Sandoval v. State, 20-0396

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtMcDONALD, JUSTICE
PartiesFERNANDO SANDOVAL, Appellant, v. STATE OF IOWA, Appellee.
Decision Date10 June 2022
Docket Number20-0396

FERNANDO SANDOVAL, Appellant,
v.

STATE OF IOWA, Appellee.

No. 20-0396

Supreme Court of Iowa

June 10, 2022


Submitted February 22, 2022

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Joseph Seidlin, Judge.

Appellant appeals from the dismissal of his application for postconviction relief as barred by the statute of limitations and challenges the constitutionality of his sentence to life imprisonment. AFFIRMED.

Jessica Maffitt of Benzoni Law Office, P.L.C., Des Moines, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kyle Hanson, Assistant Attorney

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General, for appellee.

McDonald, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Christensen, C.J., and Waterman, Mansfield, Oxley, and McDermott, JJ., joined. Appel, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part.

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McDONALD, JUSTICE

In February 2005, Fernando Sandoval was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder. He was sentenced to serve concurrent terms of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for the murder convictions and twenty-five years' imprisonment for the attempted murder convictions. Sandoval unsuccessfully challenged his convictions on direct appeal and in three different applications for postconviction relief. This appeal arises out of the dismissal of Sandoval's fourth application for postconviction relief, which the district court held was barred by the three-year statute of limitations set forth in Iowa Code section 822.3 (2019). Sandoval contends the district court erred in dismissing his fourth application for postconviction relief. He also asserts a new claim on appeal. He contends that because he was only nineteen at the time he murdered two people, his mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole violate the federal and state constitutional prohibitions against "cruel and unusual punishment." U.S. Const. amend. VIII; Iowa Const. art. I, § 17.

I.

Generally, an application for postconviction relief "must be filed within three years from the date the conviction or decision is final or, in the event of an appeal, from the date the writ of procedendo is issued." Iowa Code § 822.3. In Allison v. State, this court held that a second application for postconviction relief filed beyond the three-year-limitations period would relate back to the filing of the first application and be considered timely if three conditions were met: (1) the

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first application was timely filed; (2) the second application alleged prior postconviction counsel provided ineffective assistance in presenting the first application; and (3) the second application was "filed promptly after the conclusion of the first [postconviction relief] action." 914 N.W.2d 866, 891 (Iowa 2018). Subsequently, the general assembly amended section 822.3 and abrogated Allison. 2019 Iowa Acts ch. 140, § 34 (codified at Iowa Code § 822.3 (2020)). Effective July 1, 2019, section 822.3 provides that "[a]n allegation of ineffective assistance of counsel in a prior case under this chapter shall not toll or extend the limitation periods in this section nor shall such claim relate back to a prior filing to avoid the application of the limitation periods." Id.

Sandoval has repeatedly challenged his convictions since 2005. He pursued a direct appeal after being sentenced, and the court of appeals affirmed his convictions. State v. Sandoval, No. 05-0426, 2006 WL 3018152, at *6 (Iowa Ct. App. Oct. 25, 2006). Procedendo issued on November 21, 2006. Sandoval filed his first application for postconviction relief in June 2007. The application was dismissed on the merits in December 2008, and this court dismissed the appeal as frivolous. Sandoval filed two additional applications for postconviction relief in May 2012 and January 2016, both of which were dismissed as time-barred. The court of appeals affirmed both dismissals. See Sandoval v. State, No. 16-1875, 2018 WL 2727690, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App. June 6, 2018); Sandoval v. State, No. 14-0341, 2015 WL 1849404, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App. Apr. 22, 2015). And in April 2015, Sandoval filed a motion for new trial in the underlying criminal case, which was denied.

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At issue in this case is Sandoval's fourth application for postconviction relief. Sandoval filed the application on July 8, 2019, after the effective date of the amendments to Iowa Code section 822.3. In his application, Sandoval alleged his trial counsel provided ineffective assistance in failing to investigate the qualifications of Sandoval's translator at trial, in failing to investigate the case, and in failing to challenge questionable jury instructions. He further alleged that his appellate counsel and first postconviction counsel provided ineffective assistance in failing to raise these claims. The district court dismissed the application as time-barred pursuant to section 822.3. The district court rejected the contention that Allison provided Sandoval with relief. The district court concluded that the amendment to section 822.3 abrogated Allison. In addition, the district court concluded that Allison was not applicable because the application for postconviction relief was Sandoval's fourth, not his second, and because Sandoval did not promptly file his fourth application after the conclusion of the first postconviction relief action. Finally, the district court rejected Sandoval's contention that new evidence excused the otherwise untimely application.

