The Iowa Supreme Court has turned down the appeal in two murder cases that could have opened the door for other convicted murderers to get a new trial. In the Woodbury County case, Joel Goosman appealed his first-degree murder conviction in the 1992 killing of Chad Mackey based on the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision in the 2006 murder case of Milo farmer Rodney Heemstra.
The Supreme Court overturned the Heemstra murder conviction in the shooting death of neighbor Tom Lyon, ruling the crime of willful injury should be merged with the charge of murder. Heemstra was given a new trial and later was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter. Heemstra has since been released from prison.
Goosman’s conviction came after he was involved in an argument that led to Mackey’s shooting and he argued the Heemstra ruling should be used in a post-conviction appeal. That would mean he was convicted of a crime that no longer should be considered part of his offense. The Iowa Supreme Court says its ruling in the Heemstra case clearly involved a change in law and not a mere clarification. Thus, Goosman was convicted of first-degree murder under jury instructions, which properly stated the law at the time of his conviction, so he can’t go back now and raise the issues on appeal.
The court also issued a similar ruling in a Black Hawk County case involving the 1991 first-degree murder conviction of William Scott.
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller’s office issued this response to today’s Supreme Court rulings:
The Iowa Attorney General’s Office argued in both cases that the decision to limit the retroactivity of Heemstra complied with due process because that decision marked a major change in the law of how certain felony murder cases could be tried. Both Goosman and Scott were fairly convicted of brutal killings and are properly serving life sentences under state law. The Attorney General believes the Court reached the correct decision in denying new trials to Goosman and Scott.
The Attorney General anticipates that appeals from about two dozen other inmates serving life sentences for murder who are raising this same issue will be rejected as a result of these decisions. Today’s decisions are a relief for the families, friends and neighbors of murder victims in communities across Iowa who were affected by these cases.
See the Iowa Supreme Court opinions here .