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State v. Smith

Court of Appeals of Iowa

December 6, 2017

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MARTEZ DEROY SMITH, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, George L. Stigler, Judge.

         A defendant challenges his convictions and sentences. AFFIRMED.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Theresa R. Wilson, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Sharon K. Hall, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Heard by Danilson, C.J., Mullins, J., and Carr, S.J. [*]

          CARR, Senior Judge.

         Martez Smith appeals from his convictions and sentences for murder in the first degree, in violation of Iowa Code sections 707.2(1), 902.1(1), and 910.3B(1) (2015), and domestic abuse assault, in violation of section 708.2A(2)(a). On appeal, he contends (1) he received ineffective assistance of counsel when his counsel failed to move for dismissal as a result of a speedy-indictment violation, (2) he received ineffective assistance of counsel when counsel failed to object to prosecutorial misconduct, (3) the trial court abused its discretion in admitting certain evidence, and (4) the trial court abused its discretion in denying counsel access to a police officer's disciplinary records. He also raises three pro se claims: that an instruction was improper, that he received ineffective assistance when counsel abandoned two potential defenses, and that his due process rights were violated by the cumulative effect of certain alleged errors.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         On November 25, 2014, Shawonyta Norman visited his sister, Latres Johnson, at the home she shared with her boyfriend Martez Smith. At one point in the afternoon, Johnson was putting up a baby gate to confine her two dogs when Smith yelled at her and pushed her into the baby gate. She fell into the gate, breaking it, and sustaining cuts on her ankle, arm, and neck. Soon afterwards, Norman told Smith to stop fighting and to stop speaking to his sister in the insulting language Smith had been using. The situation between Smith and Norman, however, appeared to calm down, as the men later briefly hugged.

         Smith then went to the basement. When he returned, he asked Norman to join him outside. Within ten minutes, Johnson thought she observed "scuffling" outside and went to check on the two men. Norman was by then coming up steps to the house and saying "he stabbed me" and "I'm not going to make it." Johnson helped Norman inside. She slammed the door shut and locked it. She called 911. Paramedics arrived and performed CPR before transporting Norman to a nearby medical center. Norman was pronounced dead roughly an hour later.

         Smith was arrested soon thereafter. On November 26, he appeared before a magistrate and was charged with domestic abuse assault causing bodily injury. On January 29, 2015, an arrest warrant issued against Smith for the crime of first-degree murder. He was arrested in jail and charged with murder.

         The case eventually proceeded to a jury trial. Following trial, Smith was found guilty of domestic abuse assault and of first-degree murder. Smith was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole on the murder charge and to five years with a mandatory minimum sentence of one year on the assault charge. The two sentences were ordered to run consecutively. Smith was also assessed costs, a fine, and a restitution payment. He now appeals.

         II. Standard of Review

         The right to effective assistance of counsel finds its moorings in the Sixth Amendment. State v. Clay, 824 N.W.2d 488, 494 (Iowa 2012); see U.S. Const. amend. VI. When a defendant asserts a constitutional violation, our review is de novo. See Taylor v. State, 352 N.W.2d 683, 684 (Iowa 1984).

         Evidentiary rulings are reviewed for an abuse of discretion. See State v. Buenaventura, 660 N.W.2d 38, 50 (Iowa 2003).

         III. Analysis

         A. Speedy Indictment

          Smith claims he received ineffective assistance of counsel when trial counsel failed to move for dismissal of Smith's murder charge for a speedy-indictment violation.

         Ineffective assistance of counsel "is deficient performance by counsel resulting in prejudice, with performance being measured against an 'objective standard of reasonableness, ' 'under prevailing professional norms.'" Rompilla v. Beard, 545 U.S. 374, 380 (2005) (citations omitted). "[W]e measure counsel's performance against the standard of a reasonably competent practitioner." State v. Maxwell, 743 N.W.2d 185, 195 (Iowa 2008). Prejudice exists if there is "a reasonable probability that, but for the counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different." Id. at 196. "A defendant's inability to prove either element is fatal." State v. Graves, 668 N.W.2d 860, 869 (Iowa 2003).

         The incident that led to Smith's arrests and convictions occurred on November 25, 2014. He was arrested for domestic abuse assault by November 26. A criminal complaint charging Smith with murder was filed on January 29, 2015. A trial information on the murder charge was filed on February 9.

         The speedy-indictment rule requires that Smith be indicted for a charge within forty-five days of his arrest. See Iowa Ct. R. 2.33(2)(a). Smith effectively raises two questions: (1) does his arrest for domestic abuse assault qualify as an arrest on his murder charge, and (2) if not, when was he arrested for murder? Two recent cases have answered these questions definitively. In State v. Penn-Kennedy, 862 N.W.2d 384, 390 (Iowa 2015), our supreme court reiterated that the speedy-indictment rule does not apply "to all offenses arising from the same incident or episode." The rule does not require a prosecution to commence "before crucial evidence is available" on greater charges. Penn-Kennedy, 862 N.W.2d at 390; see also State v. Burton, 231 N.W.2d 577, 578 (Iowa 1975) (holding ...


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