No. 3-520 / 02-1363
Filed October 15, 2003
Appeal from the Iowa District Court forScott County, David E. Schoenthaler, Judge.
Chance Barnes appeals his convictions for murder in the first degree and willful injury. AFFIRMED.
Linda Del Gallo, Appellate Defender, and Robert Ranschau, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.
Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Linda Hines, Assistant Attorney General, William Davis, County Attorney, and Michael Walton and Gerald Feuerbach, Assistant County Attorneys, for appellee.
Heard by Vogel, P.J., and Mahan and Zimmer, JJ.
Chance Barnes appeals his conviction for murder in the first degree, in violation of Iowa Code sections 707.1, 707.2, and 708.4 (2001), and willful injury, in violation of section 708.4(1). He claims his motion for judgment of acquittal should have been granted. He also claims he received ineffective assistance of counsel. We affirm.
I. Background Facts Proceedings
On Saturday, January 26, 2002, Lawrence McCoy went to Chicago, Illinois, to pick up his friend, Barnes, and bring him to Davenport because "they had to do something. They were going to kick it and they had to do something." There was evidence McCoy suspected Jonathan Johnson had broken into his apartment.
The next evening, McCoy called Johnson and asked him to come over to work something out. Johnson and Jerome Wilson drove to McCoy's apartment, expecting to buy drugs from McCoy. When they arrived, McCoy, Barnes, and McCoy's brother, Darryl, were in the apartment. McCoy told Wilson to leave, and Johnson agreed Wilson should wait outside. Wilson heard glass breaking and other loud noises come from the apartment. Barnes came out, "[l]ooking all sweaty and stuff, crazy." Barnes told Wilson, "I wouldn't go back up in there if I was you." Wilson ran away.
Johnson's body was discovered on January 30, 2002. He had been stabbed, shot, and struck with a blunt object. Due to a tip from Johnson's sister, who had been McCoy's girlfriend, police officers discovered blood splatters in McCoy's apartment, and lab tests showed the blood was Johnson's. McCoy's apartment had new carpeting installed on January 30. The carpet installer testified that when he arrived there was a large piece missing from the old carpet. Pieces of a Christmas garland found in McCoy's apartment were also found on Johnson's body. Officers found Barnes's fingerprint in McCoy's car. Barnes and McCoy were arrested together in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Barnes gave a statement to police officers in which he denied being present in the apartment at the time of the murder. He stated he was waiting outside McCoy's apartment and saw McCoy and Darryl carry Johnson's body wrapped in a blanket out of the apartment and put it in the back seat of Johnson's car. Darryl drove Johnson's car, and Barnes followed, driving McCoy's car. They left Johnson's car in a parking lot, then left together. The next day, Barnes went with McCoy and Darryl to a carpet store.
Barnes was charged with first-degree murder and willful injury under a theory of aiding and abetting. Barnes's motion for judgment of acquittal was denied. A jury found him guilty of the crimes charged. Barnes was given a mandatory life sentence. He appeals.
II. Sufficiency of the Evidence
Barnes asserts there is insufficient evidence in the record to support his convictions. Barnes claims his version of events is more credible than that of Wilson. He points out that Wilson admitted he had initially lied to police officers about the evening in question.
A jury's verdict is binding if it is supported by substantial evidence. State v. Hopkins, 576 N.W.2d 374, 377 (Iowa 1998). Substantial evidence means evidence that could convince a rational trier of fact that defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Maghee, 573 N.W.2d 1, 10 (Iowa 1997).
The State proceeded on a theory Barnes aided and abetted McCoy and Darryl in the murder of Johnson. Aiding and abetting in a crime occurs when a person assents to or lends countenance and approval to another's criminal act either by active participation or by encouraging it in some manner prior to or at the time of its commission. State v. Wedebrand, 602 N.W.2d 186, 189 (Iowa Ct.App. 1999). Knowledge of the criminal act at or before its commission is essential. State v. Johnson, 534 N.W.2d 118, 123 (Iowa Ct.App. 1995). Under section 703.1, an aider and abettor is held liable for the same crime as the principal would be. State v. Satern, 516 N.W.2d 839, 843 (Iowa 1994).
A jury is free to believe or disbelieve any testimony it chooses and to give as much weight to the evidence as it determines the evidence should receive. State v. Liggins, 557 N.W.2d 263, 269 (Iowa 1996). A jury may consider discrepancies in testimony and adopt the evidence it finds credible. State v. Phanhsouvanh, 494 N.W.2d 219, 223 (Iowa 1992). Here, the jury could find Wilson's testimony to be more credible than Barnes's.
We determine there is substantial evidence in the record to support the jury's verdict that Barnes aided and abetted in the murder of Johnson. Wilson's testimony placed Barnes in the apartment prior to the murder, and Wilson stated Barnes was still in the apartment at the time there were loud noises and the sound of breaking glass. Forensic evidence showed Johnson had been murdered in McCoy's apartment. Barnes told Wilson not to go back to the apartment, indicating knowledge of the murder. Furthermore, Barnes admitted helping dispose of the body. We find no error in the district court's denial of Barnes's motion for judgment of acquittal.
III. Ineffective Assistance
Barnes contends he received ineffective assistance due to trial counsel's failure to object to a jury instruction regarding his decision not to testify. In order to show ineffective assistance of counsel, a defendant must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that (1) counsel failed to perform an essential duty and (2) prejudice resulted therefrom. State v. Biddle, 652 N.W.2d 191, 203 (Iowa 2002). We generally preserve ineffective assistance claims for postconviction proceedings to permit development of the record and to give counsel an opportunity to respond to defendant's claims. State v. Ruesga, 619 N.W.2d 377, 383 (Iowa 2000).
We find the record in this case is inadequate for us to address this issue on appeal. We preserve Barnes's claim of ineffective assistance of counsel for possible postconviction proceedings.
We affirm Barnes's convictions and sentence.