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Shortridge v. State

Court of Appeals of Iowa

November 21, 2018

MONTEZ D. SHORTRIDGE, Applicant-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Jeffrey D. Farrell, Judge.

         Montez Shortridge appeals from the district court's denial of his application for postconviction relief.

          Erin M. Carr of Carr & Wright, PLC, Des Moines, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Tyler J. Buller, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.

          VAITHESWARAN, Presiding Judge.

         In 1996, a jury found Montez Shortridge guilty of first-degree murder in connection with the death of a Des Moines man. This court affirmed his judgment and sentence, as well as the denial of his first application for postconviction relief. See Shortridge v. State, No. 01-0199, 2004 WL 574617, at *4-8 (Iowa Ct. App. Mar. 24, 2004); State v. Shortridge, 589 N.W.2d 76, 79-80 (Iowa Ct. App. 1998). Shortridge filed a second postconviction-relief application, which was stayed pending resolution of the first application and subsequently languished for more than a decade. The district court eventually denied the application following an evidentiary hearing.

         Shortridge now appeals the district court's resolution of the second postconviction-relief application. He contends (1) the State suppressed exculpatory evidence and (2) he is "entitled to an ex parte hearing for the appointment of an expert."

         I. Suppression of Exculpatory Evidence

         In his second postconviction-relief application, Shortridge asserted the State failed to disclose information relating to State witness Jheri Hatten, who lived in Iowa for a short period before moving to California.[1] Specifically, he alleged, (1) "Hatten was on probation out of Woodbury County for a fourth-degree theft conviction entered on June 28, 1994, "[2] (2) a warrant was issued for her arrest, (3) the State made arrangements to fly Hatten "back from California to be interviewed by [a] homicide investigator," (4) the State "obtained a transfer of a probation violation involving Hatten from Woodbury County to Polk County," (5) "on the same day she returned" for the interview, the State "held a [probation] revocation hearing" in Polk County, and (6) the State "made a "favorable recommendation" in the probation revocation hearing, which was not disclosed to the defense.

         The postconviction court concluded the favorable recommendation "was not suppressed because the information could have been discovered by defense counsel." The court provided the following reasoning:

Defense attorneys knew that Ms. Hatten was on probation at the time of the murder, and in fact, their alibi defense was partially based on the timing of applicant bonding her out of jail. They likewise knew that she had left Iowa for California in September of 1994 . . . . They knew that she returned to Iowa in February of 1995 to provide a statement to prosecutors. The probation violation hearing was conducted on the record and the court filed an order accordingly. Any review of the file would have revealed that a hearing was held, which could have led to further investigation. The State made Ms. Hatten available for deposition on three occasions after the murder charge was filed. While defense counsel did not know the circumstances of the probation violation hearing, they at least had the grounds and opportunity to inquire into any resolution of her pending probation matter.

         The court also concluded "the information was not material."

         On appeal, Shortridge acknowledges "defense counsel would have been aware of Ms. Hatten's being on probation." He also acknowledges his attorneys arguably "could have uncovered the arguments made at Ms. Hatten's probation violation hearing." But he asserts his attorneys "were not privy to . . . the circumstances bringing her back to Iowa to take care of that." In his ...


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