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Wright v. State

Court of Appeals of Iowa

February 19, 2014

JEREL WRIGHT, Applicant-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee

Editorial Note:

This opinion is subject to modification or correction by the court and is not final until the time for rehearing or further review has passed.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Dubuque County, Monica L. Ackley, Judge. An applicant appeals from a district court ruling denying his request for postconviction relief.

Steven J. Drahozal of Drahozal Law Office, P.C., Dubuque, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Linda J. Hines, Assistant Attorney General, Ralph Potter, County Attorney, and Christine O. Corken, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee State.

Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Mullins, J., and Goodhue, S.J.[*]

OPINION

GOODHUE, S.J.

Jerel Wright, aka Jerel Wright Bey, has appealed from the district court ruling denying his request for postconviction relief.

I. Procedural and Factual Background

On or about September 7, 2009, Wright was involved in a street fight. Two of the participants were stabbed. Derick Tye was hospitalized as a result of his injuries. Jermaris Lorez West died as a result of the injuries he sustained. Wright was immediately arrested and taken into custody. Wright initially exercised his right to remain silent in response to law enforcement efforts to interrogate him. He was permitted to call his mother, and she told him to tell the officers what he had done. He responded accordingly and admitted stabbing Tye and indicated he had tried to kill him but did not admit to stabbing West. Wright was charged with the attempted murder of Tye and the second-degree murder of West. His statements were admitted into evidence at trial.

While Wright was incarcerated in the Dubuque County Jail he was visited by Sister Rosanna Gleason, acting as a chaplain or chaplain's assistant to the residents of the jail. Wright wrote a letter in which he admitted stabbing Tye and put it in an envelope which he gave to a jailer for delivery to Sister Gleason. The letter did not admit that he stabbed West. The letter was opened by the jail staff and admitted into evidence at trial.

Neither Wright's admissions to the interrogators nor his letter to his assistant chaplain were challenged by a motion to suppress, and both were admitted at trial without objection. Wright and his counsel had determined that he would testify. The evidence was overwhelming that he had stabbed Tye and substantial that he had stabbed West. The blade of the knife recovered at the scene had blood with DNA matching both Tye and West. Wright was found guilty of attempted murder as charged and voluntary manslaughter instead of murder in the second degree. Wright appealed and raised the issue of ineffective assistance of counsel, but the issue was not addressed on appeal and was left open to be considered in a postconviction relief action. See State v. Wright, 801 N.W.2d 628, 2011 WL 2041578 (Iowa Ct. App. 2011).

An application for postconviction relief was filed by Wright on November 9, 2011. A hearing was held September 6, 2012. At that hearing Wright's counsel testified that she and Wright made the decision that he would testify in the hope that he would be found not guilty of the second-degree murder charge. His counsel believed Wright would make a good witness and, in fact, believed his testimony was well received. She believed the fact that ...


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