Certiorari to the Iowa District Court for Davis County, Joel
D. Yates, Judge.
offender challenges the district court's denial of his
motion to correct an illegal sentence. WRIT ANNULLED;
DISTRICT COURT RULING AND SENTENCE AFFIRMED.
J. Lucey, Assistant Appellate Defender, for plaintiff.
J. Miller, Attorney General, Louis S. Sloven, Assistant
Attorney General, Rick L. Lynch, County Attorney, and Douglas
D. Hammerand, Assistant Attorney General, for defendant.
appeal, we must decide whether a motion to correct an illegal
sentence is a proper vehicle to challenge a mandatory minimum
term of imprisonment on grounds alleging the sentencing court
failed to correctly apply our precedent governing juvenile
sentencings. A sixteen-year-old fatally shot his father and
pled guilty to second-degree murder under a plea agreement to
jointly recommend a twenty-year mandatory minimum. The
district court conducted his individualized sentencing
hearing after our decision in State v. Roby, 897
N.W.2d 127, 145-47 (Iowa 2017), which elaborated on the
juvenile sentencing factors set forth in Miller v.
Alabama, 567 U.S. 460, 477-78, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 2468
(2012), and State v. Lyle, 854 N.W.2d 378, 404 n.10
(Iowa 2014). The district court, relying on expert testimony,
imposed a fifty-year prison sentence with a twenty-year
mandatory minimum before parole eligibility, consistent with
the parties' plea agreement, and recited its
consideration of the sentencing factors. The defendant filed
no direct appeal. Months later, the defendant filed a pro se
motion in district court to correct an "illegal"
sentence and for appointment of counsel, alleging the
district court had failed to properly apply the
Miller/Lyle/Roby factors. The district court denied
his motion. We granted the defendant's petition for a
writ of certiorari.
review, we hold that a motion claiming the district court
misapplied the Miller/Lyle/Roby factors
does not constitute a challenge to an illegal
sentence with a concomitant statutory right to counsel. A
failure to conduct an individualized hearing before imposing
a mandatory minimum sentence would render a juvenile's
sentence unconstitutional and subject to a challenge as an
illegal sentence. This defendant, however, received an
individualized sentencing hearing that addressed the
Miller/Lyle/Roby factors. Accordingly, we annul the
writ and affirm the district court's ruling and sentence.
Background Facts and Proceedings.
December 11, 2015, sixteen-year-old Michael Goodwin Jr.
fatally shot his father, Michael Goodwin Sr. twice in the head
while the father rested in a recliner in their living room.
The son walked out without reporting the crime and spent the
night at his ex-girlfriend's house, telling her his
father left town and he was locked out.
had access to his grandfather's home and truck. His
grandfather was hospitalized at that time. Goodwin drove the
truck to his ex-girlfriend's home with his family dog,
dog food, clothing, and two firearms. She found his house
keys in the truck the next day when he picked her up from
work, contradicting his claim that he was locked out. They
attended a school dance separately that evening, December 12.
There, he coerced her into leaving the dance with him by
telling her if she did not get into the truck with him he
would hurt her boyfriend and "it would not end
well." Goodwin drove her to his grandfather's house
where he took the firearms inside. Her boyfriend picked her
up there despite Goodwin's refusal to let her leave,
which infuriated Goodwin. She reported this incident to law
enforcement that evening. Deputies detained Goodwin and
brought him to the emergency room for a mental health
evaluation based on the suicidal and homicidal statements he
had made to his ex-girlfriend. Goodwin was transferred to a
juvenile detention center.
December 13, Goodwin Sr.'s best friend, Rodney Stevens,
visited his house to check on him after he missed a church
event and failed to answer phone calls. Stevens was concerned
about Goodwin Sr.'s safety given his strained
relationship with his son. Upon arriving at the Goodwin home,
he smelled "death" and called law enforcement
requesting a wellness check. Davis County Deputy Robert Murry
found Goodwin Sr. dead in his reclining chair in the living
room. The television was on, his cell phone was in his lap,
and his drink was undisturbed on the table next to the
recliner. The lead investigator, Chief Deputy Josh
O'Dell, stated there was no sign of a struggle, and it
appeared that Goodwin Sr. "was basically reclined in
that chair like he'd been laying down watching TV."
found the murder weapon, a Ruger 22/45 .22-caliber pistol, in
the basement rafters of the grandfather's home. They
concluded Goodwin had killed his father and had acted alone.
