The Ottumwa Courier

March 13, 2014

Abuse appeal rejected

Courier staff writer

---- — DES MOINES — The Iowa Court of Appeals has rejected a Monroe County man’s appeal for the second time.

James See II was charged with three counts of second-degree sexual abuse. He initially entered an Alford plea to two counts. An Alford plea is not an admission of guilt but rather an admission that the prosecution likely has enough evidence to result in conviction.

But See withdrew the plea and the case went to trial. He was convicted on all three counts.

See’s initial plea claimed his attorney was ineffective and improperly advised him to withdraw the Alford plea, failed to object to a juror’s comment during jury selection, failed to object to one of the jury’s instructions and failed to object to hearsay testimony. The appeal was rejected.

See appealed the rejection and added two new claims: his attorneys were ineffective because they failed to object to statistical evidence and leading questions and a claim questioning the rejection of the initial appeal.

This appeal didn’t fare any better.

All of the appeal claims focus on whether See’s attorney was effective. That’s a critical point for American criminal law, since the right to counsel is enshrined in both state and federal constitutions.

Judge Amanda Potterfield wrote in the court’s decision that See had the responsibility to “prove his counsel performed below the standard of a reasonably competent attorney.”

The court outright rejected most of See’s claims but said the record was not sufficient on the question of whether See’s victim was asked leading questions during testimony. Rules on leading questions are not as strict when the witness is a child. But See’s attorney did object to one question and had the objection sustained.

Whether multiple objections are a good idea is a judgement call, Potterfield wrote.

“This court could imagine several reasons why a defense counsel would not want to continually object during the testimony of a child alleging sexual abuse,” she wrote.