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Iceman v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

January 6, 2020

JOSHUA ICEMAN
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

          Assigned on Briefs November 14, 2019

          Appeal from the Criminal Court for White County No. 2011-CR-5205 David A. Patterson, Judge

         The petitioner, Joshua Iceman, appeals the denial of his post-conviction petition, arguing the post-conviction court erred in finding he received the effective assistance of counsel at trial. Following our review, we affirm the denial of the petition.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Criminal Court Affirmed

          Michael J. Rocco (on appeal) and Daniel J. Barnes (at trial), Sparta, Tennessee, for the appellant, Joshua Taylor Iceman.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Garrett D. Ward, Assistant Attorney General; Bryant C. Dunaway, District Attorney General; and Philip A. Hatch, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          J. Ross Dyer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Norma McGee Ogle, and Alan E. Glenn, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          J. ROSS DYER, JUDGE

         Facts and Procedural History

         A. Trial

         The petitioner was convicted of aggravated child abuse and first degree felony murder. State v. Joshua Iceman, No. M2016-00975-CCA-R3-CD, 2017 WL 4805118 (Tenn. Crim. App. October 24, 2017), perm. app. denied (Tenn. Feb. 14, 2018). He received concurrent terms of eighteen years for the aggravated child abuse conviction and life imprisonment for the felony murder conviction, resulting in an effective life sentence. Id. at *19. This Court affirmed his convictions and sentence on appeal. Id. Because the testimony from trial was extensive, the following is a summary of the relevant proof presented at trial as it relates to the petitioner's post-conviction claims.

         On the evening of September 2, 2011, the petitioner was home alone with his eight-week-old daughter, the victim, while the victim's mother was working night shift. According to the petitioner, the child had been crying all evening. Shortly after midnight, September 3, the petitioner realized the victim was not breathing, and he took her to White County Hospital in Sparta, Tennessee. The victim died on the evening of September 5, 2011, after suffering extensive injuries to her head, ribs, and legs. Her autopsy revealed she suffered "both subdural and subgaleal hematomas," "subarachonoid hemorrhaging," bruising on the head and ears, bleeding underneath the scalp, in the back of the neck, in the brain and in the spinal cord, "extensive" retinal hemorrhaging, "global cerebral ischemic changes," fractures of the ribs, and "metaphysical fractures, both legs." When questioned by law enforcement, the petitioner admitted to being frustrated with the victim because she would not stop crying, and he shook the child at one point during the evening.

         The State's theory at trial was that the victim died as a result of shaken-baby syndrome and/or physical abuse. The State presented two medical experts to corroborate this theory. Dr. Adele Lewis, who conducted the victim's autopsy, testified as an expert in the field of forensic psychology. Dr. Lewis opined that the victim's rib fractures were "very suspicious for abuse," and that within a reasonable degree of medical certainty, the victim's cause of death was homicide due to "multiple blunt force injuries," with many injuries being indicative of shaking. Dr. Annamaria Church, an expert in pediatrics and pediatric trauma, testified the primary cause of retinal hemorrhaging in infants is non-accidental trauma or abusive head trauma. Dr. Church opined that within a reasonable degree of medical certainty, the victim suffered major head trauma as a result of physical abuse.

         In addition to the medical proof, the State introduced a statement given by the petitioner on September 13, 2011, to Agent Dan Friel of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. After being properly advised of his Miranda[1] rights, the petitioner signed a Miranda waiver and spoke with Agent Friel for approximately one hour and seven minutes. At the conclusion of the interview, Agent Friel provided a written summary of the petitioner's statement, which the petitioner reviewed, edited, initialed throughout, and signed. The statement read as follows:

It was an accident, [the victim] was crying all night, and when [her mother] left to go to work [the victim] was still crying. I got upset with [the victim] and put her in her swing in the back bedroom. [The victim] was still crying, so I went on the balcony to cool off. I was out on the balcony for about [thirty] minutes, long enough to smoke two cigarettes, when I went back inside [the victim] was still crying. I was frustrated I did not know what to do to make [the victim] stop crying. I picked [the victim] up out of her swing and held her by her shoulders. I ...

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