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State v. Arterburn

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 13, 2017

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
BRADLEY WILLIAM ARTERBURN, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Mahaska County, Lucy J. Gamon, Judge.

         The defendant challenges his guilty plea to murder in the second degree. AFFIRMED.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Mary K. Conroy, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Tyler J. Buller, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Tabor and McDonald, JJ.

          MCDONALD, JUDGE.

         "Bradley Arterburn killed his mother's boyfriend, Robert 'Hank' Horovitz, by striking him with a battle axe and slitting his throat with a knife. At trial, Arterburn raised defenses of insanity and diminished responsibility, testifying that before and during the attack he experienced flashbacks to being sexual[ly] abused by his stepfather as a child. A jury convicted Arterburn of first-degree murder." State v. Arterburn, No. 13-0035, 2014 WL 1715061, at *1 (Iowa Ct. App. Apr. 30, 2014). On direct appeal, this court affirmed Arterburn's conviction but preserved certain claims for postconviction-relief proceedings. See id. at *9. Arterburn's conviction was subsequently vacated in postconviction-relief proceedings, and the matter was scheduled for retrial. Prior to the second trial, Arterburn pleaded guilty to murder in the second degree, in violation of Iowa Code section 707.3 (2011). Arterburn timely filed this appeal, challenging the validity of his guilty plea. He asserts his plea was not actually knowing and voluntary and was not supported by a factual basis.

         Before addressing the merits of Arterburn's claims, we first address the issue of whether the defendant can challenge his plea. As a general rule, "[a] defendant's failure to challenge the adequacy of a guilty plea proceeding by motion in arrest of judgment shall preclude the defendant's right to assert such challenge on appeal." Iowa R. Crim. P. 2.24(3)(a). An exception to this rule exists, however, where the district court failed to adequately advise the defendant of the necessity of filing a motion in arrest of judgment and the consequences for failing to do so. See Iowa R. Crim. P. 2.8(2)(d) ("The court shall inform the defendant that any challenges to a plea of guilty based on alleged defects in the plea proceedings must be raised in a motion in arrest of judgment and that failure to so raise such challenges shall preclude the right to assert them on appeal."); State v. Oldham, 515 N.W.2d 44, 46 (Iowa 1994); State v. Worley, 297 N.W.2d 368, 370 (Iowa 1980) (holding defendant should not "suffer the sanction of rule [2.24(3)(a)] unless the court has complied with rule [2.8(2)(d)] during the plea proceedings by telling the defendant that he must raise challenges to the plea proceeding in a motion in arrest of judgment and that failure to do so precludes challenging the proceeding on appeal"). It is not disputed Arterburn failed to file a motion in arrest of judgment. We thus must determine whether the district court adequately advised the defendant pursuant to Rule 2.8(2)(d).

         "We employ a substantial compliance standard in determining whether a trial court has discharged its duty under rule 2.8(2)(d)." State v. Fisher, 877 N.W.2d 676, 681 (Iowa 2016) (citing State v. Straw, 709 N.W.2d 128, 132 (Iowa 2006)). The determinative issue is whether the district court conveyed the pertinent information to the defendant. Straw, 709 N.W.2d at 132. During the plea colloquy, the district court gave the following advisory to Arterburn:

That does allow [fifteen] days between today's date and the sentencing date. It also allows for the possibility of filing what's called a motion in arrest of judgment. And, Mr. Arterburn, you have to file that motion no later than [forty-five] days from today's date but in no case later than five days prior to the date and time set for sentencing . . . . If you don't file that motion, then you cannot complain about any defects in these plea proceedings on appeal. Your attorney can tell you more about that right if you are interested in that right.

         We conclude the district court substantially complied with Rule 2.8(2)(d) and the defendant is thus barred from directly challenging his guilty plea. Substantial compliance does not require recitation of the exact language of the rule; conveying the substance is sufficient. See Fisher, 877 N.W.2d at 681. Here, the district court advised the defendant of the necessity of filing a motion in arrest of judgment to challenge his guilty plea, the time for filing the motion, and the consequences for failing to do so. We reject Arterburn's contention that the district court's use of the word "complain" was insufficient to convey the required information. A commonly understood meaning of complain is "to make a formal accusation or charge." Complain, Merriam-Webster Dictionary https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/complain. In addition, the district court did not use the word "complain" in isolation. Instead, the district court informed Arterburn he had to file a motion in arrest of judgment to complain "about any defects in these plea proceedings on appeal." The entirety of the district court's statement was sufficient to alert Arterburn of the need to challenge his guilty plea by motion in arrest of judgment and the consequences for failing to do so.

         Although Arterburn is barred from directly challenging the validity of his guilty plea, he may challenge the validity of his guilty plea indirectly within the framework of a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. See Straw, 709 N.W.2d at 132-33 (holding while failure to file a motion in arrest of judgment to challenge a guilty a plea bars a direct appeal of conviction, "this failure does not bar a challenge to a guilty plea if the failure to file a motion in arrest of judgment resulted from ineffective assistance of counsel"). Arterburn asserts several claims of ineffective assistance of counsel. Our review is de novo. See State v. Finney, 834 N.W.2d 46, 49 (Iowa 2013); State v. Schminkey, 597 N.W.2d 785, 788 (Iowa 1999).

         "The person claiming that his trial attorney was ineffective, depriving him of his sixth amendment right to counsel, must show that (1) counsel failed to perform an essential duty, and (2) prejudice resulted therefrom." Taylor v. State, 352 N.W.2d 683, 684-85 (Iowa 1984). A defendant must prove these elements by a preponderance of the evidence. Id. at 685. "[B]oth elements do not always need to be addressed. If the claim lacks prejudice, it can be decided on that ground alone without deciding whether the attorney performed deficiently." Ledezma v. State, 626 N.W.2d 134, 142 (Iowa 2001). Prejudice generally exists if "there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different." State v. Leckington, 713 N.W.2d 208, 217 (Iowa 2006) (citing Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 694 (1984)). In the context of a guilty plea, this means there is a "reasonable probability that, but for counsel's errors, [the defendant] would not have pleaded guilty and would have insisted on going to trial." Irving v. State, 533 N.W.2d 538, 541 (Iowa 1995) (citing Hill v. Lockhart, 474 U.S. 52, 57-59 (1985)). We reject Arterburn's contention that he should be entitled to relief upon a lesser showing. The case law in this area is well-established, and this court is not at liberty to overrule controlling precedent. See State v. Beck, 854 N.W.2d 56, 64 (Iowa Ct. App. 2014).

         Arterburn first claims his counsel was ineffective in allowing Arterburn to plead guilty where the plea was not actually knowing and voluntary. Specifically, Arterburn claims he entered his plea without understanding the meaning of "malice aforethought, " an element of the offense, and without a factual basis for the plea. Voluntariness requires an inquiry by the district court as to whether a defendant understands the nature of the offense and the legal consequences of the plea and was not compelled or otherwise coerced into making an involuntary plea. See State v. Sisco, 169 N.W.2d 542, 547 (Iowa 1969). A claim that a guilty plea was not actually knowing and voluntary relates to the defendant's subjective understanding of the plea proceeding. See Finney, 834 N.W.2d at 58. This requires the "court to delve into the accused's state of mind." Id. Because the object of the inquiry is the defendant's ...


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