from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Thomas G.
Harris appeals the sentence imposed following a guilty plea
to two charges.
C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Shellie L. Knipfer,
Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kelli A. Huser, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.
following facts are not disputed. In October 2014, Stephanie
Harris was caring for several children, including her
cousin's two children, A.B. and M.B. At that time, the
children's mother was incarcerated. As a result of
Harris's lack of supervision, A.B., a two-year-old girl,
fell down the stairs and injured her head. After the fall,
the child began having seizures. Harris merely placed frozen
food on the bump on the child's head. Harris did not seek
medical attention for the child until six days later. The
child ultimately died. The child's sibling, M.B., a
four-year-old boy, suffered a bodily injury while in
Harris's care. Again, Harris did not facilitate medical
treatment for the child for six days.
State initially charged Harris with child endangerment
resulting in death as to A.B. The State subsequently amended
the trial information to include two additional counts: child
endangerment resulting in serious injury as to A.B. and child
endangerment resulting in bodily injury as to M.B.
See Iowa Code § 726.6(1)(d), (5), (6) (2014).
The State agreed to dismiss the first count in return for
Harris's guilty plea to counts two and three. The plea
agreement left open whether the sentences on the respective
offenses would run consecutively or concurrently. Harris
ultimately pled guilty to both charges. At the sentencing
hearing, the State requested Harris's sentences run
consecutively, given the fact that two separate children were
injured. Harris, noting her "intellectual disability
that is mild" and the fact that the charges stemmed from
"one night, " requested her sentences run
district court sentenced Harris to, among other things, ten
years of imprisonment on the charge relating to A.B. and five
years of imprisonment on the charge relating to M.B. The
court ordered the sentences to run consecutively.
appeals. She contends, the district court failed to consider
the mitigating circumstances that she (1) suffers from a
mental impairment and (2) has "no criminal history
beyond traffic tickets and one resisting a police officer
conviction, " and the district court therefore abused
its discretion in ordering her sentences to run
consecutively. She also contends the sentencing court's
consideration of A.B.'s death was improper.
defendant's sentence is within the statutory limitations,
we review the district court's decision for an abuse of
discretion, our most deferential standard of review.
State v. Roby, 897 N.W.2d 127, 137 (Iowa 2017)
(quoting State v. Seats, 865 N.W.2d 545, 552 (Iowa
2015)). "When assessing a district court's decision
for abuse of discretion, we only reverse if the district
court's decision rested on grounds or reasoning that were
clearly untenable or clearly unreasonable." State v.
Plain, 898 N.W.2d 801, 811 (Iowa 2017). "Grounds or
reasons are untenable if they are 'based on an erroneous
application of the law or not supported by substantial
evidence.'" Id. (quoting State v.
Dudley, 856 N.W.2d 668, 675 (Iowa 2014)).
a person is sentenced for two or more separate offenses, the
sentencing judge may order the second or further sentence to
begin at the expiration of the first or succeeding
sentence." Iowa Code § 901.8; accord State v.
Criswell, 242 N.W.2d 259, 260 (Iowa 1976). A sentencing
court must state its rationale for imposing consecutive
sentences and, "[a]lthough the reasons do not need to be
detailed, they must be sufficient to allow appellate review
of the discretionary action." State v.
Keopasaeuth, 645 N.W.2d 637, 641 (Iowa 2002). A
sentencing court is also required "to consider any
mitigating circumstances relating to a defendant."
State v. Witham, 583 N.W.2d 677, 678 (Iowa 1998);
see Iowa Code § 901.3(1)(g).
choosing to impose consecutive sentences, the district court
In doing this, I look at the seriousness of the crime, the
effect that this crime has upon members of our community,
your willingness to accept change and treatment and what we