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Miller v. State

Court of Appeals of Iowa

June 7, 2017

JOSEPH WAYNE MILLER, Applicant-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Jackson County, Mark R. Lawson, Judge.

         Joseph Miller appeals the district court's denial of his application for postconviction relief. AFFIRMED.

          Zeke R. McCartney of Reynolds & Kenline, L.L.P., Dubuque, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Thomas J. Ogden, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Considered by Mullins, P.J., and Bower and McDonald, JJ.

          BOWER, Judge.

         Joseph Miller appeals the district court's denial of his application for postconviction relief. We find Miller's counsel was not ineffective. We also find the imposition of lifetime parole was not cruel and unusual. We affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         Between December 16, 2008, and February 25, 2009, Miller was engaged in a sexual relationship with a fourteen-year-old girl. At the time Miller was twenty-eight years old. The State filed a trial information March 6, charging Miller with sexual abuse in the third degree. During a deposition, Miller's trial counsel discovered the sexual relationship began when the victim was thirteen years old and that Miller had transported the victim across state lines. Trial counsel advised Miller to plead guilty in order to avoid an enhanced charge of sexual abuse in the second degree.

         Miller pled guilty and was sentenced to prison for a term not to exceed ten years on June 12, 2009. He was also required to register as a sex offender and received a special sentence of lifetime parole under Iowa Code section 903B.1 (2009). During the plea colloquy, the district court informed Miller of the special sentence. Miller claims trial counsel did not inform him regarding the special sentencing provisions before the plea hearing. At the postconviction hearing, trial counsel could not specifically remember informing Miller about those provisions. Trial counsel also testified he did not discuss any possible terms of the lifetime parole.

         Miller was released on parole in August 2014. Among various conditions for parole, Miller was not allowed to have contact with minor children, including his own, could not communicate with the mothers of his children, could not use Facebook, and could not view pornography. During the postconviction hearing, Miller claimed he did not know these conditions were a possibility and he would have gone to trial if he had known.

         Miller's parole was revoked December 2, 2014. He had been terminated from employment November 14, but had not notified his parole officer and continued to take a work furlough for three days. Miller claims his parole was revoked for using Facebook and viewing pornography. Miller was returned to prison and filed an application for postconviction relief, which the district court denied. He now appeals.

         II. Standard of Review

         Claims of ineffective assistance of counsel are reviewed de novo. Ledezma v. State, 626 N.W.2d 134, 141 (Iowa 2001). "To prevail on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, the [defendant] must demonstrate both ineffective assistance and prejudice." Id. at 142. "If the claim lacks prejudice, it can be decided on that ground alone without deciding whether the attorney performed deficiently." Id. Both elements must be proved by a preponderance of the evidence. Jones v. State, 479 N.W.2d 265, 272 (Iowa 1991). Regarding ineffective assistance, an attorney is presumed competent, but the presumption is rebutted "by showing . . . counsel failed to perform an essential duty." State v. Clay, 824 N.W.2d 488, 495 (Iowa 2012). Counsel has breached an essential duty when an error is so serious counsel is not functioning as an advocate guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment. Id. ...


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