EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Project DNA: Iowa


The pertinent portion of Iowa's postconviction DNA testing statute, I.C.A. § 81.10(2)(b), provides in relevant part that a petition for postconviction DNA shall state

The facts of the underlying case, as proven at trial or admitted to during a guilty plea proceeding.

So, where does that leave pleading defendants? 

As the language of the statute makes clear, pleading defendants in Iowa can seek postconviction DNA testing. See Schmidt v. State, 909 N.W.2d 778 (Iowa 2018).

Interestingly, until 2018, pleading defendants in Iowa were precluded from presenting freestanding claims of actual innocence based on non-DNA evidence.

In March 2018, however, the Supreme Court of Iowa issued its opinion in Schmidt v. State, in which Jacob Lee Schmidt had pleaded guilty to sexual abuse in the third degree. Schmidt later sought to prove his actual innocence based upon a recantation by the victim. Iowa’s postconviction statute, however, did not allow pleading defendants to present freestanding actual innocence claims.

The Supreme Court of Iowa concluded that this prohibition violated the Due Process Clause of the Iowa Constitution, finding that “[a]n innocent person has a constitutional liberty interest in remaining free from undeserved punishment.” Therefore, “[h]olding a person who has committed no crime in prison strikes the very essence of the constitutional guarantee of substantive due process.” As support for its conclusion, the court cited similar opinions by the Illinois and New Mexico Supreme Courts.



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