State v. Majors

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Citation940 N.W.2d 372
Docket NumberNo. 18-0563,18-0563
Parties STATE of Iowa, Appellee, v. Jarrod Dale MAJORS, Appellant.
Decision Date06 March 2020

Bradley Bender, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Louis S. Sloven, Assistant Attorney General, and Clinton L. Spurrier, County Attorney, for appellee.

WATERMAN, Justice.

In this appeal, we must decide whether the district court abused its discretion by imposing a seventeen and one-half-year mandatory minimum prison term before parole eligibility on the defendant’s second resentencing for attempted murder during a home invasion and whether defense counsel provided constitutionally deficient representation. The defendant was age seventeen at the time of the crime in 2002, and he has been resentenced twice as our caselaw on juvenile sentencing evolved. See State v. Majors , 897 N.W.2d 124, 127 (Iowa 2017) (remanding for resentencing in light of State v. Roby , 897 N.W.2d 127 (Iowa 2017) (plurality opinion), decided the same day). The defendant, now age thirty-five, appeals his latest resentencing, contending that the district court failed to follow our court’s 2017 mandate to apply Roby and that his counsel was ineffective for failing to present a defense expert on the youth sentencing factors. We retained the appeal.

On our review, we determine the district court did not abuse its discretion by imposing the mandatory minimum after considering the youth sentencing factors under Roby . The sentence is supported by testimony from the State’s expert. The defendant personally chose not to retain a defense expert, and we conclude his counsel was not constitutionally ineffective for relying on cross-examination of the State’s expert without retaining a defense expert that his client chose to forgo. Accordingly, we affirm the district court’s judgment of sentence.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

On May 30, 2002, Jarrod Dale Majors was a seventeen-year-old high school senior fifteen days away from his eighteenth birthday. He lived with his parents on a quiet street in Bedford, Iowa. Majors had become obsessed with Hollie Peckham, a thirty-year-old woman who lived across the street with her thirty-two-year-old husband, Jamie Peckham, and their twenty-two-month-old twins. While the Peckhams were away one evening, Majors entered their home, hid inside the closet of the master bedroom, and awaited their return. Majors wore a ski mask and gloves to avoid identification. He attached a large knife to his waistband, wrapped a roll of duct tape around his wrist, and held a .22 caliber rifle with a plastic soda bottle taped to the barrel to act as a makeshift silencer.

When the Peckhams returned home, Hollie went upstairs while Jamie remained downstairs with the twins. As Hollie entered her bedroom, Majors emerged from the closet and attacked while pointing the gun at her. Hollie screamed for her husband, and Majors told her that he was not there, which led Hollie to believe Majors had killed him. She ran out of the bedroom, down the stairs, and out of the house screaming for help. Hollie found a neighbor, who accompanied her back to the Peckham home while his wife called the police. Meanwhile, Jamie subdued Majors after a struggle witnessed by the toddlers. The neighbor helped Jamie restrain Majors until the police arrived. Jamie later testified that he knew who the assailant was before removing his ski mask because he had repeatedly seen Majors trespassing and peering in bathroom windows at Hollie over the preceding two years. Hollie injured her ankle

during the incident, and the entire family was emotionally traumatized. Jamie described it at the most recent resentencing hearing as "[k]ind of feel[ing] like there’s a 9-11 that happened where we survived, but it changed everything. It’s a watershed moment."

Majors initially told the police that he was paid $100 to commit the crime as a prank. His story later changed to claiming he had been hallucinating and could not remember the crime due to using drugs and prolonged sleep deprivation. As motive for his crime, he claimed to believe that Jamie was going to attack him and poison his dog. Majors had no prior criminal record apart from a single offense for possession of alcohol as a minor.

Majors pled guilty to attempted murder in exchange for the State’s agreement to dismiss the remaining ten charges upon the expiration of the appeal deadline and on the condition that there would be no appeal. Majors was sentenced on January 22, 2003, to a prison term of up to twenty-five years with a mandatory minimum of seventeen and one-half years before parole eligibility. Majors appealed the sentence in violation of the plea agreement, prompting the county attorney to refile the dismissed counts. On May 13, Majors entered into a second plea agreement by pleading guilty to burglary in the second degree. He was sentenced to a ten-year term for that charge, which was to be served consecutively to his sentence for attempted murder. In exchange, the State agreed to amend the charge of burglary from first to second degree and to dismiss the remaining charges after the appeal deadline as long as Majors did not appeal. Majors did not file a direct appeal from his sentence.

