Richard Joseph Ehler v. State of Iowa

IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF IOWA No. 18-0967 Filed September 11, 2019 RICHARD JOSEPH EHLER, Applicant-Appellant, vs. STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee. ________________________________________________________________ Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Warren County, Thomas P. Murphy, Judge. Richard Ehler appeals the dismissal of his application for postconviction relief. REVERSED AND REMANDED. George B. Jones of George B. Jones, PLLC, Lamoni, for appellant. Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Zachary Miller, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State. Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and Tabor, JJ. 2 TABOR, Judge. Criminal defense attorneys have a material duty to ensure the State follows the speedy-trial rule.1 The State did not bring Richard Ehler to trial within one year of his arraignment as mandated by Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.33(2)(c). Ehler’s trial counsel moved to dismiss but failed to cite a key authority to the district court.2 After the district court denied the motion to dismiss and the supreme court declined to hear Ehler’s case before final judgment, counsel advised Ehler to accept a favorable plea offer. In his postconviction-relief action, Ehler alleged his plea was involuntary because trial counsel was ineffective. The district court denied Ehler’s application, holding (1) trial counsel appropriately raised the speedy-trial issue and (2) Ehler did not show but for counsel’s errors he would have turned down the plea offer and insisted on going to trial. On appeal, Ehler reiterates trial counsel’s responsibility: Counsel had a duty to properly and fully evaluate the merits of the speedy trial issue, and to advise Ehler that the trial court was wrong in its denial of the motion to dismiss. Had counsel more fully researched the applicable case law, counsel would have been aware of clear precedent in Ehler’s favor, demonstrating that, under the facts present in this case, there was no good cause for the State’s failure to bring him to trial within one year of arraignment. Because no good cause existed for the State’s failure to comply with the speedy- trial rule, counsel’s advice was not within the range of competence demanded of attorneys in criminal cases. Thus we reverse and remand for dismissal. 1 Ennenga v. State, 812 N.W.2d 696, 702 n.5 (Iowa 2012); State v. Utter, 803 N.W.2d 647, 653 (Iowa 2011), overruled on other grounds by Schmidt v. State, 909 N.W.2d 778 (Iowa 2018). 2 Ehler faults counsel for not relying on State v. Campbell, 714 N.W.2d 622 (Iowa 2006). On appeal, Ehler contends Campbell “is arguably the most important case to a proper determination of the motion to dismiss in this case.” 3 I. Case History A. Criminal Proceedings Ehler’s ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim hinges on the violation of his one-year speedy-trial right. For that reason, we include this detailed chronology of events in Ehler’s criminal case: The State filed criminal complaints, alleging 8/1/2013 Ehler committed three counts of sexual abuse in the third degree. 8/12/2013 The State filed its trial information. During a bond-review hearing, the district court 8/19/2013 reduced Ehler’s bond and set a pretrial August ...

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