Daniels v. Iowa

Decision Date04 January 2021
Docket NumberNo. C19-2079-LTS,C19-2079-LTS
PartiesDERRICK DEONDRE DANIELS, Petitioner, v. STATE OF IOWA, Respondent.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Iowa

This matter is before me on a motion (Doc. 9) by the State of Iowa (the State) to dismiss petitioner Derrick Daniels' pro se application (Doc. 1) for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2254. Daniels has filed a response.1 Doc. 10. Oral argument is not necessary. See Local Rule 7(c).

A. State Court Conviction and Sentence

On May 8, 2014, following a bench trial, the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County (the district court) found Daniels guilty of (1) possession of a controlled substance (more than 50 grams of cocaine base) with intent to distribute in violation of Iowa Code § 124.401(1)(a)(3); and (2) failing to affix a drug tax stamp in violation of Iowa Code § 453B.12. Doc. 8-4 at 142. The Iowa Court of Appeals summarized the facts and trial proceedings as follows:

On January 6, 2013, the Waterloo Police Department was conducting surveillance of certain individuals and a vehicle believed to be involved in a cocaine trafficking operation. Officer Nicholas Barry was watching the Waterloo bus station when he saw an individual, later determined to be Derrick Daniels, get off of a Trail Ways bus arriving from Chicago. He was carrying a black duffle bag and walked toward a silver SUV. The silver SUV, driven by Latosha Daniels, had also been under surveillance by the police department. Daniels was observed getting into the vehicle carrying the black duffle bag. The vehicle was later stopped, and the duffle bag was found on the passenger side of the vehicle between Daniel's [sic] feet. The bag contained what was later determined to be almost seventy grams of cocaine base or crack cocaine. There was no drug stamp affixed to the duffle bag or the crack cocaine.
The silver vehicle driven by Latosha had been stopped earlier in the day and had been searched. It contained no black duffle bag at that time and had continued to be under surveillance until it was stopped after departing from the bus station. Immediately thereafter, Latosha's residence was searched. Plastic baggies, two razors, and an electronic scale were found, all items frequently used by drug dealers. A pill box bearing Derrick Daniels['] name was also found at the residence.
Daniels was arrested and charged with possession of cocaine base with the intent to deliver of less than fifty grams, which was later amended to more than fifty grams, and with possession of a controlled substance with no drug stamp affixed. While in jail, Daniels initiated a conversation with Deputy Sheriff Wayne Sidles in which Daniels stated he brought the "stuff" back for "Big Wil" and indicated he wanted to cut a deal but terminated the conversation by indicating he wanted to talk to an attorney.
Daniels waived his right to a jury and stood trial before the court. Officer Joshua Zubak, a Waterloo police officer knowledgeable about the drug scene in Waterloo, testified that seventy grams of crack cocaine was not consistent with the amount ordinarily possessed by a user. He further testified that seventy grams of crack in Waterloo would sell for about $100 per gram or $7000.

Daniels v. State, 949 N.W.2d 443 (Table), 2020 WL 4201236, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. July 22, 2020) (quoting State v. Daniels, 888 N.W.2d 680 (Table), 2016 WL 5408279, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. Sept. 28, 2016)). The district court sentenced Daniels to indeterminate terms of imprisonment of up to 50 years on the controlled substance charge and five yearson the drug tax stamp charge, to run concurrently. Doc. 8-4 at 173. Daniels must serve at least one-third of the 50-year sentence. Id. at 174.

B. Direct Appeal

Daniels appealed, claiming: "(1) insufficiency of the evidence to support conviction; (2) the sentence violated the clauses of the state and Federal Constitutions prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment; and (3) the sentence imposed violated the Equal Protection Clause of both the state and Federal Constitution." State v. Daniels, 888 N.W.2d 680 (Table), 2016 WL 5408279, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App. Sept. 28, 2016); see also Doc. 8-4 at 178; Doc. 8-5. The Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed. 2016 WL 5408279, at *2-4. Daniels applied to the Iowa Supreme Court for further review. Doc. 8-9. The Iowa Supreme Court denied the application as untimely. Doc. 8-10.

