Veal v. State, No. 08-1207.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtAppel
Citation779 N.W.2d 63
PartiesRuthann VEAL, Appellant, v. STATE of Iowa, Appellee.
Docket NumberNo. 08-1207.
Decision Date26 February 2010
779 N.W.2d 63
Ruthann VEAL, Appellant,
v.
STATE of Iowa, Appellee.
No. 08-1207.
Supreme Court of Iowa.
February 26, 2010.

Bryan A. Stevenson and Aaryn M. Urell of the Equal Justice Initiative of Alabama, Montgomery, Alabama, and Philip B. Mears of Mears Law Office, Iowa City, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Thomas W. Andrews, Assistant Attorney General, Thomas J. Ferguson, County Attorney, and Kimberly A. Griffith, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.

APPEL, Justice.


Ruthann Veal appeals a district court ruling dismissing her postconviction relief action, which challenged the constitutionality of her sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole (LWOP). In the district court, Veal argued that because her offense was committed when she was a juvenile, the mandatory LWOP sentence for first-degree murder amounted to cruel and unusual punishment under the Iowa and United States Constitutions. The district court ruled that her claim was untimely under our postconviction relief statute, which generally requires that challenges to criminal convictions be brought within three years. The court of appeals affirmed. On further review, we vacate the decision of the court of appeals, reverse the decision of the district court, and remand the case to the district court for further proceedings.

I. Factual and Procedural History.

In June 1993, Catherine Haynes was the victim of a homicide. Veal was charged

779 N.W.2d 64

with first-degree murder in connection with her death. At the time of the homicide, Veal was fourteen years old. In May 1995, a Black Hawk County jury convicted Veal of first-degree murder. The district court sentenced Veal, as required by statute, to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Her conviction was upheld on direct appeal. State v. Veal, 564 N.W.2d 797, 813 (Iowa 1997), overruled in part on other grounds by State v. Hallum, 585 N.W.2d 249, 253 (Iowa 1998), vacated by Hallum v. Iowa, 527 U.S. 1001, 119 S.Ct. 2335, 144 L.Ed.2d 233 (1999).

Veal filed an application for postconviction relief on February 28, 2008. In her application, she contended her LWOP sentence amounted to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article I, section 17 of the Iowa Constitution. Veal did not, however, articulate a standard under the cruel and unusual punishment clause of the Iowa Constitution different from that employed by the United States Supreme Court under the Eighth Amendment.

In order to avoid the three-year statute of limitations for postconviction relief actions in Iowa Code section 822.3 (2007), Veal asserted that her challenge could not have been raised earlier due to a change in the law. In support of her argument, Veal cited Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551, 125 S.Ct. 1183, 161 L.Ed.2d 1 (2005). In Roper, the Supreme Court of the United States held that the death penalty could not be applied to persons who were less than eighteen years of age at the time of the offense. Roper, 543 U.S. at 575, 125 S.Ct. at 1198, 161 L.Ed.2d at 25. In the alternative, Veal asserted that the tardiness of her postconviction relief action was excused due to ineffective assistance of counsel.

The district court found Veal's...

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46 practice notes
  • State v. Lyle, No. 11-1339
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • July 18, 2014
    ...a particular sentence." Bruegger, 773 N.W.2d at 871. As such, "the ordinary rules of issue preservation do not apply." Veal v. State, 779 N.W.2d 63, 65 (Iowa 2010). Accordingly, a constitutional challenge to an illegal sentence, even one brought after the initial brief has been filed, could......
  • State v. Lyle, No. 11–1339.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • July 18, 2014
    ...a particular sentence.” Bruegger, 773 N.W.2d at 871. As such, “the ordinary rules of issue preservation do not apply.” Veal v. State, 779 N.W.2d 63, 65 (Iowa 2010). Accordingly, a constitutional challenge to an illegal sentence, even one brought after the initial brief has been filed, could......
  • State v. Ragland, No. 12–1758.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • August 16, 2013
    ...is a challenge to an illegal sentence and thus not subject to the three-year statute of limitations for postconviction relief actions. 779 N.W.2d 63, 65 (Iowa 2010). In State v. Bruegger, we held a defendant may now mount an as-applied challenge to his or her sentence as cruel and unusual. ......
  • People v. Morfin, Docket No. 1–10–3568.
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • November 30, 2012
    ...be filed at any time; the Iowa Supreme Court has ruled that such motions encompass claims of cruel and unusual punishment. Veal v. State, 779 N.W.2d 63 (Iowa 2010). Therefore, the retroactivity of Miller was, and presumably is, not an issue under Iowa law. Similarly, the Louisiana Supreme C......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
45 cases
  • State v. Lyle, No. 11-1339
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • July 18, 2014
    ...a particular sentence." Bruegger, 773 N.W.2d at 871. As such, "the ordinary rules of issue preservation do not apply." Veal v. State, 779 N.W.2d 63, 65 (Iowa 2010). Accordingly, a constitutional challenge to an illegal sentence, even one brought after the initial brief has been filed, could......
  • State v. Lyle, No. 11–1339.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • July 18, 2014
    ...a particular sentence.” Bruegger, 773 N.W.2d at 871. As such, “the ordinary rules of issue preservation do not apply.” Veal v. State, 779 N.W.2d 63, 65 (Iowa 2010). Accordingly, a constitutional challenge to an illegal sentence, even one brought after the initial brief has been filed, could......
  • State v. Ragland, No. 12–1758.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • August 16, 2013
    ...is a challenge to an illegal sentence and thus not subject to the three-year statute of limitations for postconviction relief actions. 779 N.W.2d 63, 65 (Iowa 2010). In State v. Bruegger, we held a defendant may now mount an as-applied challenge to his or her sentence as cruel and unusual. ......
  • People v. Morfin, Docket No. 1–10–3568.
    • United States
    • United States Appellate Court of Illinois
    • November 30, 2012
    ...be filed at any time; the Iowa Supreme Court has ruled that such motions encompass claims of cruel and unusual punishment. Veal v. State, 779 N.W.2d 63 (Iowa 2010). Therefore, the retroactivity of Miller was, and presumably is, not an issue under Iowa law. Similarly, the Louisiana Supreme C......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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