Garner, Hancock County, Iowa. The drug defense attorneys at GRL Law successfully raised and litigated a claim of actual innocence resulting in the district court setting aside a felony conviction from 2017.
Prior counsel advised our client to plead guilty to a felony charge of administering marijuana edibles to another in violation of Iowa Code section 708.5 despite the fact that she consistently maintained her innocence throughout the investigative, plea change and sentencing phases of the case.
The firm raised numerous grounds on which the district court could have certainly found her trial counsel ineffective. We were able to clearly demonstrate, however, that her guilty plea to the charge lacked a factual basis in the transcript of that court proceeding.
When it became evident that our client would not be able to admit the essential elements of the offense, prior counsel indicated that the court could simply rely on the minutes of testimony to fill the gaps. The problem? There were no admissions in the investigative reports that our client: (1) gave marijuana edibles to another person or otherwise caused the person to take them; and (2) that this was accomplished either by threats or deception without the other person’s consent.
A tip of the hat also goes to the county attorney. Prosecutors in Iowa have a dual function. While they are properly an advocate for the State within the bounds of the law, their primary interest is to see that justice is done, not to necessarily obtain a conviction. The county attorney struck the proper balance between the two roles by recognizing that due process requires a factual basis to support a guilty plea, especially when a felony is alleged. Justice was ultimately achieved by vacating the conviction under the circumstances.