Schmidt v. State

Decision Date23 March 2018
Docket NumberNo. 15-1408,15-1408
Parties Jacob Lee SCHMIDT, Appellant, v. STATE of Iowa, Appellee.
CourtIowa Supreme Court

Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Martha J. Lucey, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Sheryl Soich, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

Erica A. Nichols Cook of the State Public Defender's Office, Des Moines, for amicus curiae Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago Law School.

Lance W. Lange, Jesse Linebaugh, and Mitch G. Nass of Faegre Baker Daniels, LLP, Des Moines, for amici curiae The Innocence Network and The Innocence Project of Iowa.

WIGGINS, Justice.

An applicant filed a postconviction-relief action claiming he was actually innocent although he knowingly and voluntarily pled guilty to the charged crimes. He based his actual-innocence claim on a recantation by the victim. The district court granted the State's motion for summary dismissal/summary judgment, ruling the applicant cannot use the recantation to attack his knowing and voluntary guilty pleas because the recantation was extrinsic to the pleas. The applicant appealed, and we transferred the case to our court of appeals. The court of appeals affirmed. The applicant sought further review, which we granted.

On further review, we overrule our cases holding that defendants may only attack the intrinsic nature—the voluntary and intelligent character—of their pleas. We now hold the Iowa Constitution allows freestanding claims of actual innocence, so applicants may bring such claims to attack their pleas even though they entered their pleas knowingly and voluntarily. Accordingly, we adopt a freestanding claim of actual innocence that applicants may bring under our postconviction-relief statute.1 Therefore, we vacate the decision of the court of appeals, reverse the judgment of the district court, and remand the case to the district court for further consideration consistent with this opinion.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

On December 19, 2006, the State filed a trial information charging Jacob Lee Schmidt with sexual abuse in the third degree in violation of Iowa Code section 709.4(1) (2005). On March 23, 2007, the State moved to amend the trial information to charge Schmidt with two additional counts of sexual abuse in the third degree in violation of section 709.4(2)(b ) (counts II and III) and one count of incest in violation of section 726.2 (count IV). The district court granted the motion.

The minutes of testimony attached to the original trial information and the police offense report reveal that witnesses would provide the following testimony. On February 25, 2006, Schmidt, then age seventeen, visited the home of his stepfather, Peter, and his newly turned fourteen-year-old half-brother, B.C., with whom Schmidt shares the same mother. Peter is B.C.'s father. Peter left Schmidt and B.C. alone at the house to visit his girlfriend. Upon Peter's departure, Schmidt ordered B.C. into the bedroom and forced him to get on his knees on the mattress with his pants down. B.C. complied. Schmidt then removed his own pants, got on his knees behind B.C., and attempted anal sex.

Peter realized he had forgotten his cigarettes and went back home to retrieve them. Once inside, he saw neither Schmidt nor B.C. in the living room, where they had been up until his departure. Peter thought this was strange, so he looked around the home and eventually opened the bedroom door and saw Schmidt attempting to penetrate B.C. anally. Peter yelled, "What the hell are you doing!" and told Schmidt to "get the hell out of the house." Schmidt left the house, and Peter called the police.

Officers Todd Ferry and Kevin Heineman responded. Officer Ferry took Peter out to the squad car to interview him while Officer Heineman spoke to B.C. inside the home. Because Peter could not write or spell well, Officer Ferry used the in-car camera to record Peter's interview.

Meanwhile, B.C. recounted what had happened to Officer Heineman. B.C. stated he was "not afraid," and Schmidt had only threatened him on a previous occasion when Schmidt actually penetrated him approximately two or three months ago. Schmidt had told B.C. not to tell anyone unless B.C. wanted to get hurt. B.C. defined "penetrate" as "when he actually went inside his anal area." B.C. stated he was "positive" Schmidt did not penetrate him this time and "no part of his body hurt." All B.C. wanted was for the police to arrest Schmidt. Officer Heineman asked B.C. to fill out a witness statement and realized B.C. had difficulty with spelling and writing. Officer Heineman did not have B.C. continue writing the witness statement after B.C. had written three or four words.

Peter's home landline phone rang, and Officer Heineman answered it. Shanna, Schmidt and B.C.'s mother, was on the other end of the phone. She stated Schmidt had come to her home and she was going to take him to Mercy Hospital because he was having suicidal thoughts. At the hospital, Shanna advised Officer Ferry that Schmidt said Peter was lying about the whole incident.

