCR application occurred in March 2015. Schreiber was hospitalized on March 30 after large kidney stones caused him to urinate internally, which in turn led to him developing septic poisoning. According to Schreiber's pleadings, the septic poisoning caused him to fall unconscious in his prison cell. He was transported to a local hospital where he was resuscitated five times by receiving "adrenaline/epinephrine via an IV." After he was resuscitated, medical staff performed surgery to repair organ damaged caused by the kidney stones and treated Schreiber's septic poisoning with antibiotics.

         Schreiber filed this PCR application in April 2018. In it he claims he momentarily died at the hospital, thereby fulfilling his "life" sentence under sections 707.1 and 707.2. Because his sentence has been fulfilled, he argues, he is imprisoned illegally and should be immediately released.

         The State moved to dismiss, and the district court scheduled a hearing on the motion. Schreiber did not resist the State's motion; he maintains he only became aware of the motion after the district court entered its order granting it. The district court summarized Schreiber's claims and concluded no further proceedings were warranted:

Petitioner asserts that he "died" on March 30, 2015 and as a result of such "death" he has now served the life sentence and should be released from custody. The court finds this assertion unpersuasive and without merit. Nothing in the record supports petitioner's claims. The petitioner's filing of these proceedings in itself confirms the petitioner's current status as living.

         After receiving the court's order, Schreiber filed a motion titled "Petitioner's Pro Se Motion for Reconsideration Pursuant to I. R. Civ. P. 1.904(2)." This motion informed the court that Schreiber had never received notice from the State of its motion to dismiss and insists the court violated his due process rights by granting the motion. In response, the district court entered an order setting a hearing on Schreiber's motion for reconsideration on the pleadings only and directed the State to file their resistance "with proper notice to opposing party." Schreiber did not submit any documents for this hearing. The district court denied Schreiber's motion, and Schreiber now appeals.

         We review PCR proceedings and summary dismissals of PCR applications for errors at law. Moon v. State, 911 N.W.2d 137, 142 (Iowa 2018).

         Although it did not specify, the district court apparently dismissed Schreiber's PCR application under Iowa Code section 822.6(2), which allows the court to dismiss an application when it is satisfied "on the basis of the application, the answer or motion, and the record, that the applicant is not entitled to postconviction relief and no further purpose would be served by any further proceedings." Schreiber alleges several errors occurred during this procedure, which together amount to a violation of his due process rights. First, he argues he was not given adequate notice of the hearing on the motion to dismiss, which the district court scheduled after the State moved to dismiss the application. While Schreiber correctly notes he was entitled to "an opportunity to reply to the proposed dismissal," Iowa Code § ...


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