State v. Davis, 20-0156

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtWATERMAN, Justice.
Citation971 N.W.2d 546
Parties STATE of Iowa, Appellee, v. Shane Michael DAVIS, Appellant.
Docket Number20-0156
Decision Date18 March 2022

971 N.W.2d 546

STATE of Iowa, Appellee,
Shane Michael DAVIS, Appellant.

No. 20-0156

Supreme Court of Iowa.

Submitted December 15, 2021
Filed March 18, 2022

Thomas M. McIntee, Waterloo, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Israel Kodiaga, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

Waterman, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Appel, Mansfield, McDonald, and McDermott, JJ., joined. Christensen, C.J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which Oxley, J., joined.

WATERMAN, Justice.

971 N.W.2d 549

Should direct appeals from convictions based on guilty pleas be summarily dismissed when the defendant's appellate brief fails to expressly argue good cause exists to appeal under Iowa Code section 814.6(1)(a )(3) ? The court of appeals dismissed this appeal because the defendant bears the burden of establishing good cause and failed to address that requirement. Yet the defendant's brief made clear he was appealing sentencing errors, including the prosecutor's alleged breach of a plea agreement. Our precedents hold such appeals satisfy the statutory good-cause requirement. So we granted the defendant's application for further review.

On our review, we conclude the defendant's lamentable failure to discuss the good-cause requirement by name in his appellate brief does not mandate dismissal. We vacate the court of appeals dismissal order, reinstate the appeal, and decide it on the merits. For the reasons explained below, we hold the prosecutor breached the plea agreement obligating her support for a suspended sentence. The State does not contend otherwise. This error requires resentencing by a different judge.

Contrary to the view of our dissenting colleagues, this is not a case about victims’ rights. And contrary to their dissent, we do not hold "the prosecutor breached the plea agreement by reading victim-impact statements at sentencing." This is a case about the prosecutor's duty to recommend a sentence pursuant to a plea agreement. Our obligation as a court is to uphold and enforce the parties’ plea agreement. The prosecutor breached the plea agreement by failing to recommend a suspended sentence in the manner required by our precedent.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

Shane Michael Davis pleaded guilty to lascivious acts with a child and indecent contact with a child. According to the minutes of testimony, in the summer of 2019, Shane Michael Davis shared a home in Charles City with his fiancée, the victims’ aunt. The parents viewed Davis as a family friend and allowed their daughters, then ages ten and eleven, to visit their aunt's home. The ten-year-old girl reported that while she was sitting on a couch there, Davis "rubbed her privates with his hand" over her clothes and warned her not to tell anyone "or he would beat and spank her." The eleven-year-old girl reported she was in the living room when Davis "grabbed" and "squeezed" her breasts and warned her not to tell anyone "or she could not see her aunt anymore." The girls told their parents who called the police. The police promptly investigated.

On November 4, 2019, Davis was charged by trial information in count I with lascivious acts with a child, a class "C" felony, in violation of Iowa Code sections 709.1,

971 N.W.2d 550

709.8(1)(a ), 709.8(2)(a ), and 903B.1 (2019), and in count II with indecent contact with a child, an aggravated misdemeanor, in violation of sections 709.12(1)(b ) and 903B.2. On November 25, following successful plea negotiations, Davis filed a written Alford guilty plea to a lesser included charge of lascivious acts with a child, a class "D" felony, in violation of section 709.8(1)(e ), and entered an Alford guilty plea to count II as charged. The State agreed to follow the sentencing recommendations in the presentence investigation (PSI) report, and Davis pleaded guilty "in exchange for the State's recommendation."

Davis, in his written guilty plea, acknowledged he understood the district court was not bound by the parties’ agreed sentencing recommendation and that he understood "that the sentence I receive is solely a matter within the discretion of the judge." Following a plea hearing, the court accepted the guilty pleas, ordered a PSI report, and scheduled a sentencing hearing. Davis did not file a motion in arrest of judgment.

On January 15, 2020, the department of correctional services filed a PSI report that, based on Davis's "lack of criminal history and attachments to the community," recommended suspended prison sentences, supervised probation for five years, and placement at "the Beje Clark Center for 180 days or until maximum benefits have been received." The PSI report also recommended no-contact orders, use of an electronic monitoring tracking device, placement on the sex offender registry, a $250 civil penalty per section 692A.110(2), a $100 surcharge for each charge per section 911.2B, DNA sampling, and a ten-year special sentence. Four victim-impact statements were attached to the PSI report.

