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Date: 01-26-2018

Case Style:


Case Number: 15-2057

Judge: Christopher Lee McDonald


Plaintiff's Attorney: Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Tyler J. Buller, Assistant Attorney

Defendant's Attorney: Les Blair

Description: This appeal arises out of Robinson’s application for postconviction relief. In
his application, Robinson asserted numerous claims of ineffective assistance of
trial counsel. Robinson’s postconviction counsel asserted additional claims on
Robinson’s behalf. The postconviction matter came on for trial. The district court
heard the testimony of Robinson’s trial counsel. The district court received into
evidence certain exhibits related to trial counsel’s representation of Robinson. The
criminal file was not made part of the postconviction record because it was
unavailable. The docket reflects that, during the pendency of the postconviction
proceeding, the criminal file was in the possession of the Clerk of the Supreme
Court while Robinson III was pending. Nonetheless, without access to the file, the
district court denied each of Robinson’s claims for postconviction relief. Robinson
timely filed this appeal.
This court is unable to exercise meaningful appellate review of the
postconviction-relief proceeding under the circumstances presented. Because the
criminal file was not part of the postconviction record, the criminal file is not in the
appellate record. Here, most, if not all, of Robinson’s claims cannot be resolved
or properly resolved without access to the underlying criminal file. To cite but one
example, Robinson contends his trial counsel suffered from a conflict of interest
because trial counsel had a personal and professional relationship with the victim’s
mother. It is possible trial counsel’s cross-examination of the victim was
compromised due to trial counsel’s relationship with the victim’s mother that
resulted in prejudice to Robinson’s case. Without access to the file and transcript,
however, the issue cannot be resolved without resort to speculation.
On whose head should responsibility lie for the failure to make the
necessary record? “Both parties were under a duty to provide the district court
with the record on which to review” the claims for postconviction relief. State v.
Allen, 402 N.W.2d 438, 443 (Iowa 1987). Robinson was required to set forth the
grounds and facts in support of his application for postconviction relief. See Iowa
Code § 822.4 (2015); Allen, 402 N.W.2d at 443. The State was required to “file
with its answer the record or portions thereof that are material to the questions
raised in the application” if the “application [was] not accompanied by the record
of the proceedings challenged therein.” Iowa Code § 822.6; see Allen, 402 N.W.2d
at 443. The postconviction court had a concomitant responsibility to ensure the
parties made of record those parts of the criminal file material to the disposition of
the claims presented.
Under the limited circumstances presented here, where the underlying
criminal file was “material to the questions raised in the application,” where the
physical file was not available to the parties, and where the lost records exception
was inapplicable, see, e.g., State v. McKnight, 356 N.W.2d 532, 534–35 (Iowa
1984), we conclude the district court erred in disposing of Robinson’s application
for postconviction relief without resort to the underlying criminal file. Where, as
here, the necessary record was temporarily unavailable, the district court should
have stayed the proceedings or reserved ruling until the necessary record became
available. We thus reverse and remand this matter to allow the parties to provide
the district court with the record and to allow the district court to consider each of
Robinson’s claims in light of the record provided. See Allen, 402 N.W.2d at 443–
44; Saul v. State, No. 14-0962, 2015 WL 3624119, at *3 (Iowa Ct. App. June 10,
2015) (reversing denial of application for postconviction relief where the parties
failed to make available transcript of plea proceeding in challenge to adequacy of
factual basis for guilty plea).


Plaintiff's Experts:

Defendant's Experts:


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