State v. Hall, 85-976

Decision Date12 November 1986
Docket NumberNo. 85-976,85-976
Citation395 N.W.2d 640
PartiesSTATE of Iowa, Appellee, v. George William HALL, Appellant.
CourtIowa Supreme Court

Charles L. Harrington, Appellate Defender, and B. John Burns, Asst. Appellate Defender, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Atty. Gen., Elizabeth E. Ciebell, Asst. Atty. Gen., Michael P. Short, Lee Co. Atty., and Gordon Liles, Asst. Lee Co. Atty., for appellee.


McGIVERIN, Justice.

Defendant George William Hall was found guilty by a jury of first degree murder in violation of Iowa Code sections 690.1-.2 (1977). Hall, on appeal, asserts that the seven year delay between the death of the victim and the filing of charges against Hall constituted a denial of his right to due process. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

James Varner was murdered and his body recovered from the Des Moines River near Keokuk on Sunday, May 29, 1977. An investigation was started but charges were not filed against defendant until 1984. On October 9, 1984, Michael Edward Burrows, James Edward Florie, and defendant were charged in Lee County by trial information, Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 5(1), with murder in the first degree. An amended trial information charged this murder was in violation of Iowa Code sections 690.1-.2 (1977). The State's theory was that Burrows hired Hall and Florie to kill Varner.

Defendant filed a motion for severance of the trials of the three codefendants. Iowa R.Crim.P. 10(2)(e). The motion was granted and Hall's case proceeded to trial. On February 12, 1985, a mistrial was declared in Hall's case. See Iowa R.Crim.P. 18(6)(a).

On April 17, Hall's motion for change of venue, Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 10(2)(f), was granted and his case was transferred to Jefferson County for retrial. The jury returned a verdict of guilty on Hall's first degree murder charge. Iowa R.Crim.P. 21(1). Judgment was entered on the verdict and sentence was pronounced. See Iowa Code § 690.2.

Defendant appeals, contending that the delay of over seven years between the date of Varner's death and the filing of charges against Hall constituted a denial of his right to due process under the fifth and fourteenth amendments to the United States Constitution. This argument was sufficiently raised before the trial court, in defendant's motion to dismiss preceding the second trial, to preserve it for our review.

I. Preaccusatorial delay and due process. Hall states that the seven year delay in bringing charges against him for the murder of James Varner constitutes preaccusatorial delay. He asserts this delay prejudiced his due process rights under the United States Constitution.

We have recognized a defendant's right to challenge preaccusatorial delay on constitutional grounds. A defendant not only has the guarantee of the statute of limitations, if applicable, in challenging a delay in indictment, but also has the guarantee of the fifth amendment due process protections as applied through the fourteenth amendment as a ground for his challenge. State v. Sunclades, 305 N.W.2d 491, 494 (Iowa 1981). To prove a fourteenth amendment challenge, the defendant must show (1) that the delay was unreasonable and, (2) as a result of the delay, the defendant was actually prejudiced in his defense. State v. Williams, 264 N.W.2d 779, 783 (Iowa 1978); see United States v. Lovasco, 431 U.S. 783, 789-90, 97 S.Ct. 2044, 2048-49, 52 L.Ed.2d 752, 759 (1977).

A. Reasonableness of delay. The State offers numerous reasons for its delay in bringing charges against Hall. The State contends that Hall was not available for investigative purposes from September 1977 to early 1984. It appears from the record Hall and his wife left the Quincy, Illinois area in September 1977. They relocated in Des Moines, where Hall began to receive government checks and where he obtained employment. The State administratively closed the Varner murder investigation in August 1978.

The State received information regarding Hall's location in 1982, but did not follow up this lead until 1984. At that later date, Hall was located and interviewed by the Iowa division of criminal investigation (DCI). Hall asserts that the State did not attempt to locate him, thus it intentionally delayed bringing charges against him.

The State also justifies its delay on the basis of changes in personnel in both the DCI and attorney general's offices. No less than three DCI agents and four assistant attorneys general were in charge of the case at one time or another. Hall asserts that regardless of personnel changes the investigation was virtually completed in January 1978. Failure to bring charges at that time, he argues, prejudiced his due process rights.

Most importantly, the State explained its delay by referring to the reason for the dismissal of a related case. In the fall of 1977, charges were filed against James Florie for the murder of Varner. As the case neared trial, William Smith, a key State witness, changed his story. Smith had initially stated facts to police investigators implicating Florie, Hall and Michael Burrows in the murder. He then repudiated those statements. On the basis of his change in testimony, the State dismissed the charges against Florie with court approval. Iowa Code § 795.5 (1977).

