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Mitchell v. State

Court of Appeals of Iowa

December 6, 2017

JOSHUA DAVID MITCHELL, Applicant-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Kevin McKeever, Judge.

         An applicant appeals the district court's denial of his application for postconviction relief. AFFIRMED.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Vidhya K. Reddy, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

          Joshua David Mitchell, Fort Dodge, appellant pro se. Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Louis S. Sloven, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Tabor and Bower, JJ.

          VOGEL, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         Joshua Mitchell appeals the district court's denial of his application for postconviction relief (PCR). He asserts his trial counsel was ineffective for (1) allowing him to plead guilty when he claims his plea was not made voluntarily and intelligently, (2) failing to perform an adequate investigation, and (3) failing to move to suppress his confessions. He also asserts the PCR court erred when it excluded exhibits he sought to introduce.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         Mitchell pled guilty to two counts of sexual abuse in the second degree, in violation of Iowa Code sections 709.1 and 709.3(1)(b) (2011). The trial information alleged that Mitchell committed multiple sex acts on his five- and nine-year-old daughters. Mitchell agreed to plead guilty to both counts in exchange for the State's recommendation the sentences run concurrently. The trial court accepted the plea after finding it was entered voluntarily and intelligently. The court accepted the State's recommendation and imposed two, twenty-five-year terms of incarceration, to be served concurrently.

         Mitchell filed two pro se applications for postconviction relief over the next few years, which were eventually amended by appointed counsel and came on for hearing on May 12, 2016. After hearing testimony from both Mitchell and his trial counsel, the PCR court denied Mitchell's application. Mitchell appeals.

         II. Standard of Review

         We review claims of ineffective assistance of counsel de novo. Ennenga v. State, 812 N.W.2d 696, 701 (Iowa 2012). We review the court's evidentiary rulings for an abuse of discretion. Hall v. Jennie Edmundson Mem'l Hosp., 812 N.W.2d 681, 685 (Iowa 2012). "An abuse of discretion occurs when the trial court exercises its discretion on grounds or for reasons clearly untenable or to an extent clearly unreasonable." Id.

         III. Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

         To establish a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, an applicant must show (1) the attorney failed to perform an essential duty and (2) prejudice resulted to the extent it denied the applicant a fair trial. State v. Carroll, 767 N.W.2d 638, 641 (Iowa 2008). In order to show prejudice, an applicant must show that, but for ...


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