SPENCER A. PIERCE, Applicant-Appellant,
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee.
from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Robert B.
Pierce appeals the denial of his application for
Young of Parrish Kruidenier Dunn Boles Gentry Brown &
Bergmann L.L.P., Des Moines, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Katie Krickbaum, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State
Considered by Potterfield, P.J., Bower, J., and Carr, S.J.
A. Pierce appeals the denial of his application for
postconviction relief (PCR). He argues his trial counsel was
ineffective for failing to take several actions: (1) file a
motion to suppress evidence from the search of an apartment;
(2)properly argue the motion to suppress evidence from the
search of a vehicle; (3)investigate a confidential informant;
and (4) prepare for trial. We find Pierce has not shown
prejudice by proving, but for counsel's claimed errors,
he would have refused the plea bargain and proceeded to
trial. Furthermore, he has not proven: (1) the warrant to
search the residence was impermissibly tainted by evidence
from an illegal search and seizure or from inaccuracies in
the application; (2) the warrant to search the vehicle was
improperly rejected or the vehicle would not run properly
with the evidence in place; (3) evidence from the
confidential informant was beneficial to him; or (4) a lack
of preparation for trial by counsel caused him to plead
guilty. Therefore, we affirm.
Background Facts and Proceedings
7, 2013, Des Moines police observed Pierce driving a Dodge
Durango. Officers were searching for a similar Durango,
Deanna Hood, and a man matching Pierce's appearance named
"Spence" or "Spencer" in connection with
a murder the previous day. Officers had also recently seen
the Durango while investigating drug activity. An officer
approached Pierce as he exited the Durango at an apartment
complex. Pierce told the officer his name was
"Spencer" and he lived in apartment twenty-three in
the complex. The officer then detained him.
Brad Youngblut, who had been investigating the murder, soon
arrived at the complex. He spoke to Pierce, who "was not
completely uncooperative, but he wasn't exactly
forthcoming." From their conversation, Detective
Youngblut determined Hood was likely in apartment
twenty-three. Without Pierce's consent, officers took
Pierce to the apartment in search of Hood. No one answered
when the officers knocked on the apartment door, so they used
Pierce's keys to unlock the door. As officers used the
correct key, Pierce yelled, "Flush the weed. They're
coming in." Officers then transported Pierce and Hood to
the police station for further questioning. Both at the
apartment complex and the police station, Pierce said he
wanted counsel. He was later held in jail on a parole
same day, officers applied for-and received-a search warrant
for Pierce's apartment and the Durango. Inside the
apartment, officers found drugs and related paraphernalia,
including baggies containing marijuana and methamphetamine.
Officers also impounded the Durango that day.
9, Pierce was charged in FECR267109 with five counts of
controlled-substance violations resulting from the search of
his apartment and the previous drug investigation. He was
later charged in FECR268032 with murder and robbery.
August 15, Detective Youngblut interviewed a confidential
informant, who was imprisoned in Iowa. The informant said he
met Pierce while they were in jail together. According to the
informant, Pierce said drugs were still hidden in the
"blower" of the Durango. Detective Youngblut
requested a drug-sniffing dog to search the Durango, which
remained in the impound facility. The dog detected an odor in
the air filter in the open engine compartment. Officers
opened the air filter and found baggies that appeared to
contain methamphetamine. They returned the Durango to its
prior state and later collected the drugs under a search
warrant for the vehicle. The search resulted in Pierce being
charged with three additional counts of controlled-substance
violations in FECR269461.
first proceeded to trial on the murder and robbery charges in
FECR268032, and the jury returned a guilty verdict on both
counts on November 6. On December 17, the court sentenced him
to life in prison for murder in the first degree and
twenty-five years in prison for robbery in the first degree,
Pierce pled not guilty to the eight total
controlled-substance charges in FECR267109 and FECR269461.
His counsel filed a motion to suppress evidence from the
search of the Durango, and he filed a pro se motion to
suppress evidence from the search of the apartment. The court
denied both motions. On December 9, Pierce changed his plea
to guilty on one count of conspiracy to deliver a controlled
substance, in violation of Iowa Code section 124.401(1)(b)(7)
(2013), from FECR267109. As part of a plea agreement, the
remaining charges in FECR267109 and FECR269461 were
dismissed. The court sentenced him to twenty-five years in
prison for the conspiracy, run concurrent to his sentences
for murder and robbery. This court later found insufficient
evidence to support the murder and robbery convictions,
resulting in dismissal of those charges. See State v.
Pierce, No. 13-2004, 2015 WL 3613329, at *5 (Iowa Ct.
App. June 10, 2015); see also State v. Hood, No.
13-1998, 2015 WL 3613243, at *11 (Iowa Ct. App. June 10,
2015) (affirming the murder and robbery convictions and
sentence of Hood).
January 3, 2014, Pierce filed his application for
postconviction relief from the conspiracy to deliver
conviction. After amending his application twice, the matter
proceeded to a hearing on October 17 and November 18, 2016.
On June 6, 2017, the district court issued its ruling denying
his application. He now appeals.