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Date: 04-21-2017

Case Style:


Case Number: 15-1600

Judge: Christopher Mcdonald


Plaintiff's Attorney: n

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kelli A. Huser, Assistant Attorney General

Defendant's Attorney: n

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

Description: David Joiner was convicted of domestic abuse assault, in violation of Iowa
Code section 708.2A(2)(a) (2015), possession of a firearm by a felon (habitual
offender), in violation of code section 724.26(1), and trafficking in stolen weapons
(second offense), in violation of code section 234.16(A)(1)(b). In this appeal, he
raises several challenges to his convictions, including claims of ineffective
assistance of counsel and claims the district court erred in certain evidentiary
The matter was tried to a jury. The record reflects the following. In March
2015, Kashona Liddell and her friend Hannah Goralczyk went out for the
evening. While they were out, Liddell received upsetting text messages from her
live-in boyfriend, Joiner. Goralczyk drove Liddell home and escorted Liddell
inside to “be safe.” Joiner was in the bedroom. Joiner asked Goralczyk to leave.
Out of concern for Liddell, Goralczyk remained in the home while Liddell and
Joiner remained in the upstairs bedroom, which Liddell and Joiner shared, with
the door closed. Goralczyk heard a loud argument and noises she believed
sounded like a fight. Goralczyk called 911.
When the police arrived at the residence, they heard arguing. They found
Joiner and Liddell in the upstairs bedroom. Liddell was crying and shaking. She
had scratches with fresh blood on her neck and blood on her shirt. She said
Joiner caused the injuries. The officers observed a shotgun behind the bedroom
door. Liddell denied it was her gun. Subsequently, the officers confirmed the
shotgun was stolen.
Joiner was arrested and charged with domestic abuse assault by
strangulation causing injury, possession of a firearm by a felon, and trafficking in
stolen weapons. The jury found Joiner guilty of domestic abuse assault (a
lesser-included offense), possession of firearm by a felon, and trafficking in
stolen weapons. Joiner was sentenced to thirty days in jail, with credit for time
served, on the domestic-abuse-assault charge. Joiner was sentenced to an
enhanced sentence of fifteen years on the firearm-possession charge, with a
mandatory minimum of three years. He was sentenced to serve no more than
ten years on the weapons-trafficking charge. The two sentences were to be
served concurrently.
We first address Joiner’s claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. We
review claims of ineffective assistance of counsel de novo because such claims
are grounded in the Sixth Amendment. See State v. Clay, 824 N.W.2d 488, 494
(Iowa 2012). To prove ineffective assistance of counsel, Joiner must show both
that counsel breached an essential duty and that prejudice resulted. See
Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 692 (1984). A breach of an essential
duty means the attorney’s performance fell outside the normal range of
competency. See State v. Lane, 743 N.W.2d 178, 183 (Iowa 2007). “[M]ore than
mere improvident trial strategy, miscalculated tactics, mistake, carelessness or
inexperience” must be shown. State v. Cromer, 765 N.W.2d 1, 8 (Iowa 2009)
(citation omitted). To show prejudice, Joiner “must show that there is a
reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s unprofessional errors, the result of
the proceeding would have been different. A reasonable probability is a
probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome.” Strickland, 466
U.S. at 694.
Joiner contends his trial counsel was constitutionally ineffective in several
respects. He contends his counsel should have objected to Goralczyk’s
testimony Liddell told her Joiner “always hit” Liddell. Joiner contends his counsel
should have objected to an officer’s testimony that Liddell told him Joiner caused
her injuries. Joiner contends his counsel should have objected to Goralczyk’s
testimony Liddell told her Joiner “had a gun.” Joiner contends his counsel should
have objected to an officer’s testimony that the owner of the shotgun told him the
shotgun was stolen from her and the owner of the shotgun told him who was
present when the shotgun was stolen. Joiner contends his counsel was
ineffective in failing to object to the cross-examination of witness Kelli Krana
because the government’s cross-examination exceeded the scope of the direct
examination. Joiner also contends his counsel should have objected to an
officer’s testimony that the officer “had knowledge of this address [Joiner’s
residence] and its occupants, so we went there to assist with the call.” Joiner
