Wednesday morning, the seven justices of the Iowa Supreme Court heard the arguments in the appeal of Michael Goodwin, Junior. The Bloomfield native is appealing his sentence for the fatal shooting of his father in 2015, when the younger Goodwin was a juvenile.
Goodwin was not present at the hearing. His attorney, Martha Lucey, argued that Goodwin’s 50-year sentence for second-degree murder, with a minimum of 20 years, was unconstitutional. The sentence was the result of a plea agreement with prosecutors, one that reduced the minimum sentence from 35 years to 20, but Lucey told the supreme court that the district court should not have accepted the agreement.
“If the sentence is not proper because the court failed to do any fact-finding to support the uncommon result of a parole restriction, then the plea bargain is invalid,” Lucey said. “That’s something that really needed to be discussed and argued in the district court, where this didn’t happen.”
Many of the questions asked of Lucey by the justices centered on the plea agreement, and whether or not ruling in Goodwin’s favor would make it more difficult for prosecutors to enter into plea bargains with juvenile offenders. After Lucey’s time was complete, Louis Sloven, the attorney for the district court of Davis County, argued that the court had actually taken care to make sure the sentence was constitutional.
“To solve the problem of, are we imposing sentences that are substantively unconstitutional, because there’s no exercise of individualized sentencing discretion?” Sloven said. “To treat each individual juvenile as a separate case, worthy of inquiry into the substantive justice of imposing a minimum sentence? That inquiry happened here, so there is no constitutional problem.”
The hearing lasted approximately 45 minutes. The justices will review the arguments and issue their decision at a later date. A review of recent Supreme Court rulings shows that decision could take one or two months. If the court rules in Goodwin’s favor, his case would be remanded to the Davis County district court for re-sentencing.