On January 21, Davis appeared for sentencing. The district court asked Davis's counsel if he had enough time to go through the PSI report with Davis. His counsel responded in the affirmative. The district court then asked Davis's counsel if he had "any changes, objections, or corrections" to the PSI report, and his counsel denied having any corrections and agreed the court could rely on the PSI report for purposes of sentencing.

The district court next asked whether the State would be providing victim-impact statements. The prosecutor said she will read four statements, one from each child and parent. The record does not show that the prosecutor was designated as a victim's representative under section 915.21(1)(a ). Nor does the record show the victims asked the prosecutor to read the statements in open court. Davis's trial counsel stated, "I have no objection. They are already attached to the presentence investigation report, I believe." The court told the prosecutor to "go ahead" and then the prosecutor read the four handwritten statements aloud in their entirety, beginning with the older daughter's statement:

[This] ruined everything with family, and I am being called a liar. I don't understand why he did what he did. All I know is I feel dirty and scared, confused and stressed.

Since this happened I have to do therapy and others at home. My grades have been slipping in school. I can't concentrate or sleep at night. I keep asking myself why do I have to live in misery, hurt and fear the rest of my life....

I want the Defendant locked away so he can't hurt me or my family anymore, so that I don't have to fear my life or being hurt again. I don't want him near me for the rest of my life. He is a bad man and a mean man.

The younger daughter's statement also asked the court to sentence Davis to prison. Her statement shared:

971 N.W.2d 551
I was a good kid, fun, loved to play, but now I have bad dreams and nightmares of this person hurting me. I am always scared he hurt me when he touched my private area. When I said no, he kept doing it. Then he told me he would hurt me if I told my mom and dad or anyone else and said I would never see my Aunt ... again. Now I have to retake these med -- now I have to take these medicines for nightmares and anxiety and see therapist. Why he hurt me I don't know. But he's a bad man and need to be in jail so he can't hurt me again and I can feel safe again.

The prosecutor then read the parents’ statements, which both asked for Davis to be sentenced to the maximum prison time. The father's statement elaborated:

This has caused us all the burden of changing how we have lived before all this. The therapy appointments, the constant workers in and out of our home, our privacy ruined, the loss of kids’ school for appointments, the financial with gas to all the appointments and constant driving to other towns to go eat or shop, loss of wages for appointments.

How about the lifetime of my girls never trusting men or law enforcement if the Defendant is set free, the mental scarring they have endured, the horror and fear they live with and my wife and I as well.

I would ask the Court to give Defendant maximum time incarcerated in prison and make it so that he does sex offender treatment, anger management, and mental evaluation. I ask the Defendant not to be allowed to be free to walk streets. I ask this so that myself and my children don't have to fear our safety or him possibly trying to harm any of us again or in other ways and to give my children time to heal from this and so that we don't have to pack up and leave our home nor children's school and friends to feel safe and not have to live in fear, Your Honor.

In my opinion, the Defendant has no remorse for his actions of what has occurred or the fear and harm he has inflicted. Setting him free isn't fair as my girls and family have to endure his actions for a lifetime. And why would it be fair for the Defendant to receive probation and walk free when these children have to live in fear and constant stress for a lifetime and have to feel confined ‘cause they have to fear the threats he made and the loss of trust in the law enforcement and judicial system if he is allowed to be

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2 practice notes
  • In re Pazhoor, 20-0090
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • March 18, 2022
    ...given the parties’ disparity in income and the time it will take Hancy to obtain her master's degree to enhance her earning capacity 971 N.W.2d 546 while working part-time and sharing physical care of the two children. The district court's award would not allow Hancy "to maintain the same s......
  • State v. Adams, 21-1756
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Iowa
    • August 31, 2022
    ...whether Adams has good cause to appeal as required by Iowa Code section 814.6(1)(a)(3) (2021), we find that he does. See State v. Davis, 971 N.W.2d 546, 554 (Iowa 2022) (acknowledging that a defendant "should have discussed section 814.6(1)(a)(3)" in his brief "to show he met the good-cause......
1 cases
  • In re Pazhoor, 20-0090
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • March 18, 2022
    ...given the parties’ disparity in income and the time it will take Hancy to obtain her master's degree to enhance her earning capacity 971 N.W.2d 546 while working part-time and sharing physical care of the two children. The district court's award would not allow Hancy "to maintain the same s......

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