The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled a Clinton County man’s case for wrongful imprisonment should be heard. David DeSimone was found guilty by a jury in 2005 of third-degree sexual abuse after a 17-year-old girl said he had abused her at a party at his home in Clinton in 2005. DeSimone, who was 45 at the time, had his conviction overturned six years later and he was aquited in a new trial.
DeSimone sought to be declared wrongfully imprisoned so he could file a civil suit against the state, and the district court ruled he could do so. But prosecutors argued the aquittal could not be the basis for being declared wrongfully imprisoned, because it did not vacate or dismiss the charges.
The State also argued the district court should have considered the testimony that had been presented at DeSimone’s two criminal trials in making the wrongful imprisonment determination. And finally, the State contended that even without the prior testimony, substantial evidence does not support the district court’s finding that DeSimone was innocent.
The Supreme Court ruled DeSimone can sue for wrongful imprisionment based on his aquital. The court ruling said under the State’s definition, the defendant’s potential status as a wrongfully imprisoned person would depend entirely on whether the State elected to retry him following the reversal of his original conviction-unless insufficient evidence were the basis for the reversal. “It is not logical that the individual’s eligibility for relief shuld turn on a decision completely in the State’s control.”
The ruling says the district court erred in not considering the prior criminal case testimony even though the State did not show the witnesses were no longer available. And it said substantial evidence supports the district court’s finding of innocence on the existing record, so a remand is necessary for the district court to consider the full record, including the prior testimony.
The case now goes back to district court for further action.
See the complete ruling here: DeSimone ruling PDF