Liggins v State, 99-1188

CourtCourt of Appeals of Iowa
PartiesSTANLEY CARTER LIGGINS, Applicant-Appellant, vs. STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee./ 99-1188 IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF IOWA Filed
Docket Number99-1188
Decision Date13 December 2000

STANLEY CARTER LIGGINS, Applicant-Appellant,
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee.

No. 0-467 / 99-1188


Filed December 13, 2000

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, David E. Schoenthaler, Judge.

Stanley Liggins appeals the district court's denial of his application for postconviction relief. AFFIRMED.

Kent A. Simmons, Davenport, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Richard J. Bennett, Assistant Attorney General, William E. Davis, County Attorney, and Julie A. Walton, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.

Heard by Vogel, P.J., and Miller and Hecht, JJ.


Stanley Carter Liggins appeals the district court's denial of his application for postconviction relief. We affirm.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings. Nine-year-old Jennifer Lewis was murdered on September 17, 1990. She had been sexually abused, strangled to death, doused with gasoline, and ignited. Her badly burned corpse was found that evening near Jefferson School in Davenport, Iowa. The State charged Liggins with murder in the first degree, willful injury, sexual abuse in the first degree, and kidnapping in the first degree in connection with the homicide. A Scott County jury found Liggins guilty of all charges in February of 1993. In State v. Liggins, 524 N.W.2d 181 (Iowa 1994) [Liggins I], our supreme court reversed the conviction and remanded the case for a new trial. The court found insufficient evidence in the record to establish territorial jurisdiction on all charges except the murder charge and held the district court erred by admitting evidence Liggins was a cocaine dealer. Id. at 189.

Prior to his second trial, Liggins filed a motion for change of venue. The district court granted the motion and moved the trial from Davenport to Dubuque, Iowa. A Dubuque County jury returned a second guilty verdict on the murder charge in July of 1995. The conviction was affirmed on direct appeal. State v. Liggins, 557 N.W.2d 263, 270 (Iowa 1996) [Liggins II].

Liggins then filed an application for postconviction relief asserting: (1) the State violated his constitutional rights by suppressing certain exculpatory evidence and knowingly allowing witnesses to give false testimony; (2) newly discovered evidence requires a new trial; and (3) direct appeal counsel was ineffective in failing to challenge venue in Dubuque County. The district court appointed a Special Master to review the files of the prosecution and the defense attorneys to ascertain what information had been produced by the State. The Special Master determined seventy-seven (77) police reports, some of which were generated after the 1995 jury trial, were not in the defense files. Liggins claimed four of these reports (specifically those pertaining to Sarah Bea, Daryl Sheese, Shawn Saunders, and Michael Armstrong) contained exculpatory information and were wrongfully suppressed by the State. The district court found, while the State had suppressed the reports, the reports were not material to the issue of guilt. The district court further concluded Liggins had not presented newly discovered evidence that would justify a new trial, and determined defense counsel was not ineffective for failing to take further measures to challenge venue in Dubuque County. Liggins appeals from the district court's ruling denying postconviction relief.

II. Suppression of Police Reports. Liggins contends the State suppressed several police reports in violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. See Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 87, 83 S. Ct. 1194, 1196-97, 10 L. Ed. 2d 215, 218 (1963) (holding a defendant's due process rights are violated when the State fails to produce upon request evidence favorable to the accused where the evidence is material as to either guilt or punishment, irrespective of good or bad faith on the part of the prosecution). To the extent appellant presents a constitutional claim, our review is de novo. State v. Finnel, 515 N.W.2d 41, 43 (Iowa 1994). Liggins must establish three propositions to establish a Brady violation: (1) the State suppressed the evidence; (2) the evidence was favorable to him; and (3) the evidence was material to the issue of guilt. State v. Veal, 564 N.W.2d 797, 810 (Iowa 1997).

A. Sarah Bea.(FN1) Liggins contends a police report of an interview with Sarah Bea conducted on the evening of the murder contained or would have led him to find exculpatory evidence. He claims the State had a duty to produce the report under Brady; and if the report had been produced by the State, he would have been able to present to the jury exculpatory information supplied by Bea to police investigators in later interviews and to the court in her testimony during the postconviction proceeding.

The police report of the interview with Bea conducted at 9:45 p.m. on September 17, 1990, documented she claimed:

she had been driving [past Jefferson School]. She thought right around 9:00 p.m. or so. She observed what she thought was garbage burning in the field behind Jefferson School with a couple other smaller fires in that general area. She thought nothing unusual of it and drove by, said she saw what she thought was a red Camaro also driving by slowly in front of her, westbound, had no idea of the plates or any description of the occupants. She had no further information.

Officer Richard Lindbom conducted the interview of Bea during a house-to-house canvas of the neighborhood and prepared the report. Bea did not testify at either the 1993 or the 1995 trial.

On September 24, 1996, Bea, who was then living in Des Moines, contacted the Davenport Police Department. She claimed she had information about the Jennifer Lewis murder. An investigating officer conducted a lengthy and detailed interview of Bea on November 6, 1996, in Des Moines. During this interview, Bea reported she had driven to the Walgreen's Store on West Locust Street in Davenport to pick up a prescription just before 9:00 p.m. on the night of the murder. Bea claimed she displayed her Title XIX card and signed her name at the pharmacy and left with the prescription. During the return trip to her home on the evening of September 17, 1990, she claimed to have observed three white males in a small white car ahead of her on the street near Jefferson School. She told the investigator a very thin man wearing a hat exited the white car and stood by what she believed were burning logs. Bea further reported she saw the man return to the white vehicle and drive it wildly toward her car, fish-tailing as it approached. Although she had her two young daughters with her in the car, Bea told the investigator she positioned her car in the roadway such that the approaching white vehicle would collide with the driver's side of her car if its driver attempted to pass by. Bea further claimed to have verbally confronted the other driver about setting her neighborhood on fire and inquired whether he wanted to "throw" (fight).

The police report generated after the interview further disclosed Bea described the other driver's hat as a "brown, winter-looking style hat" that had what she described as a "broken arrow in the headband." Bea claimed the other driver yelled, acted "crazy," and then left the scene by driving into the ditch to get past her car. Bea also told the investigator she drove nearer to the fire, exited her car, and walked toward what she thought were burning logs. After discovering she had no blanket in the trunk with which to extinguish the fire, she claimed to have pounded on the...

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