They found no evidence of peer pressure to commit this crime.
They were unable to determine a motive but believed Goodwin
violently overreacted to his father's refusal to allow
him to attend that Saturday's school dance.
January 25, 2016, Goodwin was charged with first-degree
murder. This was not his first contact with law enforcement
or the judicial system. Since April 2012, Goodwin had been
referred to juvenile court services three times for the
offenses of simple assault, disorderly conduct (fighting in
public), and two counts of carrying weapons. He successfully
completed the terms of informal adjustment agreements for the
simple assault and disorderly conduct offenses. The weapons
charges stemmed from the events on December 12, 2015, and
were pending at the time of his arrest for his father's
April 28, 2017, Goodwin pled guilty pursuant to a plea
agreement under which the parties agreed to jointly recommend
a sentence with a mandatory minimum of twenty years before
parole eligibility and a fifty-year maximum. At the plea
hearing, Goodwin admitted that before the murder he argued
with his father and went outside to blow off steam by
shooting a handgun. When he came back inside, the argument
continued, and he impulsively shot his father in the head
twice from six to eight feet away.
court accepted his guilty plea. The court conducted his
sentencing hearing on July 19. Goodwin was then age
seventeen. The prosecutor began the sentencing hearing by
Your Honor, based on the recent case that came down from the
Iowa Supreme Court, State v. Christopher Roby,
R-o-b-y -- it was filed on June 16, 2017 -- the Supreme Court
of Iowa went through the additional five factors that were
identified in Lyle and explained what we should do
to establish a record. The defense is going to be calling an
expert, and the State is using that expert as well to
establish why we're having a 20-year minimum in this
State called two witnesses: Chief Deputy O'Dell and
Stevens. O'Dell testified about the murder scene,
including the absence of evidence of a struggle, and
testified about Goodwin's childhood, family
circumstances, and behavior preceding the patricide. Stevens
noted that Goodwin's parents had divorced five or six
years earlier and that Goodwin initially lived with his
mother. He wanted to live with his father, and he acted out
and caused problems for his mother to get his way. After a
few months, his mother consented to his move and terminated
her parental rights. Goodwin moved in with his father.
Neither parent provided much discipline, and the father had
only begun to establish ground rules shortly before the
murder. The grandfather spoiled Goodwin and gave him two
firearms without the father's knowledge, texting,
"Bubba, whatever you do, don't let your dad know I
gave you those two guns." Stevens witnessed Goodwin
threaten his father.
additionally observed that the son's attitude was
frequently "belligerent" towards his father and
others, with a "you don't tell me what to do"
attitude. Stevens was concerned enough that he told Goodwin
Sr. that he was worried his son would get access to a firearm
and shoot him, but the father replied that his son had no
defense called an expert witness, Dr. Stephen Hart, at the
sentencing hearing. Dr. Hart, a professor of clinical and
forensic psychology, relied on transcripts of depositions and
his personal interview of Goodwin. Dr. Hart described
Michael's childhood was rather disturbed or disrupted.
Early on, from his description and the description of others,
there were times when the family was relatively normal or
that he had a relatively normal childhood. He was described
as being happy but also being able to go out and play outside
the home and play with friends and so forth.
But later on, there was some serious problems due to his
father's alcohol abuse and anger and his general
abusiveness, psychological and physical abusiveness -- and
this led to some very serious marital discord between the
parents over a long period of time, many years, and that
included frequent arguments in the house, yelling and
screaming or shouting, and also physical abusiveness between
the parents, some of which was witnessed by --directly by
His mother was quite fearful, in part, because Mr. Goodwin,
Sr. was a large man, and eventually she separated and moved
away, essentially just leaving Michael Jr. in the custody of
Michael Sr. -- and I'm going to use the term advisedly --
abandoning him or leaving him there and basically cutting off
contact with him.
