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Harris v. State

Court of Appeal of Iowa

October 23, 2013

FRANKLIN L. HARRIS, Applicant-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Des Moines County, Michael J. Schilling, Judge.

Applicant appeals the decision of the district court denying his request for postconviction relief from his conviction for second-degree murder.

Jeffrey M. Lipman of Lipman Law Firm, P.C., Des Moines, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Sharon K. Hall, Assistant Attorney General, Patrick C. Jackson, County Attorney, and Amy K. Beavers, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee State.

Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., Doyle, J., and Huitink, S.J. [*]

HUITINK, S.J.

I. Background Facts & Proceedings.

The record in this case provides evidence of the following facts. Franklin Harris was charged with first-degree murder for the stabbing death of his girlfriend. Harris entered into a plea bargain with the State whereby he agreed to plead guilty and the State agreed to reduce the charge to second-degree murder. During the plea colloquy, the district court informed Harris a charge of second-degree murder was punishable by up to fifty years in prison and he would be required to serve a mandatory minimum of seventy percent of the sentence. The court also discussed with Harris the element of malice aforethought.

Harris entered a guilty plea to second-degree murder in violation of Iowa Code section 707.3 (2007). At the sentencing hearing, the district court again informed Harris he would have to serve at least seven-tenths of the maximum term of incarceration. Harris was sentenced to a term of imprisonment not to exceed fifty years. He appealed, and his appeal was dismissed as frivolous pursuant to Iowa Rule of Appellate Procedure 6.1005. Procedendo was issued on October 23, 2008.

Harris filed an application for postconviction relief on November 3, 2008. He claimed he received ineffective assistance because defense counsel: (1) did not adequately explain to him the mandatory minimum sentence; (2) did not "do her job" when the court discussed with him whether there was a factual basis for the element of malice; and (3) did not prepare a defense for him based on diminished responsibility due to his use of alcohol and marijuana and due to his mental condition. The case was presented to the district court based on the written record and the depositions of Harris and his defense counsel.

The district court issued a decision on November 17, 2010, denying Harris's application for postconviction relief. The court determined Harris failed to show defense counsel neglected to inform him of the seventy-percent mandatory minimum rule. The court also found there was a factual basis in the record for the element of malice based on Harris's statement during the plea colloquy that he stabbed the victim with a knife and did so with the knowledge or plan that he was doing this because he was angry and upset with her. He also stated he intended to hurt his girlfriend. Furthermore, the court determined Harris had offered absolutely no credible evidence he was unable to understand the plea proceedings. Harris now appeals the decision of the district court.

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, ...


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