The district court did not err in concluding Sandoval's fourth application for postconviction relief was barred by the statute of limitations. With respect to Sandoval's direct appeal, procedendo issued on November 21, 2006. Sandoval's fourth application, filed in July 2019, is outside the three-year statute of limitations. And Allison does not provide Sandoval with any relief. As the district court correctly explained, Allison was abrogated by the amendment to

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section 822.3, effective July 1, 2019, and Sandoval filed his application on July 8.

Sandoval contends the amendment abrogating Allison is not applicable here because he mailed his fourth application for postconviction relief on June 27, 2019, prior to the effective date of the amendment. Sandoval asserts that under the "prison mailbox rule," his application should be deemed filed on the date he placed the application in the prison mail system. See, e.g., Moore v. United States, 173 F.3d 1131, 1135 (8th Cir. 1999) (stating a filing "is deemed timely filed when an inmate deposits the notice in the prison mail system prior to the expiration of the filing deadline"). Iowa has not adopted the prison mailbox rule, and we need not decide whether to do so here.

Even if Sandoval's fourth application should be deemed filed on the date he placed it in the prison mail system, Allison would still not provide him with any relief. Allison held only that a second application for postconviction relief could relate back to a timely filed first application. See 914 N.W.2d at 891. The court of appeals repeatedly has reached the same conclusion. See, e.g., Dixon v. State, No. 19-1886, 2021 WL 1907152, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App. May 12, 2021) (collecting cases that hold Allison applies only to a second postconviction relief application and not to third or subsequent applications). But this is Sandoval's fourth application. See Garcia v. State, No. 20-0883, 2022 WL 108561, at *3 (Iowa Ct. App. Jan. 12, 2022) ("Since this is [applicant's] fourth PCR application, Allison is inapplicable.") In addition, Allison held a later-filed application only related back if filed "promptly" after the conclusion of the first preceding. See Allison,

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914 N.W.2d at 891. Sandoval's first application for postconviction relief was dismissed on December 31, 2008, and his appeal of that dismissal was dismissed as frivolous in 2010. The dismissal of his second application was affirmed on appeal in 2015, and the dismissal of his third application was affirmed on appeal in 2018. Sandoval's fourth application for postconviction relief was not filed promptly after the conclusion of his first, second, or third applications for postconviction relief. The court of appeals repeatedly has held that a delay of more than six months is not prompt. See, e.g., Garcia, 2022 WL 108561, at *4 ("While 'promptly' is not defined in Allison, our court has previously held that delays of 'more than six months,' 'almost six months,' and even so little as one hundred twenty-one days are too long to meet the promptness requirement of Allison." (footnotes omitted)); Polk v. State, No. 18- 0309, 2019 WL 3945964, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App. Aug. 21, 2019) (six-month delay in filing second postconviction relief application held not prompt). We agree.

Sandoval further contends constitutional principles of equal protection and due process require that he be allowed to pursue his untimely fourth application for postconviction relief notwithstanding the statute of limitations. Sandoval failed to raise these issues in the district court, and the district court did not rule on these constitutional challenges. These challenges are thus not preserved for appellate review, and we will not consider them for the first time on appeal. See Meier v. Senecaut, 641 N.W.2d 532, 537 (Iowa 2002) ("When a district court fails to rule on an issue properly raised by a party, the party who raised the issue must file a motion requesting a ruling in order to preserve error

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for appeal."); State v. Webb, 516 N.W.2d 824, 828 (Iowa 1994) ("We may not consider an issue that is raised for the first time on appeal, 'even if it is of constitutional dimension.'" (quoting Patchette v. State, 374 N.W.2d 397, 401 (Iowa 1985))).

II.

For the first time on appeal, Sandoval argues that his mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole are illegal because they constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth...

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