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State v. Denney

Court of Appeal of Iowa

May 30, 2013

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
TAYLOR BRADLEY DENNEY, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Des Moines County, Cynthia H. Danielson, Judge.

         Taylor Bradley Denney appeals his conviction for escape, claiming his trial counsel was ineffective in not objecting to certain evidence.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Rachel C. Regenold, Assistant State Appellate Defender, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Linda J. Hines, Assistant Attorney General, Patrick C. Jackson, County Attorney, and Lisa Schaefer, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.

          Considered by Eisenhauer, C.J., and Potterfield and Tabor, JJ.

          TABOR, J.

         A jury convicted Taylor Bradley Denney of escape, in violation of Iowa Code section 719.4(1) (2011). On appeal, he alleges his trial counsel should have objected to evidence that he admitted his escape in a disciplinary proceeding and that a residential officer saw him in possession of a "green, leafy substance."

         Finding the disputed evidence admissible, we reject Denney's claims his trial counsel breached an essential duty in failing to object. Even if counsel had objected, we cannot foresee the outcome of trial would have been different given the strength of the State's case against Denney. Because Denney's ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims fail, we affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         Following a felony conviction in February 2010, Denney was committed to the Burlington Residential Correction Facility. The residential facility—also known as a halfway house—is designed to provide offenders transitional housing between prison and their return to society. The facility also offers more structure to individuals convicted of crimes but not sentenced to prison. Residents do not have permission to leave the facility at will; they must check in and out at the control desk for work, earned recreational time, or religious furloughs.

         On March 7, 2012, Nicholas Baker, an officer at the Burlington facility, performed a head count of the residents shortly after 5 p.m. Baker found Denney sitting, fully clothed, on a toilet in the bathroom. Denney was rolling "a green, leafy substance" into toilet paper. Baker instructed Denney to follow him to the control desk, approximately fifty feet away. Baker set the leafy substance on the counter. When asked by another officer where Baker had obtained the substance, Baker replied he had found it on Denney in the bathroom. Denney then left the facility without permission. Surveillance video shows Denney slipping out an emergency exit, jogging across a basketball court, and hiking up a hill behind the facility. The staff reported Denney's departure to local law enforcement, and he was apprehended the following day.

         The officer wrote a formal report concerning Denney's alleged escape. Corrections officials held a disciplinary hearing to determine whether Denney had violated the facility's rules. At the disciplinary hearing, an officer read Denney his Miranda rights, and he "pled guilty to the report of escape."

         The county attorney charged Denney with escape, in violation of Iowa Code section 719.4(1), in a trial information filed on March 15, 2012. The court held a jury trial on May 8, 2012. The jury heard from two witnesses for the State. After deliberating for half an hour, the jury returned a guilty verdict. The court sentenced Denney to an indeterminate five-year prison term, to be served ...


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