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Dewayne Craft v. State of Iowa

March 27, 2013


Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, Bradley J. Harris, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Huitink, S.J.

Applicant appeals the district court decision denying his request for post-conviction relief. AFFIRMED.

Considered by Vogel, P.J., Doyle, J., and Huitink, S.J.* *Senior judge assigned by order pursuant to Iowa Code section 602.9206 (2013).

I. Background Facts & Proceedings.

On November 27, 2007, DeWayne Craft was charged with murder in the first degree for the death of his girlfriend. Craft signed a written plea agreement in which he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, in violation of Iowa Code sections 707.1 and 707.3 (2007). The plea agreement also provided Craft would waive his right to file a motion in arrest of judgment, to file an appeal, and to challenge the conviction in post-conviction proceedings.

A plea hearing was held on December 22, 2008. The district court accepted Craft's guilty plea to second-degree murder. Craft asked for immediate sentencing. He was sentenced to a term of imprisonment not to exceed fifty years and was informed by the court he would be required to serve a mandatory minimum of seventy percent of that sentence.

On August 18, 2009, Craft filed a pro se application for post-conviction relief, claiming he received ineffective assistance because his defense counsel failed to ensure: (1) his guilty plea was knowing and voluntary; (2) the record reflected a factual basis for his plea; and (3) his waiver of the right to appeal and the right to file a post-conviction application was knowing and voluntary.

The State filed a motion to continue, stating it intended to file a motion to dismiss because Craft had waived his right to file an application for post-conviction relief. Although no motion to dismiss was ever filed, the matter was set for a hearing. Craft filed a written resistance to dismissal.

The district court held a hearing on whether the post-conviction application should be dismissed. It entered an order on October 28, 2011, stating that "[b]ased on the application, the answer and the record herein, the court is satisfied that the applicant is not entitled to post-conviction relief and no purpose would be served by further proceedings." The court stated it intended to dismiss the application. The court's statements were based on the merits of Craft's claims, rather than the State's waiver arguments, which remained under advisement.

Craft made a written reply, adding an additional claim that he received ineffective assistance because his defense counsel told him he would not have to serve the seventy-percent mandatory minimum because the legislature would change the law. He attached affidavits from himself, his mother, and his sister. He also attached a letter from defense counsel containing the following paragraph:

Please keep in mind that the legislature can amend Iowa Code Section 902.12 and require that either more or less time be served. (At one time that code section required a person to serve 85% of the sentence). If the code section changes to require less time, that will apply to you. If the change requires more time, that will not apply to you.

The district court entered an order on December 28, 2011. The court found Craft was not precluded from filing a post-conviction action based upon the terms of the plea agreement. The court denied the State's motion to dismiss. The court denied Craft's application for post-conviction relief on the merits. It found counsel's letter did not make a definite statement the seventy-percent minimum sentence would change in a few years. The court also noted that at the guilty plea proceedings Craft stated he was acting voluntarily and no threats or promises had been made to him. Craft filed a motion to enlarge or amend pursuant to Iowa Rule of Civil Procedure 1.904(2), claiming summary disposition of his application for post-conviction relief was inappropriate because of the existence of material issues of fact. The district court denied his motion. Craft now appeals.

II. Standard of Review.

In general, we review the district court's denial of an application for post-conviction relief for the correction of errors at law. Lamasters v. State, 821 N.W.2d 856, 862 (Iowa 2012). When an applicant raises claims of a constitutional nature, however, our review is de novo. Id. To establish a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, an applicant must show (1) the attorney failed to perform an essential duty and (2) prejudice ...

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