C. First PCR Application

In February 2017, Daniels applied for post-conviction relief (PCR) in the district court, arguing ineffective assistance of trial counsel. Doc. 8-12 at 14-19. Specifically, Daniels alleged that his trial counsel (1) failed to pursue a motion to suppress evidence obtained through the vehicular search, (2) failed to adequately advise him on his decision to waive his jury trial rights and (3) failed to independently test the controlled substance found in the bag. Id.

The district court denied the application. Id. at 20-26. Daniels appealed, raising only a new argument that "his postconviction counsel was ineffective for failing to argue his trial counsel should not have withdrawn a motion to suppress his inculpatory statements." Daniels v. State, 922 N.W.2d 104 (Table), 2018 WL 3301826, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. July 5, 2018); see also Doc. 8-13. The Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed, finding Daniels could not establish the prejudice prong of an ineffective assistance of counsel claim premised on this evidence's admission. Daniels v. State, 922 N.W.2d 104 (Table), 2018 WL 3301826, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App. July 5, 2018) ("[E]ven assuming Daniels'sinculpatory statements were suppressed, there is no reasonable probability that he could prevail with the extensive evidence of Daniels's guilt properly admitted into the evidence."). There is no indication Daniels sought further review by the Iowa Supreme Court. Procedendo issued on August 13, 2018. Doc. 8-16.

D. Second PCR Application

Daniels filed a second PCR application in May 2018, raising the following claims:

[T]he district court abused its discretion by allowing his statements to Deputy Sidles to be admitted because the State had not provided the videotape to defense counsel before trial. Daniels further argued his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to move for a mistrial once the district court admitted his statements, and appellate and first PCR counsel were also ineffective for failing to argue trial counsel had been ineffective for that omission. He also argued his due-process rights were violated by admission of the video.

Daniels v. State, 949 N.W.2d 443 (Table), 2020 WL 4201236, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App. July 22, 2020); see also Doc. 8-17 at 6-12. Daniels supplemented his allegations by arguing that his sentence was illegal, that it violated state and federal double jeopardy protections and that the statements he made to Sidles were involuntary. Id. at 85. The district court dismissed the application, finding the grounds raised had either been finally adjudicated or procedurally defaulted. Id. at 84-85.

Daniels appealed, raising only the argument that "prior appellate and first PCR counsel were ineffective in failing to raise a due-process challenge related to the admission of the video recording in which Daniels made incriminating statements." 2020 WL 4201236, at *3. The Iowa Court of Appeal rejected this argument, stating:

The issue raised in this appeal was finally adjudicated on appeal in Daniels's first PCR application. On appeal in the first PCR action, our court clearly ruled Daniels could not prevail on his claim of ineffective assistance of counsel related to admission of the video recording containing Daniels's incriminating statements because Daniels could not meet the prejudice prong of an ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim.

Id. Daniels applied to the Iowa Supreme Court for further review. That application remains pending. Doc. 8-22.

E. Federal Habeas Petition

Daniels mailed his habeas petition (Doc. 1) to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa on December 18, 2019. On December 20, 2019, that court transferred the petition to this court. Doc. 4. In his petition, Daniels appears to raise five2 distinct claims: (1) abuse of discretion by the district court; (2) ineffective assistance of trial counsel; (3) ineffective assistance of appellate counsel; (4) ineffective assistance of his first PCR counsel; and (5) cruel and unusual punishment. The first four claims are intertwined, as they all relate to the admission into evidence of a video recording containing inculpatory statements Daniels made to Sidles. Daniels alleges the district court abused its discretion in admitting the recording and that his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to move to suppress the evidence and failing to move for a mistrial upon its admission. Daniels alleges his appellate counsel and first PCR counsel were ineffective for failing to argue that the admission of this evidence should have led to a mistrial.

In an initial review order (Doc. 6), I directed the State to file a limited response or dispositive motion addressing whether Daniels' petition is timely and whether Daniels properly exhausted his claims. The State then filed its present motion to dismiss, statingthat the petition is timely but contending that it contains no properly exhausted claim and proper exhaustion is not possible. Doc. 9-1 at 4, 6.


The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorize a pre-answer motion to dismiss for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). The Supreme Court has provided the following guidance in considering whether a pleading properly states a claim:

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a pleading must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." As the Court held in [Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.

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