Hart then described the situation between Goodwin and his
father after his mother relinquished her parental rights:
The situation was bettered in some ways in a sense that
Michael Sr.'s alcohol problems, which had been bad and
then had improved. He'd gone through a period of
sobriety. He restarted drinking again around the time of the
final separation, but then did regain his sobriety. So that
was a positive thing. And there was also indication that he
began to attend church more frequently and establish some
However, he also seemed to become, in some ways, more angry
and also somewhat more extreme or entrenched in his
attitudes. And, in particular, there's very extensive
descriptions of his prepper beliefs and behavior. He was one
of the people that believed there was a strong need to
prepare for an imminent catastrophe, and he stockpiled food
and weapons and other supplies and met regularly with people
who shared his prepper beliefs, withdrew from many other
members of society or restricted his social contact. He put
cameras around the family home.
He restricted Michael Jr. from having contact with people
outside the home. For example, he wasn't allowed to
socialize with friends outside of school or go out in the
He spoke a lot about his prepper beliefs and also more
general suspicious or cynical and antiauthority attitudes,
including antigovernment and antipolice attitudes. He was
focused on firearms use and taught Michael Jr. to use
firearms and made him responsible as far as part of their
care and maintenance in the family home.
But he also, towards Michael Jr., became angry and abusive
directly, often yelling at him, or frequently yelling at him,
and occasionally hitting him. And on a few occasions was
described by Michael Jr. as beating him and even pointing
handguns at him. And Michael Jr. also became concerned that
this abusive behavior was increasing in severity over time.
He actually mentioned this to some other people, but did not
report it to police.
Hart elaborated about Goodwin's cognitive and
intellectual functions and opined he was "a relatively
normal or grossly normal adolescent male" with
"average intelligence and no major cognitive
deficits." Dr. Hart diagnosed Goodwin with attention
deficit disorder for which he never received treatment. Dr.
Hart noted that he did not consider that diagnosis to be
serious since it is fairly common among children, especially
young males. He explained,
His personality functions appeared to be grossly normal. In
particular, I didn't notice any kind of marked
personality traits that were of the type or of the severity
that might indicate a serious personality disturbance or a
burgeoning personality disorder.
He clearly has had some problems over the years with anger
and impulsive or reactive aggression. However, again, most of
that, aside from the current offense, was not serious in
nature or frequent. I would say relatively normal, perhaps
above average, but not extreme for an adolescent male. His
social or personal relationships are grossly normal. He had
some good social skills. He is a relatively polite or
pleasant young man, and he's had some positive peer
relationships over the years, and even some intimate
relationships, all of this despite the fact that he's had
a restricted social life through the problems with his
He also has started to re-establish a relationship with his
mother over the years.
Finally, his social attitudes or orientation were, again,
grossly normal. He acknowledges that he's, kind of,
mildly suspicious of others at times. He's a little bit
anxious around other people, in part because of being
restricted in terms of his ability to have interaction with
other people and maybe being a little bit suspicious of
others on account of his father's beliefs.
But he's, again, primarily prosocial in nature and a
polite, respectful young man. By no means perfect, and never
presented himself as such, but I would have said pretty
normal for an adolescent male. He had no serious problems
with alcohol use. He did use alcohol, but there was no
evidence of significant or serious problems. He did not use
drugs. He did not have serious or frequent antisocial conduct
in the community prior to the current offense. He had no
serious behavioral problems with school or institutional
infractions while in custody in relation to this current
But even in terms of thoughts or plans for the future, these
were primarily prosocial in nature. His, kind of, long-term
dream was to maybe join the Army and then seek a career in
law enforcement or something similar, which is somewhat
unusual for the people I have evaluated.
Goodwin's maturity and responsibility, Dr. Hart found him
to be "a, kind of, normal adolescent male" with
"occasional problems with anger and what [he] would call
impulsive or reactive aggression, but [he] would have
characterized that as being related to his adverse
child-rearing experiences or other situational factors as
opposed to some kind of developmental problem."
Hart characterized Goodwin's home environment and family
relationships as being "seriously disturbed" and
"quite poisonous in a sense -- or toxic in a sense of
being something that [he] would have expected to have an
adverse impact on any young person." He elaborated,
Certainly being stuck alone with his father, he was, in some
ways, almost a captive in an environment that was extremely
negative and focused on anger and aggression and violence and
guns. And he was directly exposed to this to the point where
he was physically abused by his father and had guns pointed
at him. This was just, I think by anybody's definition, a
bad home environment.
was asked to give an opinion on Goodwin's legal
competency, Dr. Hart stated,
I believe that he was, again, a pretty normal adolescent male
and did not have any significant problems with legal
competency. So, in particular, what I paid attention to was
whether he seemed to ever have failed to appreciate the
nature or object of potential consequences of the offense for
which he was arrested and charged.
