Wrongly Convicted Database Record


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Robert Allen Barker



Solicitation of minor


"5 years suspended to be served on probation, outpatient sex-offender treatment, and sex offender registration"

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Palo Alto

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Judicially Exonerated Released

Summary of Case:

"Robert Allen Barker was wrongly convicted on October 3, 2006 of solicitation of a minor male in August 2006 in Emmetsburg, Iowa. Barker had scrawled a message on the wall of a public restroom inviting males interested in oral sex to respond to an email address. An agent of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation responded to the email address by posing as a fifteen-year-old male, and Barker arranged to meet him. When Barker showed up he was arrested and charged with attempted enticement of a minor and solicitation of a minor for a sex act. With the recommendation of his court-appointed lawyer, Barker entered into an agreement to pled guilty to solicitation of a minor to engage in a sex act, and on December 11, 2006 Barker was sentenced to a 5 year suspended prison sentence to be served on probation, outpatient sex-offender treatment, and sex offender registration. In August 2008 Barker was jailed for violating his probation terms, and on October 30, 2008 he was sentenced to serve his 5 year prison term with credit for time served. On October 1, 2009 Barker filed a post-conviction petition requesting that his conviction for solicitation of a minor be vacated on the ground that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because there was no factual basis for his guilty plea to solicitation of a minor to engage in a sex act. On February 28, 2011 a Palo Alto County District Court judge granted Barker's petition and vacated his conviction and sentence. The judge written ruling was based on the reasoning, Barker had to have solicited someone else to commit an actual crime, and he had not done so. The court explained, “If such [sex] act occurred, the adult would be committing the crime and the child would be a victim. Thus, the adult cannot be considered to have asked the fourteen or fifteen-year-old to commit a felony crime.” The court then concluded, “By advising and permitting Barker to plead guilty to a crime for which he could not give a factual basis, defendant’s counsel failed to perform an essential duty and the prejudice to defendant was inherent in the conviction entered upon his defective plea.” On March 1, 2013 Barker filed a lawsuit that claimed the two attorney's who represented him at separate times during the period of his plea bargaining and sentencing, committed legal malpractice by advising him to plead guilty to an offense for which there was no factual basis. The two lawyers moved for summary judgment on the basis that he could not prove he was factually innocent in the underlying criminal case. The district court judge granted the motion. Barker appealed and the Iowa Supreme Court granted review of his case. On February 5, 2016 the Iowa Supreme Court reversed the lower court's ruling and issued its precedential ruling that Barker could proceed with his lawsuit. The Court noted that the legislature did not impose the requirement that a former client whose conviction has been vacated must prove their actual innocence to have standing to sue for malpractice. The Court thus stated: "In short, Barker’s former attorneys ask us to impose an actual innocence requirement as a matter of common law that the legislature has declined to provide for appointed counsel as a matter of statutory law. Hence, for the reasons stated, we conclude that a client’s showing of actual innocence is not a prerequisite to bringing a legal malpractice claim against a former criminal defense attorney." (Barker v. Capotosto and Magee, No. 14–1550 (Iowa Sup. Ct., 2-5-2016)"

Conviction Caused By:

Innocence Proved By:

"On February 5, 2016 the Iowa Supreme Court reversed the lower court's ruling and issued its precedential ruling that Barker could proceed with his lawsuit."

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Was Perpetrator Identified?

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Information Source 1:

"Robert Allen Barker v. Donald H. Capotosto and Thomas M. Magee, No. 14–1550 (Iowa Sup. Ct., 2-5-2016) (Precedential ruling that Barker could sue his attorneys for malpractice for advising him to pled guilty to a crime, when his conviction was later overturned -- even though he couldn't prove his actual innocence.)"

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Information Source 2:

"Court ruling makes defense attorney malpractice suits easier, By Associated Press, KWWL-TV (Des Moines, IA), February 5, 2016"

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Innocents Database Created and Maintained by Hans Sherrer innocents@forejustice.org

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