argues this was improper prior-bad-acts evidence and his counsel was ineffective
for failing to object. Joiner also contends his counsel should have objected to the
same officer’s testimony regarding a photograph showing Joiner holding an unlit
cigar. Joiner argues this evidence was prior-bad-acts evidence because the jury
could have inferred the cigar was a “blunt” used to smoke marijuana. Finally,
Joiner contends his counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the stock jury
instruction on possession of a stolen firearm. The instruction required only that
the jury find Joiner knowingly possessed a firearm and that the firearm was
stolen. Joiner contends the jury should have been instructed the State was
required to prove Joiner knew the firearm was stolen.
We note that filing a claim for ineffective assistance of counsel on direct
appeal is unnecessary to protect the defendant’s right to seek relief. See Iowa
Code § 814.7 (“The claim need not be raised on direct appeal from the criminal
proceedings in order to preserve the claim for postconviction relief purposes.”).
A party “may, but is not required to, raise an ineffective assistance claim on direct
appeal . . . if the party has reasonable grounds to believe that the record is
adequate to address the claim on direct appeal.” Iowa Code § 814.7(2).
Presenting an underdeveloped claim on direct appeal not only wastes the party’s
resources and judicial resources, it poses a litigation risk to the defendant, who
may receive an adverse judgment on a potentially meritorious claim due to the
presentation of a claim on an underdeveloped record. See State v. Eaton, No.
14-0789, 2014 WL 7367008, at *1 n.1 (Iowa Ct. App. Dec. 24, 2014).
The record on direct appeal is inadequate to resolve Joiner’s claims of
ineffective assistance of counsel. Claims related to counsel’s failure to object to
trial testimony are particularly inappropriate for resolution on direct appeal
without further development of the record because trial counsel may have had
strategic reasons for not objecting to certain testimony, e.g., a decision to not
emphasize the challenged testimony. See Clay, 824 N.W.2d at 500–01 (“What
we do not know is whether trial counsel’s failure to object to these statements
was a trial tactic or strategy. Did trial counsel think the defense would be
stronger if the testimony came in as hearsay, rather than live? Until the record is
developed as to trial counsel’s state of mind, we cannot say whether trial
counsel’s failure to object implicated trial tactics or strategy.”). In addition,
without further development of the record, we are also unable to determine
whether trial counsel’s decision was reasonable. See id. Under the
circumstances, we think it prudent to preserve all of Joiner’s claims of ineffective
assistance of counsel for development of the record in postconviction-relief
proceedings. At that stage, all of his claims can be resolved under the
cumulative prejudice standard set forth in Clay. See id. (vacating court of
appeals decision resolving a single claim of ineffective assistance of counsel and
instead preserving all claims for postconviction-relief proceedings “because Iowa
recognizes the cumulative effect of ineffective assistance of counsel claims when
analyzing prejudice under Strickland”).
We next address Joiner’s claims of error related to certain evidentiary
rulings. Joiner objects to two hearsay statements admitted over his trial
counsel’s objection. Both pieces of testimony concern statements the owner of
the shotgun made to law enforcement officers regarding whether the shotgun
was stolen. Our review is for the correction of errors at law. See State v. Newell,
710 N.W.2d 6, 18 (Iowa 2006). If an evidentiary error is nonconstitutional, the
decision to admit the evidence is subject to harmless-error analysis. See State v.
Sullivan, 679 N.W.2d 19, 29 (Iowa 2004). The court presumes prejudice and we
will not reverse unless the record affirmatively establishes the contrary. Id. at 30.
Error is harmless if the complaining party has not “been injuriously affected by
the error” or has not “suffered a miscarriage of justice.” Id. at 29 (citation
The record establishes the testimony was harmless under the
circumstances. The contested testimony was cumulative of other evidence
clearly establishing the shotgun was stolen. Specifically, law enforcement
officers conducted a records check using the serial number on the weapon. The
records check confirmed the weapon had been reported stolen. As a result, the
admission of this evidence was harmless error.


For the foregoing reasons, we affirm the defendant’s convictions.

Plaintiff's Experts:

Defendant's Experts:


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