DES MOINES — A Bloomfield man convicted after he admitted shooting his father twice made a bid for a new sentencing before the Iowa Supreme Court on Wednesday.
Michael Goodwin Jr. pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in 2017. He argues he was given an illegal sentence of at least 20 years in prison. Goodwin was a juvenile at the time, though tried in regular court. He contends the court failed to address multiple issues.
Martha Lucey, Goodwin’s attorney, said the law requires an individualized sentence. In her view the district court needed to hold a hearing and use the results of that hearing to establish its sentence.
“In this case there was a hearing, but the district court made no fact finding,” she said. “Absolutely no fact finding, just listed the factors that he had considered.”
Lucey didn’t make it much further in her opening before justices began peppering her with questions. Justice Thomas Waterman pointed out there was no argument that Goodwin’s attorney was ineffective.
“He agreed to a 20-year mandatory minimum, which is well below the 35-year mandatory minimum an adult would face. And yet now he’s challenging that. If we reverse, what impact will that have on the use of plea agreements and jointly recommended mandatory minimums?” he asked.
Lucey replied courts don’t have to follow plea agreements reached by prosecutors and the defense. If the agreement results in an unconstitutional sentence, the court can and should reject it.
“As far as the plea agreement goes, the court was not bound,” she said. “And even if the court is bound, it’s the court’s duty to impose a constitutional sentence.”
Louis Sloven defended the sentence for the state. He was pressed by Justice Brent Appel, who said Goodwin raised questions about whether the sentence was legal.
“Shouldn’t he get his day in court on illegal sentence?” Appel asked.
“We made a plea agreement that we thought was fair and constitutional, and avoided a problem with a sentence that would have been unconstitutional and wouldn’t take into account the mitigating factors associated with youth,” Sloven said.
Sloven noted the decision was made in conjunction with both Goodwin and the defense, and said the sentencing hearing was non-adversarial. The state believes a 20-year sentence avoids retribution while imposing a necessary punishment.
“It is still necessary to punish a murderer for committing a murder,” he said.
The court will issue an opinion on the case later this term.