The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

November 16, 2013

Wrongful imprisonment case goes back to court

By Scott Levine Herald Associate Editor
The Clinton Herald

---- — CLINTON — The Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday that a Clinton man will receive another hearing for wrongful imprisonment.

The Supreme Court agreed with a district court’s ruling in November 2012 that said David DeSimone can be ruled wrongfully imprisoned based on an acquittal. However, the Iowa Supreme Court reversed the district court’s decision that transcripts from previous trials should not have been admitted, and has sent back the case to the lower court for further proceedings.

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller filed an appeal in March, addressing whether DeSimone had the authority to apply for a wrongful imprisonment designation, whether Judge Marlita Greve should have refused to consider the entire case file, whether the court incorrectly determined DeSimone was innocent as a matter of law and whether the court erred in determining he had proved his innocence by clear and convincing evidence.

DeSimone spent seven years in prison for the alleged sexual assault of a 17-year-old female, occurring on Oct. 16, 2004. He was found guilty of sexual abuse in the third degree on Sept. 15, 2005, and was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Oct. 19, 2005. The decision was vacated by the Iowa Supreme Court in September 2011 and he was granted a new trial. After a four-day trial in March 2012, DeSimone was found not guilty by a jury. He then put in his application for wrongful imprisonment.

The state claimed DeSimone could not file a wrongful imprisonment suit against the state on a not guilty jury verdict. The Supreme Court disagreed, saying the state did not take the full statute into consideration when making the argument regarding this claim.

“It is not logical that the individual’s eligibility for relief…should turn on a decision completely in the state’s control,” the Iowa Supreme Court wrote.

However, the Supreme Court agreed with the state’s claim the district court erred when declining to consider the prior testimony from DeSimone’s two criminal trials in making the wrongful imprisonment determination.

“We think it would be impractical and undesirable for a completely new trial to be mandated whenever an individual whose conviction and prison sentence have been vacated seeks a wrongful imprisonment determination,” the Iowa Supreme Court wrote.

DeSimone can file for wrongful imprisonment, but more hearings will be needed to determine if he meets the threshold of being wrongful imprisoned. Under Iowa law, to be considered wrongful imprisoned, a person must meet several factors relating to the charge and if the person can show by clear and convincing evidence that the individual did not commit the offense. And while the Supreme Court said there is substantial evidence showing DeSimone as innocent, a full review of the records is necessary.

Iowa Code allows someone determined to be “wrongfully imprisoned” to receive an amount of liquidated damages equal to $50 for each day of wrongful imprisonment and lost wages, salary or earned income directly resulted from the incarceration, up to $25,000 a year. Such a person would also be eligible for attorney fees, fines, surcharge penalties and court costs connected with the “wrongful imprisonment” claim and the criminal proceedings.