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Shelburn v. State

Court of Appeal of Iowa

July 10, 2013

CATRICIA SHELBURN, Applicant-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Story County, Dale E. Ruigh, Judge.

Catricia Shelburn appeals from the district court order denying her application for postconviction relief.

Aaron S. Fultz of Law Office of Aaron S. Fultz, Ames, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Darrel Mullins, Assistant Attorney General, Stephen Holmes, County Attorney, and Mary Howell Sirna, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.

Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Vaitheswaran and Bower, JJ.

BOWER, J.

Catricia Shelburn appeals from the district court order denying her application for postconviction relief. Shelburn argues the district court erred in finding that her trial counsel was not ineffective by failing to assess the strength of a justification or intoxication defense, and by failing to properly advise her on whether to accept or reject a plea offer. Because we find counsel was not ineffective when limiting the investigation into a battered women's syndrome defense, and Shelburn was not prejudiced in any other way, we affirm.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

On August 25, 2007, Catricia Shelburn stabbed and killed Larry Brown. Shelburn was charged with murder in the first degree, in violation of Iowa Code sections 707.1 and 707.2 (2007). Tomas Rodriguez and Raymond Reel were appointed as counsel to defend Shelburn. Rodriguez and Reel began investigating possible defenses, including intoxication and battered women's syndrome (BWS).[1]

Before Rodriguez and Reel could complete their investigations, however, Shelburn was presented with a plea offer that would reduce her charge to murder in the second degree.

Shelburn argues that her attorneys did not inform her of the possibility of raising either defense. She also claims her attorneys did not advise her in deciding whether to accept the plea offer. The plea offer did contain a deadline, and during the period it was available to her, Shelburn spoke with her attorneys and members of her family about her decision. Despite stating, at the time of her plea, that she understood the choices before her, she now claims that her minimal education and illiteracy prevented her from understanding the situation.[2]Shelburn now argues that she would not have accepted the plea offer if she had known a BWS or intoxication defense was available to her.

Shelburn accepted the plea offer and was sentenced to a term not to exceed fifty years with a requirement that she serve seventy percent of the term before she is eligible for parole.[3]

Shelburn filed her application for postconviction relief on February 11, 2009. Trial was held on September 7, 2011. In its order denying the application, the district court concluded Shelburn was not misled as to the terms of the plea, she was not pressured to accept the plea, she understood the proceedings, and her ...


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