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State v. Smith

Court of Appeals of Iowa

January 11, 2017

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
DERRICK GLENN SMITH JR., Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Jeffrey D. Farrell, Judge.

         The defendant challenges his convictions and sentences. CONVICTIONS AFFIRMED, SENTENCE VACATED, AND REMANDED.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Theresa R. Wilson, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kevin Cmelik, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

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

          MCDONALD, Judge.

         The State charged defendant Derrick Smith Jr. with two counts of attempted murder, two counts of willful injury causing serious injury, and two counts of intimidation with a dangerous weapon. The charges arose out of a shooting on the east side of Des Moines on the morning of June 8, 2015. Smith was driving his girlfriend's sport utility vehicle. His passenger and codefendant, Jamon Allen Jr. fired a handgun from the passenger side of the vehicle at Michi Palmer and Willie Taylor, striking and seriously injuring both of them. One of the errant bullets struck the residence of Johnetta Daye. Taylor and Palmer were visiting Daye. Danielle Looney, who was sleeping at Daye's residence at the time of the shooting, awoke to the gunfire. The matter came on for trial in October 2015. On the third day of trial, Smith and Allen pleaded guilty by way of Alford v. North Carolina, 400 U.S. 25, 37 (1970), to two counts of willful injury causing serious bodily injury, in violation of Iowa Code section 708.4(1) (2015), and intimidation with a dangerous weapon, in violation of Iowa Code section 708.6. The State agreed to dismiss the remaining counts. Smith now challenges his convictions and his sentences.


         Smith asserts three claims of ineffective assistance of counsel under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and article I, section 10 of the Iowa Constitution. Smith makes a generic assertion Iowa courts conduct a more stringent review of claims arising under the Iowa Constitution, but Smith provides no substantive guidance regarding the more stringent standard to be applied and no citation to any legal authority providing any substantive guidance regarding the more stringent standard to be applied. In the absence of any substantive guidance or authority, we decline to apply a different standard to Smith's Iowa claims. See State v. Edouard, 854 N.W.2d 421, 452 (Iowa 2014) (Appel, J., concurring specially) ("Where a party raises issues under the Iowa Constitution and the Federal Constitution, but does not suggest a different standard be applied under the Iowa Constitution, we generally apply the federal standard."), overruled on other grounds by Alcala v. Marriott Int'l, Inc., 880 N.W.2d 699, 708 (Iowa 2016); State v. Bohl, No. 15-1546, 2016 WL 4543957, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App. Aug. 31, 2016) ("The right question, is not whether a state's guarantee is the same as or broader than its federal counterpart as interpreted by the Supreme Court. The right question is what the state's guarantee means and how it applies to the case at hand.").

         To establish a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, Smith must demonstrate "(1) his trial counsel failed to perform an essential duty, and (2) this failure resulted in prejudice." State v. Straw, 709 N.W.2d 128, 133 (Iowa 2006). To establish counsel failed to perform an essential duty, Smith must establish "the attorney performed below the standard demanded of a reasonably competent attorney." Ledezma v. State, 626 N.W.2d 134, 142 (Iowa 2001). The attorney's performance is measured against "prevailing professional norms, " and it is presumed the attorney performed competently. Id. "A claim of ineffective assistance is more likely to prevail when counsel lacked diligence as opposed to the exercise of judgment." State v. Polly, 657 N.W.2d 462, 465 (Iowa 2003). To establish prejudice, the defendant must show trial counsel's allegedly deficient performance caused a complete "breakdown in the adversary process" such that the defendant's conviction is unreliable. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984). This requires a showing "there is a 'reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different.'" Collins v. State, 588 N.W.2d 399, 402 (Iowa 1998) (citation omitted). In the context of a guilty plea, "to satisfy the prejudice requirement, the defendant must show that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's errors, he or she would not have pleaded guilty and would have insisted on going to trial." Straw, 709 N.W.2d at 138.