I considered whether he appeared to have been subjected to
any intense investigative procedures by the police or whether
he was -- he appeared to have problems communicating with or
instructing counsel, and from the information I reviewed and
my conversations with him, I didn't see any potential
problems in these areas.
Hart described Goodwin's prospects for rehabilitation as
"very good or excellent" due to his identification
of a number of strengths in Goodwin's development and
psychological and social functioning, and Dr. Hart did not
see many areas of weakness except his childhood experiences
and his relationship with his father. He concluded that
Goodwin can likely "understand and abide by
institutional rules and regulations" such that it is
unlikely that he will be unable to adjust to incarceration.
Dr. Hart found that Goodwin's level of functioning and
social skills suggested that he would be able to participate
in and benefit from rehabilitative activities such as
counseling and vocational programs. He concluded that he did
not see anything that suggested Goodwin posed an elevated
risk for violence.
while still under direct examination by defense counsel, when
asked about the sentence length in the plea agreement, Dr.
Hart testified that he thought the minimum period of
incarceration was appropriate and that it would adequately
protect public safety. On cross-examination, the prosecutor
questioned Dr. Hart regarding some details in his report, his
consideration of the
Miller/Lyle/Roby factors, and the
conclusions he reached for each factor:
Q. The final thing I want to ask you, Dr. Hart, is in your
report you indicated you followed the five factors, and you
talked about the recent Iowa Supreme Court State v.
A. That's correct.
Q. You had a chance to read that as well?
A. I was able to review part of it, yes. I haven't
reviewed it in detail --or, sorry, completely -- but I
reviewed the sections that had to do with the description of
the criteria that ought to be considered.
Q. Sure. And I think Mr. Addington went through at least four
of those factors with you on direct examination, and I just
want to cover one that wasn't covered. In the
Roby case, they talk about a third factor called
"the circumstances of the crime." And what the
Court was concerned about is, within these circumstances,
attention must be given to the juvenile offender's actual
role and the role of various types of external pressure in
So I just want -- so it's clear for the record, Dr. Hart,
you didn't find any type of group pressure being placed
on the defendant involving the shooting in this case? In
other words, he wasn't hanging around with friends and
they talked about committing this crime or anything; is that
correct? A. That's correct. In fact, the only things that
I noted in this respect were that -- relevant to this
particular criteria was that the actual offense itself
occurred in the midst of a serious conflict between the two
Michaels, Junior and Senior.
Q. Well, that's according to Michael Jr.; correct?
A. That's correct. But the other element of that
particular criteria did not appear to be applicable to me in
prosecutor concluded his cross-examination by asking for Dr.
Hart's opinion about the twenty-year mandatory minimum
Q. Okay. So the bottom line is you considered those five
factors set out in State v. Roby, and after
considering those factors, reviewing documents in this case,
talking to the defendant, it's your opinion that the
20-year mandatory minimum is appropriate for a minimum
sentence in this case?
A. Yes. And just to follow up on your question, not
only did I do my best to consider what was explicitly
included as criteria in the Roby case and prior
cases, I've always tried to go beyond that to look at
related kinds of issues. So I tried to use that as a starting
point, but I tried to be more broad or individualized or
contextualized in the assessment and found nothing else that
appeared to be relevant.
testified on his own behalf. He detailed his family
relationships, his parents' divorce when he was age ten
or eleven, and how he thought the best thing for him was to
live with his father after the divorce. He noted things
slowly changed for the worse because he was limited to mostly
staying at home with his father and Stevens. Goodwin
described how he was unable to invite friends to his home or
date because their church opposed teens dating. He said he
faced increasing verbal abuse from his father. Goodwin
explained that they argued over "little stuff," and
he would seek refuge with his grandfather, which escalated
tensions with his father.
testified at times they "got physical and [would]
fight." He noted that there were handguns and rifles in
the home that he knew how to use. He described his
father's prepper behaviors and distrust of government and
the police, attitudes he shared. He stated that he could not
tell anyone other than close friends about his unhappiness,
and the only thing that relieved his stress was going to his
grandfather's, which he was unable to do in December
while his grandfather was hospitalized. On cross-examination,
Goodwin testified that he was able to communicate with and
form friendships with girls ...