Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Heemstra Merger Doctrine Not Retroactively Applicable

Goosman v. State, no 07-1416, (Iowa April 17, 2009)

One of the questions left open in the case of Rodney Heemstra was the effect of the decision holding that the felony of willful injury merged into a homicide and thus could not serve as the predicate felony for a first degree murder prosecution.

One might imagine that it was the subject of much animated late night palaver among the cognoscenti, particularly the jailhouse lawyers in Fort Maddy and other mesne places.

The question in the instant case was whether the holding in Heemstra had to be applied retroactively because of due process. The Court had previously said it could not, applying only to cases that had not been resolved by direct appeal and where the issue had been raised at trial.

Goosman was convicted in 1992 of a murder in which the predicate for the felony murder prosecution was wilful injury, and his direct appeal was denied in 1994. He filed an application for post conviction relief.

The Court held that where a court announces a change in substantive law (as it did in Heemstra) which overrules prior authoritative precedent, federal due process does not require retroactive application of the holding.


Post a Comment

<< Home