         Smith's first claim is his guilty plea was not voluntarily and intelligently made because the district court failed to inform him of the nature of the charges to which he was pleading guilty. Specifically, Smith claims the district court failed to inform Smith of each and every element of the charges and his counsel was deficient in allowing the plea to go forward. As a general rule, a defendant's guilty plea waives all defenses and objections to a criminal proceeding except those intrinsic to the plea. See Wise v. State, 708 N.W.2d 66, 70 (Iowa 2006). The defendant's waiver includes claims of ineffective assistance of counsel except those bearing on the knowing and voluntary nature of the plea. See State v. LaRue, 619 N.W.2d 395, 398 (Iowa 2000). This is because "[f]undamental due process requires a guilty plea be voluntary and intelligent." State v. Speed, 573 N.W.2d 594, 597 (Iowa 1998) (citation omitted). Counsel thus breaches an essential duty resulting in prejudice when a defendant's guilty plea is not voluntarily and intelligently made. See Meeker v. State, No. 12-2292, 2014 WL 955988, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App. Mar. 12, 2014).

         To ensure the defendant's guilty plea is voluntarily and intelligently made, the district court must inform the defendant of his constitutional rights, the nature of the charges, and the penal consequences of the guilty plea. See Iowa R. Crim. P. 2.8(2)(b). With respect to the specific challenge here, the district court should explain each of the elements of the offense or offenses to which the defendant is pleading guilty. See Brainard v. State, 222 N.W.2d 711, 714 (Iowa 1974). Although strict compliance is ideal, substantial compliance is acceptable. See State v. Loye, 670 N.W.2d 141, 151 (Iowa 2003). Substantial compliance depends on the particular facts and circumstances of the case. See State v. Victor, 310 N.W.2d 201, 204 (Iowa 1981). "Lack of explanation of the elements of an offense is not reversible error if, under all the circumstances, it is apparent the accused understood the charge." Id.

         We conclude the district court substantially complied with Rule 2.8 and the defendant understood the nature of the charges. First, the names of the offenses themselves are sufficiently self-explanatory to inform the defendant of the nature of the charges. See id.; State v. Sanders, No. 03-1734, 2004 WL 2169748, at *3 (Iowa Ct. App. Sept. 29, 2004) (concluding the "name of the crime itself" can satisfy the requirement the defendant understand the nature of the charge). Second, prior to trial, the district court held several pretrial conferences in the presence of the defendant, including an extensive pretrial conference regarding the plea offers made to the defendant. The nature of the charges and the penal consequences for the same were discussed extensively. Third, at the beginning of trial, in the presence of the defendant, the prosecutor read the trial information setting forth the elements of the offenses. See State v. Cook, No. 00-1560, 2001 WL 804063, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App. July 18, 2001) ("Where the trial information charges the offense in language containing the elements, no additional explanation may be required."). Fourth, the defendant sat through three days of trial, including the State's opening statement in which the elements of the offenses and the relevant evidence were again discussed. Fifth, the defendant's counsel stated he explained to the defendant the nature of the charges and the minutes of testimony. Sixth, the defendant admitted his counsel explained to him the minutes of testimony. See State v. Readus, No. 03-0642, 2004 WL 239928, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. Feb. 11, 2004) (holding there was substantial compliance where the defendant read the trial information and minutes of testimony). The minutes "explicitly described in simple and easy-to-understand terms how the crime was committed." State v. Oberbreckling, 235 N.W.2d 121, 122 (Iowa 1975). Seventh, the defendant also agreed there would be sufficient evidence for a jury to return a guilty verdict. Under the circumstances, as in Oberbreckling, "[i]t cannot be seriously contended defendant did not understand the nature of the crime." Id.; see State v. Catlett, No. 14-0500, 2015 WL 408071, at *3 (Iowa Ct. App. Jan. 28, 2015) (holding defendant understand the nature of the charges where the "names of the offenses alone are descriptive enough" and the defendant agreed "the minutes of evidence for each charge were accurate").

         Smith's second and third claims are related. Smith contends his guilty plea to intimidation with a deadly weapon was not supported by a factual basis in the record. Specifically, he challenges the factual basis for the element the defendant placed "occupants or people" in reasonable apprehension of serious injury.[1]See Iowa Code § 708.6; State v. Ross, 845 N.W.2d 692, 699 (Iowa 2014). Smith also contends his plea was not voluntary and ...

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