from the Iowa District Court for Marshall County, John J.
applicant appeals from the district court's denial of his
application for postconviction relief. AFFIRMED.
Darrell G. Meyer, Marshalltown, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Thomas E. Bakke, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Potterfield and Mullins, JJ.
Blue appeals from the district court's denial of his
application for postconviction relief (PCR). Blue was
originally charged with sexual abuse in the second degree,
lascivious acts with a child, and indecent contact with a
child. If convicted of sexual abuse in the second degree,
Blue faced a twenty-five-year prison sentence with a
mandatory minimum of seventy percent. He reached a plea
agreement with the State whereby he pled guilty to sexual
abuse in the third degree and lascivious acts with a child
and he received a fifteen-year sentence without a mandatory
did not file a motion in arrest of judgment before
sentencing, and he did not file an appeal.
challenged his guilty plea for the first time in his
application for PCR. He claimed his trial counsel was
ineffective for failing to file a motion to suppress
inculpatory statements Blue made to the police. Blue asserted
he would not have entered into a plea agreement with the
State and instead would have insisted on going to trial if
counsel had alerted him that his incriminating statements may
not have been admissible at that trial. Blue makes the same
claim on appeal, arguing the PCR court decided the issue
we generally review the denial of an application for PCR for
correction of errors at law, when there is an alleged denial
of constitutional rights, we make our evaluation of the
totality of the circumstances in a de novo review. See
Everett v. State, 789 N.W.2d 151, 155 (Iowa 2010). To
succeed on his claim of ineffective assistance, Blue has the
burden to establish "(1) counsel failed to perform an
essential duty; and (2) prejudice resulted."
Id. at 158 (quoting State v. Maxwell, 743
N.W.2d 185, 195 (Iowa 2008)). In the context of a guilty
plea, an applicant for PCR must prove a reasonable
probability that, but for counsel's alleged errors, he
would not have pled guilty and would have insisted on going
to trial. State v. Carroll, 767 N.W.2d 638, 641
(Iowa 2009). Additionally, "[a] defendant's guilty
plea is not necessarily rendered involuntary merely because
it follows his defense counsel's mistaken assessment of
the admissibility of the State's evidence."
Id. Blue "can, however, challenge the validity
of his guilty plea by proving the advice he received from
counsel in connection with the plea was not within the range
of competence demanded of attorneys in criminal cases."
See id. at 642. Here, we consider whether trial
counsel breached a duty in not filing a motion to suppress
Blue's confession to a police officer and whether Blue
suffered prejudice as a result. See id. at 644.
claim fails if is he unable to establish either element, and
in such a situation, we need not consider both. See
Kirchner v. State, 756 N.W.2d 202, 204 (Iowa 2008)
("The court need not address both components if the
[applicant] makes an insufficient showing on one of the
prongs." (alteration in original)). But here, we
specifically find that Blue has failed in both regards.
accepted Blue's testimony about the police interview as
true, we may find that a motion to suppress Blue's
confession was likely to succeed and should have been
pursued. But Blue's testimony regarding what happened
during the police interview was at odds with his trial
counsel's testimony, and the PCR court specifically found
the attorney's statements more credible. See State v.
Tague, 676 N.W.2d 197, 201 (Iowa 2004) (noting that even
when we review an issue de novo, we still "give
considerable deference to the trial court's findings
regarding the credibility of the witnesses"). Moreover,
Blue has the burden to establish that his trial counsel
breached a duty, yet he failed to introduce into evidence a
copy of the video containing the confession so the reviewing
court could ascertain the chance of success of such a motion.
We cannot say counsel breached a duty by not filing a motion
to suppress when we have no way of ascertaining whether the
motion would have merit. State v. Dudley, 766 N.W.2d
606, 620 (Iowa 2009) (noting "counsel has no duty to
raise issues that have no merit, " so counsel cannot be
found to be ineffective if the defendant's underlying
claims lack validity).
also failed to establish that he would have insisted on going
to trial if counsel made him aware of the option to file a
motion to suppress. At the PCR hearing, Blue repeatedly
testified he chose to enter into a plea deal with the State
after his trial counsel "scared him" by accurately
conveying the charges he faced and the sentence he would
receive if found guilty of those charges. Blue agreed his
plan or intent for his case was "damage control, "
meaning he wanted to "get the best offer and move
on." His trial counsel testified similarly, stating Blue
never told him he was innocent, "they got the wrong guy,
" or that he wanted to proceed to trial. The only caveat
trial counsel offered was that he was "fairly
certain" they would have proceeded to trial "[h]ad
the State rejected the 15-year or wanted him to go
higher." Although Blue made a few statements during his
testimony at the PCR hearing that he would have insisted on
going to trial if he knew there was a chance his confession
could be suppressed, these self-serving statements are not
enough to establish prejudice. See Kirchner, 756
N.W.2d at 206 (noting the defendant "offered no evidence
to support his self-serving statement" as he ...