At Hall's second trial in 1985, it was clear that Smith adhered to his initial 1977 statements incriminating Burrows, Hall and Florie. The change in the testimony of a material witness such as Smith justified the delay in bringing charges against Hall. The State was uncertain of the likelihood of a conviction of any of the codefendants without the testimony of Smith. See Stoner v. Graddick, 751 F.2d 1535, 1543 (11th Cir.1985) (19 year delay justified because the state did not believe the evidence would support a conviction when it completed its investigation in 1958). The decision to delay prosecution of Hall until further evidence was found was clearly within the discretion of the prosecutor. State v. Schlick, 257 N.W.2d 59, 61 (Iowa 1977). The prosecutor promptly reopened the case in 1984 when information was received from Terry Snider, an inmate at the Adams County, Illinois jail. An interview and apparent new change of story by Smith followed.

The constitutional protection of due process is guaranteed to defendants to assure the state will not employ tricks to gain an advantage over a defendant. United States v. Marion, 404 U.S. 307, 324, 92 S.Ct. 455, 465, 30 L.Ed.2d 468, 481-82 (1971); State v. Burrell, 255 N.W.2d 119, 122 (Iowa 1977). There was no evidence in this case that the State delayed in order to gain a tactical advantage over Hall. We will not presume impropriety or bad faith on the part of the State in its delay in bringing charges. State v. Sunclades, 305 N.W.2d at 495.

Based on the changes in Smith's testimony and the State's response to new leads concerning the Varner murder, we conclude the seven year delay by the State in bringing charges against Hall was both reasonable and justified; therefore Hall failed to show the delay was unreasonable.

B. Actual prejudice caused by delay. "Where the possibility of prejudice derives from pre-indictment delay, the defendant in a criminal case must first resort to the applicable statute of limitations." Stoner v. Graddick, 751 F.2d at 1541 (citing United States v. Marion, 404 U.S. at 323, 92 S.Ct. at 464, 30 L.Ed.2d at 480). Where the statute of limitations does not offer relief, the defendant may then raise fourteenth amendment claims. Id.

There is no statute of limitations on a murder charge in Iowa. Iowa Code § 752.1 (1977). Therefore, Hall must raise fourteenth amendment arguments to prove the prejudice of any preaccusatorial delay.

In a claim of preaccusatorial delay, defendant must show more than mere general claims of prejudice to prevail. Actual prejudice must be both alleged and proved. State v. Williams, ...

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14 cases
  • State v. Smith
    • United States
    • Iowa Supreme Court
    • 9 d5 Abril d5 2021
    ...against the defendant over his participation in a prison riot and specifically noting a lack of actual prejudice); State v. Hall , 395 N.W.2d 640, 643 (Iowa 1986) ("If the defendant is asserting witnesses are missing as a result of the delay, he must show the witness would have provided mat......
  • State v. Wagner
    • United States
    • Iowa Supreme Court
    • 22 d3 Julho d3 1987
    ...(1) the delay was unreasonable and (2) because of the delay his ability to present his defense actually was prejudiced. State v. Hall, 395 N.W.2d 640, 642 (Iowa 1986); State v. Williams, 264 N.W.2d 779, 783 (Iowa 1978). Wagner cannot prevail on this issue unless he has proved his right to a......
  • State v. Seager
    • United States
    • Iowa Supreme Court
    • 22 d3 Outubro d3 1997
    ...original charges and refiled charges, in part because there was no proof of actual prejudice to the defendant) (citing State v. Hall, 395 N.W.2d 640, 643-44 (Iowa 1986)). In the absence of evidence the State intended to relinquish its right to reseize the rifle, we will not find a waiver ba......
  • State v. Trompeter
    • United States
    • Iowa Supreme Court
    • 23 d3 Outubro d3 1996
    ...that the preaccusatorial delay violated his right to due process. See State v. Lange, 531 N.W.2d 108, 111 (Iowa 1995); State v. Hall, 395 N.W.2d 640, 642 (Iowa 1986); State v. Sunclades, 305 N.W.2d 491, 494 (Iowa 1981). Our cases are in accord with federal authority. United States v. Lovasc......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
    • United States
    • South Dakota Law Review Vol. 66 No. 3, September 2021
    • 22 d1 Março d1 2021
    ...(Cal. Ct. App. Apr. 29, 2019) (illustrating another test used to balance justification against prejudice suffered). (108.) Iowa v. Hall, 395 N.W.2d 640, 642-43 (Iowa (109.) Iowa v. Isaac, 537 N.W.2d 786, 788 (Iowa 1995) (holding that the prosecution's intentional preindictment delay of 105 ......

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