Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Morris v. State

Court of Appeals of Iowa

April 17, 2019

THOMAS DUANE MORRIS, Applicant-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Henry County, Mark Kruse, Judge.

         An applicant convicted of second-degree theft appeals the denial of his application for postconviction relief.

          Jeffrey L. Powell of Powell and McCullough, PLC, Coralville, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Martha E. Trout, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

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

          Tabor, Judge.

         The Henry County Attorney charged Thomas Morris with stealing three cars, burglarizing two other cars, and taking a navigation system during the summer of 2014. After his public defender negotiated a plea agreement, Morris pleaded guilty to one count of theft in the second degree. Represented by retained counsel at sentencing, Morris received an indeterminate five-year suspended prison term. He did not file a direct appeal. But after the district court revoked his probation in 2015, Morris filed an application for postconviction relief (PCR), challenging counsel's performance. The district court denied relief. Morris appeals that denial, alleging he was prejudiced by "two separate attorneys' failure to follow his wishes regarding withdrawal of his guilty plea."

         Because Morris fails to meet his burden to show a breach of duty by his attorneys in the guilty-plea process, we affirm the PCR denial.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         At his plea hearing in November 2014, Morris admitted taking possession of a 2000 Ford Contour, valued at more than $1000 but not more than $10, 000, with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of that vehicle. His plea to one count of second-degree theft was part of a comprehensive bargain. In exchange for his guilty plea, the parties agreed to a five-year prison sentence and the dismissal of two additional second-degree theft counts, one fourth-degree theft count, and two counts of third-degree burglary. The State also agreed to dismiss an unrelated felony drug charge.

         Before sentencing, Morris retained attorney Frank Santiago, and his public defender, Djalal Arbabha, withdrew. Notwithstanding terms of the plea agreement, at the January 2015 hearing, attorney Santiago urged the district court to grant Morris a suspended sentence. The court asked if Morris understood the "ramifications" of not abiding by the plea deal. The defense confirmed the State would go forward with prosecuting the felony drug charge but would still dismiss the remaining counts. The district court imposed a prison term not to exceed five years, suspended the sentence, and placed Morris on probation for five years. Morris did not appeal the conviction or sentence.

         In June 2015, Morris's probation officer filed a report alleging several violations, including possession of contraband and commission of theft. Based on that report, the district court revoked Morris's probation and imposed the previously suspended five-year sentence.

         In February 2016, Morris filed a PCR application, which alleged counsel was ineffective for failing to file a motion in arrest of judgment challenging the factual basis for Morris's guilty plea to second-degree theft. During the district court's hearing on the application, Morris testified by deposition, and both attorney Arbabha and attorney Santiago testified in person. Morris alleged he didn't fully understand the elements of the theft charge. Morris testified before he hired attorney Santiago, he asked attorney Arbabha to move to withdraw the guilty plea. Morris maintained Arbabha said he would draft a motion but failed to follow through. Attorney Arbabha testified if Morris had insisted on filing a motion in arrest of judgment to challenge the guilty plea, he would have done so. Attorney Santiago likewise testified Morris did not express an interest in filing a motion in arrest of judgment before sentencing.

         In rejecting the PCR application, the district court found Morris's testimony to be unbelievable. The court concluded Morris's claim "two lawyers simply ignored a request to file the motion or otherwise [was] unsupported by sufficient ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.