from the Iowa District Court for Cerro Gordo County, Gregg R.
applicant appeals the district court's denial of his
application for postconviction relief.
J. Thomas of Dylan J. Thomas, Attorney at Law, Mason City,
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Jean C. Pettinger, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Vogel and Vaitheswaran, JJ.
guilty pleas, James Woods was convicted of one count of
second-degree burglary and one count of second-degree
harassment. Woods received suspended sentences for his
convictions, was placed on probation for five years, and
ordered to reside at a residential facility. Woods did not
file a direct appeal from his convictions but filed an
application for postconviction relief (PCR) in March
2016. Following an evidentiary hearing, the PCR
court denied Woods's application, and he appeals. He
contends the PCR court erred in denying his claim that his
trial attorney was ineffective for allowing him to plead
guilty to the burglary count where support for the intent
element of assault was lacking. He also contends the PCR
court erred in determining he failed to prove his attorney
was ineffective for failing to investigate his case. Finally,
he contends the PCR court erred in using the minutes of
testimony improperly. To the extent any of these claims were
not preserved for review, he alternatively claims his PCR
counsel was ineffective. For the reasons articulated herein,
Trial Counsel's Ineffectiveness.
order to prove a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel,
an applicant must prove by a preponderance of the evidence
that (1) counsel failed to perform an essential duty and (2)
counsel's failure resulted in prejudice. Dempsey v.
State, 860 N.W.2d 860, 868 (Iowa 2015). Both elements
must be established or the claim fails. Id. We
assess counsel's performance "objectively by
determining whether [it] was reasonable, under prevailing
professional norms, considering all the circumstances."
Id. (alteration in original) (citation omitted). To
prove prejudice, the applicant must prove "a reasonable
probability that, but for the counsel's unprofessional
errors, the result of the proceeding would have been
different." Id. (citations omitted). Our review
of an ineffective-assistance claim is de novo. Id.
Factual Basis to Establish Intent.
PCR proceeding, Woods claimed his guilty plea lacked a
factual basis to support the intent element of the burglary
conviction and trial counsel was ineffective in not filing a
motion in arrest of judgment to challenge that deficiency.
The PCR court rejected this assertion noting the minutes of
testimony, which Woods agreed the court could use to
establish the factual basis at the guilty plea hearing,
contained ample factual basis to support the intent element.
We agree. As the PCR court noted, the minutes state Woods
forced his way into a hotel room, believing its occupants had
stolen his cell phone. He pushed one occupant, "patted
down" another occupant, referenced his possession of a
gun, and threatened to kill the occupants if they did not
return the cell phone. In addition, in the written guilty
plea that was filed in Woods's criminal action, Woods
admitted to having "the intent to commit a felony,
assault, or theft" when he entered the occupied
structure without permission.
faults the PCR court for not finding his description of the
events of the night in question more credible, but the court
does not assess the credibility of the evidence when
conducting an objective inquiry into whether a guilty plea is
supported by a factual basis in the record. See State v.
Finney, 834 N.W.2d 46, 55 (Iowa 2013) ("The
determination of whether there is a factual basis in the
record to support the charge to which the defendant seeks to
plead guilty is an objective inquiry that has nothing to do
with the state of mind of the accused, but everything to do
with the state of the record evidence."). Woods's
citation to authority that sentencing courts cannot
consider minutes of testimony beyond that which establishes a
factual basis for the guilty plea has no bearing on this
inquiry because the PCR court was not sentencing Woods.
Instead, it was making an objective determination as to
whether the record provided the factual basis to support the
also claims that his guilty plea was not "knowingly and
voluntarily" entered because he did not understand
intent was an element of the crime of second-degree burglary
or that his intoxication could have been a defense. The PCR
court did not address a challenge to the voluntary and
intelligent nature of the guilty plea; therefore, this issue
is not preserved for our review. Instead, we will address the
issue through Woods's claim of PCR counsel's
ineffectiveness later in this opinion.
the PCR court did address a claim that trial counsel was
ineffective in not pursuing an intoxication defense to the
intent element. The PCR court found the evidence did not
support the defense. The PCR court noted the police reports
indicated Woods discussed his concerns regarding his missing
cell phone with the officers at the scene and volunteered he
had a BB gun in his waistband. As the PCR court noted,
"[I]n order for the intoxication defense to be valid,
the intoxication must be to the extent that the individual is
no longer aware of the nature or circumstances of his
actions. That is not the case here." We agree with the
PCR court's conclusion that while "alcohol
consumption may have influenced his actions, " it did
not "rise to ...