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Mitchell v. State

Court of Appeal of Iowa

July 24, 2013

JOSHUA TYLER MITCHELL, Applicant-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Marion County, Martha L. Mertz, Judge.

Applicant appeals the district court decision denying his request for postconviction relief from his conviction for conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine.

Jeffrey Lipman of Lipman Law Firm, P.C., Des Moines, and Thomas Hurd, Des Moines, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Sharon Hall, Assistant Attorney General, and Ed Bull, County Attorney, for appellee State.

Considered by Vogel, P.J., Bower, J., and Mahan, S.J. [*]

MAHAN, S.J.

I. Background Facts & Proceedings.

On November 3, 2007, Joshua Mitchell was a passenger in a vehicle that was stopped because it only had one headlight. The driver did not have proof of insurance, and a deputy sheriff determined the vehicle should be impounded. As part of that process, officers removed items from the vehicle. The contents of the vehicle included Coleman fuel, Heet, paper towels, a coffee maker, Mason jars, tubing, a gravel vacuum cleaner, acetone, MSM tablets, small plastic bags, and matches.[1] These items may be used in the manufacture of methamphetamine.

The driver, Violet Mitchell (Mitchell's aunt), stated Mitchell had asked her and the other passenger of the vehicle, Pam Goemaat, to purchase some of the items. Mitchell told an officer he was building an aquarium at home. Mitchell was charged with conspiracy to manufacture a controlled substance (methamphetamine), in violation of Iowa Code section 124.401(1)(b)(7) (2007).

The case proceeded to a jury trial with evidence as outlined above. Ricky Maples and Christina Thomas testified they had an agreement with Mitchell to provide him with pseudoephedrine in exchange for methamphetamine. Thomas testified Mitchell told her, "he needed the pills to make the product, to make the meth." Pharmacy records showed Maples and Thomas had purchased pseudoephedrine on multiple occasions. They testified that within a few days of delivering the pseudoephedrine to Mitchell they would receive methamphetamine from him.

A jury found Mitchell guilty of conspiracy to manufacture more than five grams of methamphetamine. He was sentenced to a term of imprisonment not to exceed twenty-five years. He appealed his conviction, but the appeal was dismissed as frivolous under Iowa Rule of Appellate Procedure 6.1005.

On April 21, 2010, Mitchell filed an application for postconviction relief, claiming he received ineffective assistance of counsel at his criminal trial. After a hearing, the district court denied Mitchell's request for postconviction relief. The court determined defense counsel had strategic reasons for not objecting to certain evidence. Furthermore, the court found that even if defense counsel had breached an essential duty, Mitchell could not show he was prejudiced due to the State's very strong case against him. Mitchell now appeals the denial of his application for postconviction relief.

II. Standard of Review.

We review claims of ineffective assistance of counsel de novo. Ennenga v. State, 812 N.W.2d 696, 701 (Iowa 2012). 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 resulted to the extent it denied applicant a fair trial. State v. Carroll, 767 N.W.2d 638, 641 (Iowa 2008). "In determining whether an attorney failed in performance of an essential duty, we avoid second-guessing reasonable trial strategy." Everett v. State, 789 N.W.2d 151, 158 (Iowa 2010). In order to show prejudice, an applicant must show that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different. State v. Madsen, ...


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