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Chancellor v. State

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 27, 2017

TRAVARIS CHANCELLOR, Applicant-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Lawrence P. McLellan, Judge.

         Travaris Chancellor appeals from the denial of his application for postconviction relief.

          Andrea K. Buffington of Ranes Law Firm, West Des Moines, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kyle P. Hanson, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Considered by Doyle, P.J., Bower, J., and Mahan, S.J. [*]

          MAHAN, SENIOR JUDGE

         Travaris Chancellor appeals from the denial of his application for postconviction relief. Finding no error, we affirm.

         Travaris Chancellor was nineteen years old when he was involved in an evening of violent disputes, which turned into a "melee." During the melee, Chancellor got into a vehicle, drove over a curb and across a park lawn at a high rate of speed, and struck and killed two women who were standing in a group of twelve to fourteen people. He claimed he accidentally hit the women as he was attempting to escape the crowd that was assailing him. Chancellor was charged with two counts of first-degree murder.

         At trial, Latonia Johnson testified that she had been in the car with Chancellor, she told Chancellor to stop, and she told him her aunt was in the group of women he was headed toward. She testified that, at some point while driving, Chancellor stated, "Those mother fuckers, they jumped me. They got to pay."[1] Jay Garroutte, who had been in jail with Chancellor after the incident, testified Chancellor told Garroutte about the circumstances of his charges and that Chancellor's "intention was he was going to go home and get his pistol or go get a pistol and come back and start shooting people." However,

he put the car in reverse and started to back up to turn around and leave, and he saw [one of the women with whom he had fought earlier] and one of her daughters and several other people standing up on the sidewalk or up on the side of the street as he was starting to leave, and he decided-he said, "I just decided fuck it, so I just smashed it and tried to smash them."

Chancellor testified he did not remember driving over the curb, hitting a tree, hitting the women, or hitting a fence. When he learned of the women's deaths, he was distraught and turned himself into police. The jury convicted Chancellor of two counts of second-degree murder.

         On direct appeal, Chancellor's challenge to the jury instructions was rejected and his convictions were upheld. See State v. Chancellor, No. 10-0930, 2011 WL 3481006, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App. Aug. 10, 2011).

         Chancellor then filed an application for postconviction relief (PCR), alleging his trial attorneys were ineffective in failing to adequately impeach Johnson and Garroutte, [2] in failing to object to certain evidence, [3] and in failing to employ a medical and or psychological expert to evaluate Chancellor and testify as to Chancellor's mental and/or physical capacity at the time of the incidents and to explore possible defenses. His two trial attorneys testified the theory of the defense was that the killings had been accidental-that Chancellor was fleeing a dangerous scene (during which hammers were used to strike people, bricks were thrown, the windshield of the vehicle Chancellor was driving was smashed, tire irons were used) with Johnson's ...


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