Skip navigation
Prisoner Education Guide

Articles by Dale Chappell

Iowa Supreme Court Announces Actual Innocence Claim Is Freestanding Claim That Can Be Made Even After Guilty Plea

by Dale Chappell

The Supreme Court of Iowa adopted and announced a new rule that characterizes claims of actual innocence as freestanding claims under Iowa’s postconviction-relief statute, regardless of whether the applicant has knowingly and voluntarily pleaded guilty and thereby overturning its prior cases that had barred relief under those facts.

“What kind of system of justice do we have if we permit actually innocent people to remain in prison?” asked Justice David Wiggins for the Court, before overturning its prior cases that prevented freestanding actual innocence claims to be raised in a postconviction-relief action. “It is time that we refuse to perpetuate a system of justice that allows actually innocent people to remain in prison.”

Jacob Schmidt pleaded guilty in 2007 to charges of assault with intent to commit sexual abuse and incest, under a plea agreement, after he was accused of sexual conduct with a minor relative. The same day, the district court, finding that Schmidt’s plea was knowing and voluntary, sentenced him to no more than seven years in prison.

In 2014, Schmidt filed an application for postconviction relief based on the alleged victim’s recantation of his story to police, claiming, “I was not guilty ...

NY Court of Appeals Holds Trial Court’s Failure to Advise Defense of Jury Note Contents Constitutes Reversible Error

by Dale Chappell

The Court of Appeals of New York held that a trial court’s failure to make the defendant aware of the content of notes by the jury to the court was error requiring reversal, even though the issue was raised for the first time on appeal.

During the joint trial of Lawrence Parker and Mark Nonni for crimes related to burglary, the jury sent three substantive notes to the court, requesting specific information about the case. When everyone reconvened in court, the judge raised the issue of the three notes and said the court would address each one in turn. After resolving the first note, the court broke for lunch and said it would address the other notes after lunch. The jury, however, reached a verdict during lunch, ending the trial. The two remaining notes were never mentioned.

After the Appellate Division affirmed their convictions, Parker and Nonni were granted leave to appeal to the Court of Appeals.

Raised for the first time before the Court of Appeals, Parker and Nonni argued that the trial court’s failure to provide them with notice of the content of the other notes amounted to a mode of proceedings error requiring reversal ...

Insurance, Courts Protect Cops from Liability

by Dale Chappell

Lots of lawsuits get filed against law enforcement, but very few result in a payout. Police have an ever-growing shield called “qualified immunity” and decades of court decisions to hide behind. And even when there is a payout, it is not groundbreaking.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently upheld the broad protection qualified immunity offers law enforcement. The Court, once again, held that qualified immunity “gives ample room for mistaken judgments by protecting all but the plainly incompetent [officers] or those who knowingly violate the law.” Kisela v. Hughes, 138 S. Ct. 1148 (2018). It is a high standard, lawyers admit, and no defined criteria exist.

Police again can thank the courts for decisions that give them a loophole to get out of lawsuits. Say police use excessive force and crush a man’s pelvis during an arrest, as in the case of Brandon Anderson, who had his pelvis crushed by Bristol, Tennessee, police after he gave them a fake name. There’s an easy and virtually foolproof way to ensure he cannot sue—charge him with resisting arrest, even if he didn’t do so. When Anderson sued, police invoked the “Heck Rule,” which bars a criminal defendant ...

East Pittsburgh Officer Charged in Shooting of Unarmed Teen

by Dale Chappell

An East Pittsburgh Police Officer was charged with criminal homicide June 27 in the shooting death of Antwon Rose Jr., a 17-year-old who ran from police during a traffic stop but was unarmed and posed no threat to anyone.

Experts say this type of charge against an ...

U.S. Supreme Court: Drivers of Rental Cars Not on Rental Agreement Have Expectation of Privacy

by Dale Chappell

The U.S. Supreme Court held that a driver of a rental car who is not listed as an authorized driver on the rental agreement still had an expectation of privacy in the vehicle for Fourth Amendment purposes, concluding that the U.S. Court of Appeals for ...

New Kansas Law Compensates Those Wrongfully Convicted

by Dale Chappell

Kansas has become the thirty-third state to offer compensation to those who were wrongfully convicted. The new law signed by Gov. Jeff Colyer allows exonerees to be paid $65,000 for each year that they wrongfully spent in prison and $25,000 per year wrongfully on parole ...

Virginia Supreme Court Holds Convictions for Common Law and Statutory Involuntary Manslaughter Violate Double Jeopardy Clause

by Dale Chappell

The Supreme Court of Appeals for Virginia held that convictions for both common law and statutory involuntary manslaughter for the same offense violated the Double Jeopardy Clause and remanded to vacate one of the convictions.

A jury convicted Carroll Gregg Jr., of both common law involuntary manslaughter ...

Can Cops Shoot a Fleeing Suspect in the Back?

by Dale Chappell

Decades ago, it was acceptable, even laudable, for a cop to shoot an unarmed fleeing suspect in the back. That opinion, however, has changed over the years, but rarely does such an incident result in criminal charges against the officer. There are several reasons for that.

The ...

New Mexico Supreme Court: Seriousness of Charged Crime Itself Not Sufficient to Deny Defendant Pretrial Release

by Dale Chappell

A court must not automatically consider any single factor to be dispositive when deciding whether to deny or grant pretrial release, but must consider several factors on the record to determine if an accused must be detained, the New Mexico Supreme Court held.

Mariah Ferry, having been ...

Iowa Supreme Court: Relief from Conviction Not Required When Suing for Legal Malpractice Based on Wrongful Sentence

by Dale Chappell

In an issue of first impression in Iowa, the Supreme Court of Iowa held that relief from a wrongful sentence is enough to allow a legal malpractice claim regarding that sentence, and the defendant need not obtain relief from the underlying conviction.

Having spent an extra year ...


Federal Prison Handbook


Disciplinary Self-Help Litigation Manual


Advertise here