Officer Christopher Groves followed up on the case. He asked to interview Schmidt who declined on the advice of his lawyer. Officer Groves described B.C. as "lower functioning" and stated he did not interview him because it was "very evident" he could "lead him [to] answers." Officer Groves thus scheduled B.C. for an interview with the Child Advocacy Center, which conducted a videotaped interview on March 2.

During the March 2 interview, B.C. told the interviewer "[Schmidt] tried to molest him." B.C. stated Schmidt had penetrated him on at least one occasion, and "it hurt and he tried to escape." He was thirteen at the time. B.C. stated he had sucked Schmidt's penis before but could not say how many times this occurred.

On April 2, 2007, Schmidt entered into a plea agreement. He agreed to plead guilty to assault with intent to commit sexual abuse, an aggravated misdemeanor in violation of Iowa Code section 709.11 (amended count I) and incest (count IV). The State agreed to dismiss the two other counts of sexual abuse in the third degree (counts II and III) given the district court sentenced Schmidt according to the plea agreement.

That same day, during the combined plea and sentencing hearing, the court reviewed the consequences of pleading guilty with Schmidt. Schmidt informed the court he understood the rights he was giving up and wished to plead guilty to the charges. Schmidt acknowledged the minutes of testimony accurately described what he did. The court reviewed the factual basis for each count, and Schmidt confirmed he understood. The court accepted Schmidt's pleas and convicted him of assault with intent to commit sexual abuse and incest. Pursuant to the plea agreement, the court entered sentences of incarceration to run consecutively for a total term not to exceed seven years. Schmidt did not appeal this decision.

On June 23, 2014, Schmidt filed an application for postconviction relief under Iowa Code section 822.2(1)(d ) (2014). In support of his application, he contended B.C. recanted his story by "com[ing] forward with the truth." Schmidt further claimed, "I was not guilty. I was scared so I pled guilty [be]cause I was fac[ing] over [fifty] years." Schmidt alleged the victim's recantation was new evidence supporting postconviction relief. In its answer, the State denied "each and every ground for postconviction relief."

On May 14, 2015, the State filed a motion for summary dismissal/summary judgment, making two arguments. First, the State argued the three-year statute of limitations pursuant to Iowa Code section 822.3 procedurally barred Schmidt's postconviction-relief application.

Second, on the merits, the State asserted Schmidt's "application [was] in direct contradiction to the record as well as in direct contradiction to his voluntary and knowing plea[s] of guilty." It claimed Schmidt pled guilty after an extensive colloquy, knowing his involvement or noninvolvement in the alleged sexual act and the evidence against him.

On May 28, Schmidt filed a resistance, arguing B.C.'s recantation was "new evidence [that] prevented earlier filing [of his postconviction-relief application] and [that] establishes actual innocence." Schmidt included B.C.'s affidavit. In his affidavit, B.C. stated under oath,

When I was 21 years old, I told other people that [Schmidt] had never touched me in a sexual way or sexually abused me. I didn't tell anyone before that date that nothing had really happened, and so [Schmidt] couldn't have known before then. I decided to tell people when I turned 21 since I was a full adult at that time.

On July 30, the district court granted the State's motion for summary dismissal/summary judgment. It did not rule on the statute of limitations. Rather, relying on an unpublished court of appeals decision, it stated that "newly discovered exculpatory evidence does not provide grounds to withdraw a guilty plea unless intrinsic to the plea itself." In other words, the court decided Schmidt waived his claim of actual innocence by pleading guilty. Schmidt appealed.

We transferred the case to the court of appeals. Affirming the district court's grant of summary dismissal/summary judgment, the court of appeals reasoned the alleged recantation was not intrinsic to Schmidt's guilty pleas. It therefore concluded, "[B]ecause Schmidt's convictions were entered following his guilty pleas, he cannot challenge those convictions in a [postconviction-relief] action on the basis of newly discovered evidence in the form of his alleged victim's recantation."

Schmidt filed an application for further review, which we granted.

II. Scope of Review.

"[T]he principles underlying [a] summary judgment procedure apply to motions of either party for disposition of an application for postconviction relief without a trial on the merits." Manning v. State , 654 N.W.2d 555, 560 (Iowa 2002). In other words, for a summary disposition...

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