In 2014, we decided State v. Lyle , holding that any automatic mandatory minimum sentences of imprisonment for youthful offenders violated the Iowa Constitution’s provision against cruel and unusual punishment. 854 N.W.2d 378, 404 (Iowa 2014). Majors filed for a resentencing hearing based on Lyle . On September 16 of that year, when Majors was thirty years old, the district court conducted a resentencing hearing applying the Lyle factors.

Majors was resentenced to a term of incarceration of up to twenty-five years for attempted murder with a mandatory minimum of seventeen and one-half-years before parole eligibility. His ten-year sentence on the burglary conviction remained in place with the sentences to be served consecutively. Majors appealed, and the court of appeals affirmed the sentence after determining the district court had properly considered the Lyle factors. On further review, we determined that the district court abused its discretion by imposing a minimum period of incarceration without eligibility for parole under Roby , decided the same day. Majors , 897 N.W.2d at 127. We reversed Majors’ sentence and remanded for a second resentencing consistent with the Lyle factors as explained in Roby , which stated that "the factors must not normally be used to impose a minimum sentence of incarceration without parole unless expert evidence supports the use of the factors to reach such a result." 897 N.W.2d at 147.

At the second resentencing hearing on March 5, 2018, when Majors was age thirty-three, defense counsel told the court his client chose not to retain an expert, and the court conducted a colloquy to confirm this was Majors’ own decision:

MR. BOOTH: ... I've had discussions with Mr. Majors in regard to whether or not we should have requested or tried to obtain an independent psychiatric evaluation since we knew the State was intending to call a psychiatrist to testify and to subject the defendant to a psychiatric evaluation on behalf of the State.
In my discussions with Mr. Majors, it’s my understanding that he does not wish to delay these proceedings any longer, that he is comfortable proceeding without the assistance of an independent psychiatric evaluation, Your Honor....
[the Court swore in Majors]
MR. BOOTH: I've also advised you that we could ask the court for State funds in order to hire a psychiatrist or conduct an independent psychiatric evaluation to support your position at sentencing. Are you aware of that?
MR. BOOTH: And was it your decision that we not hire an independent or obtain an independent evaluation?
MR. BOOTH: Was that because your belief is that we should proceed -- your desire is to not have any further delays and proceed with resentencing; is that correct?
THE DEFENDANT: That’s correct.
MR. BOOTH: Thank you, Your Honor.
THE COURT: Mr. Majors, without telling me what [you and] Mr. Booth discussed, do you feel you've had enough time to discuss this issue with him, or would you like some more time to discuss it with him?
THE DEFENDANT: I believe I've had enough time.
THE COURT: Is it your decision that you not ask for any further continuances?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes, my decision.

The court additionally offered to leave the record open to give Majors an opportunity to submit additional evidence later, but Majors declined the offer.

The hearing proceeded with live testimony from two witnesses: Deputy Nate Bucher and Dr. Theresa Clemmons, a psychiatrist at the department of corrections serving as the State’s expert. Jamie Peckham gave an oral victim-impact statement.

Dr. Clemmons formed her opinions after reviewing Majors’ records and interviewing him by teleconference. Dr. Clemmons noted Majors’ prior inconsistent statements regarding his mindset during the crime, but she stated that "when we discussed what happened he was able to tell me specifically" what he did and that Majors admitted he did not do the crime on a dare. Dr. Clemmons testified that "[she did not] believe he’s taking full responsibility for the entirety of all of his actions the night of the offense." The prosecutor and defense counsel each questioned Dr. Clemmons extensively regarding her conclusions under the five sentencing factors. Those factors are

(1) the age of the offender and the features of youthful behavior, such as "immaturity, impetuosity, and failure to appreciate risks and consequences"; (2) the particular "family and home environment" that surround the youth; (3) the circumstances of the particular crime and all circumstances relating to youth that may have played a role in the commission of the crime; (4) the challenges for youthful offenders in navigating through the criminal process; and (5) the possibility of

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