Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Michael D. Huppert, Judge. The defendant appeals the district court's order denying her motion in arrest of judgment.
Nicolas Sarcone of Stowers Law Firm, West Des Moines, for appellant.
Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Tyler J. Buller, Assistant Attorney General, Perry Shoemaker, Student Legal Intern, John Sarcone, County Attorney, and Stephan Bayens, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.
Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ.
After Bianca A. Arreola-Dominguez (Arreola) pled guilty to delivery of a controlled substance and failure to possess a tax stamp, she filed a motion in arrest of judgment claiming the plea was made under duress. Arreola claims the district court abused its discretion by not properly considering the expert testimony she presented at the evidentiary hearing. She further claims that due to duress caused by her former boyfriend, her guilty plea was not voluntarily entered. We affirm.
I. BACKGROUND FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS.
In February 2012, Arreola and her former boyfriend, Jossue Gomez, were arrested in Polk County for their participation in the delivery of methamphetamine, a schedule II controlled substance. Arreola provided translation services for Gomez during the course of the unlawful delivery.
Arreola appeared in the Polk County District Court on May 14 with her former attorney Rodger Owens, and pled guilty. Before the court accepted her guilty plea, the court engaged Arreola in a step-by-step colloquy to determine that she understood the elements and penalties of the charged crimes. Next, the court asked: "[H]ave there been any threats or promises made to you to get you to plead guilty, " and "[A]re you pleading guilty today voluntarily and of your own free will?" Arreola denied that she had been coerced and responded that the guilty plea was her own decision. Satisfied with Arreola's responses, the court then accepted her guilty plea.
Arreola timely filed a motion in arrest of judgment and moved to withdraw her previously entered guilty plea. In her motion, Arreola asserted her guilty plea was not intelligently and voluntarily made due to duress caused by Gomez. Arreola further stated Owens was unaware of her duress at the time of the plea, and therefore, he had not been able to provide proper advice. He had only become aware of the abuse after speaking with her family after the plea. The motion included statements by Laurie Schipper. Schipper found that Arreola's "constant concern" about Gomez was consistent with someone suffering from "battered woman syndrome." The State filed a resistance to Arreola's motion and argued that she had made the guilty plea both intelligently and voluntarily.
At the evidentiary hearing on her motion in arrest of judgment, Arreola testified about her relationship with Gomez. She stated that during their six-month relationship Gomez often subjected Arreola to physical and psychological abuse. When asked by her attorney why she did not mention the abuse to Owens while he represented her, she stated, "Because—mostly because I fear from everything, from my family, for him, from all of the things that were going on." Additionally she noted that she had made the plea because "everything was going to be better once I got to prison and do my time and just disappear." Arreola's attorney asked her about the effect of Gomez on her decision to plead guilty: "I think I will go to prison for him and he will just be okay and he will take it in a good way and just make the relationship better."
Schipper's testimony at the hearing provided a general overview of domestic abuse and the "power and control tactics" that one spouse may assert over the other. The "power and control" dynamic can extend to an individual's decision to plead guilty to a crime if the individual thinks that the plea may protect their abuser. After reviewing the notes from Arreola's counselor, Schipper stated that she saw "alleged power and control tactics." She also observed that "battered woman's syndrome" is a clinical type conclusion that is categorized "under posttraumatic stress, " and that some women "will develop posttraumatic stress . . . [a]nd some will not."
Subsequently, the court denied Arreola's motion in arrest of judgment and reaffirmed her conviction. Arreola then filed this appeal. On appeal Arreola presents two arguments: (1) the district court abused its discretion when it gave no weight to the expert testimony presented by Schipper, and (2) Arreola ...