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State v. Draine

Court of Appeals of Iowa

May 15, 2019

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
DARREON CORTA DRAINE, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Mark D. Cleve (motion for competency evaluation and plea) and Henry W. Latham II (motion in arrest of judgment), Judges.

         Darreon Draine appeals his conviction for willful injury causing serious injury. AFFIRMED.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender (until withdrawal), and Melinda J. Nye, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

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

          Considered by Doyle, P.J., Mullins, J., and Blane, S.J. [*]

          MULLINS, JUDGE.

         Darreon Draine appeals his conviction, following a guilty plea, of willful injury causing serious injury, in violation of Iowa Code section 708.4(1) (2018). He argues the district court erred in denying his motion for competency testing. He also asserts the court abused its discretion in denying his motion in arrest of judgment.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         The record reveals the following. In 2018, Draine was charged with willful injury causing serious injury following an altercation with a staff member at the Wittenmeyer Youth Center. He was sixteen at the time of the offense. Draine suffers from oppositional defiance disorder (ODD) and attention deficit hyper activity disorder (ADHD). He is of below average intelligence, was held back one year in school, and has received special-education services. He previously underwent a cognitive evaluation at University of Iowa Hospitals, and his "general intellectual abilities were estimated to be in the extremely low range . . . with difficulties observed across verbal and nonverbal domains."

         Draine moved for a reverse waiver to transfer jurisdiction of this proceeding to the juvenile court, claiming services in the juvenile system would be beneficial to his rehabilitation. The district court held an evidentiary hearing on the issue, and Draine presented his mental-health, school, and medical records in support of his motion. The court denied the motion and retained the proceeding; it cited Draine's extensive juvenile criminal history and past failed rehabilitative attempts in the juvenile system.

         Roughly one month after the court denied Draine's reverse-waiver motion, defense counsel became concerned with Draine's ability to assist with his own defense due to his ODD, ADHD, and low cognitive functioning. Counsel moved the district court to order Draine's competency be assessed. Counsel cited Draine's ODD, ADHD, low cognitive functioning, difficulty concentrating, erratic behavior, difficulty remembering counsel, and an instance when Draine began to threaten counsel following a meeting to support his motion. The court denied the motion, concluding "on the record presented [Draine] has not sustained by a probable cause standard any allegations that he suffers from one or more mental disorders which prevent him from appreciating the charge, understanding the proceedings, or assisting in his own defense," and Draine did not undergo any competency testing.

         Draine then agreed to plead guilty as charged. At the plea hearing, Draine's responses to the court's inquiries were generally appropriate. There were two instances during the plea colloquy when Draine's responses did not comport with the posed question. When the court inquired if Draine believed his actions were justified, Draine asked what justified meant and defense counsel clarified the word's meaning to Draine. Counsel asked Draine: "Did you have any right to do that to [the victim]?" Draine responded: "Yeah." After an off-the-record discussion between Draine and his counsel, Draine was questioned if he was justified in his actions and he responded in the negative. When asked if he agreed with the minutes of evidence, Draine responded in the affirmative. However, counsel clarified they previously discussed the minutes of evidence at length and Draine actually disagreed with a portion of the minutes that stated he struck the victim with a radio and insisted he only struck the victim with his fist. Following the colloquy, the court accepted Draine's plea.

         Prior to sentencing, Draine filed a motion in arrest of judgment, alleging "he did not understand that he was entering a guilty plea" at the plea hearing. The court held a hearing on the matter. Draine testified he did not know what he was signing when he signed the plea agreement, did not understand the questions posed during the plea colloquy, and did not want to plead guilty to the charge. The court found Draine's plea to be knowing and voluntary, ...

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