Statev.Shuford

Court of Appeals of IowaJun 9, 2004
690 N.W.2d 463 (Iowa Ct. App. 2004)

No. 4-099 / 03-0293.

June 9, 2004.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for ScottCounty, Nancy S. Tabor, Judge.

Bryan Shuford appeals from his convictions for second-degree murder, willful injury, and intimidation with a dangerous weapon. AFFIRMED.

Linda Del Gallo, State Appellate Defender, and David Adams, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Kristin Guddall, Assistant Attorney General, William Davis, County Attorney, and Gerald Feuerbach, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.

Heard by Vogel, P.J., and Hecht and Vaitheswaran, JJ.


Bryan Shuford appeals from his convictions for second-degree murder, willful injury, and intimidation with a dangerous weapon. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS.

On July 21, 2001, in celebration of the wedding of Phyllis and Marvin Miller, family members gathered in the backyard of the Miller house in Davenport. Two cars, each with several occupants, drove by the backyard and began firing into the crowd. A bullet struck nine-year-old Deanna Shipp as she sat on the hood of a parked car. An ambulance transported Deanna to the hospital, but she was pronounced dead shortly after.

The groom's brother, Albert Miller, recognized several of the young men in the cars and left the scene of the shooting to find them. When he arrived at the corner of 13th and Marguette Streets, he saw people standing around the two cars he had seen earlier. Shots were exchanged, and the people by the cars dispersed.

Investigators discovered spent shell casings at the Miller residence from both a .25 caliber and a .380 caliber semi-automatic pistol. The bullet that killed Deanna Shipp was a .380 caliber. At 13th and Marguette, investigators found a .380 semi-automatic Beretta inside one of the cars. A .25 caliber Raven was found inside a box near the two cars. Ballistic experts determined that the .25 caliber shell casings found at the Miller residence had been fired from the Raven. The .380 caliber casings found at the Miller residence did not match the Beretta.

Bryan Shuford and the men identified by Albert Miller were interviewed by police about the shooting. During his initial interview, Shuford denied playing any role in the shooting. Later that day, some of the others interviewed admitted they had been involved and implicated Shuford. Shuford returned to the police station the next day for another interview. He was informed of his rights at the beginning of the interview. He again denied any involvement, but ultimately admitted to participating in the shooting and firing a .380 caliber weapon. He was arrested and charged with murder in the first degree, willful injury, and intimidation with a dangerous weapon.

After a trial in January 2003, a jury found Shuford guilty of second-degree murder, willful injury, and intimidation. Shuford appeals, contending the evidence was insufficient to support the verdicts and that his trial counsel was ineffective.

II. SUFFICIENCY OF THE EVIDENCE.

The State introduced evidence that Shuford confessed his participation in the shooting to both police and a cellmate. Shuford did not testify at trial. Shuford contends these out-of-court confessions were not corroborated as required by Iowa R. Crim. P. 2.21(4). We review a claim of insufficient evidence for errors at law. State v. Thomas, 561 N.W.2d 37, 39 (Iowa 1997). We must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the State. Id. The verdict must be supported by "such evidence as could convince a rational trier of fact that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt." Id. The existence of corroborative evidence is an issue for the court, but the sufficiency of the corroboration is for the jury. State v. Polly, 657 N.W.2d 462, 467 (Iowa 2003).

The State argues that Shuford has failed to preserve error on this issue because his motion for judgment of acquittal was too vague. While Shuford acknowledges his motion for judgment of acquittal made only a passing reference to Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.21(4), the State thoroughly addressed the issue of corroboration in its response. We conclude error was preserved and will address the merits of Shuford's claim.

Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.21(4) states that the "confession of the defendant, unless made in open court, will not warrant a conviction, unless accompanied by other proof that the defendant committed the offense." This "other proof" should fortify the truth of the confession without independently establishing the crime charge. Polly, 657 N.W.2d at 467. "Corroboration need not be strong nor need it go to the whole of the case so long as it confirms some material fact connecting the defendant with the crime." State v. Liggins, 524 N.W.2d 181, 187 (Iowa 1994).

Shuford contends the other evidence offered by the State does not link him to the crimes. He points out that none of the witnesses to the shooting identified Shuford as one of the men in the cars and no fingerprints linked Shuford to the cars or the guns used in the shooting. He argues that without physical evidence or eyewitness testimony linking Shuford to the crime, his out-of-court confessions are insufficiently corroborated to support his conviction.

We think Shuford overstates the required strength of the corroborating evidence. Shuford, in his confession to police and to his cellmate, provided detailed descriptions of the guns, cars, and other participants involved in the shooting. He described the activities of the participants before and after the shooting. He identified the intended victim of the shooting as well as the actual victim. He described how the guns were hidden, the cars wiped down to remove fingerprints, and the subsequent exchange of fire with Albert Miller at 13th and Marguette. Many of these details were corroborated by eyewitness testimony and physical evidence. Police discovered guns and bullet casings fitting Shuford's description in the locations he mentioned. Eyewitnesses' descriptions of the shooting at the Miller home and at 13th matched the description recounted by Shuford. We conclude the corroborating evidence provided by the State fortifies the truth of Shuford's confessions and sufficiently links Shuford to the crimes. See Polly, 657 N.W.2d at 467. Accordingly, we affirm.

III. INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL.

Shuford claims his trial counsel was ineffective by failing to object to the inconsistent verdicts and by failing to move to suppress Shuford's statements to police as involuntary. We will review a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel de novo. State v. Button, 622 N.W.2d 480, 483 (Iowa 2001). A claim for ineffective assistance of counsel must establish both that counsel's performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness and that counsel's deficient performance prejudiced the defendant. Taylor v. State, 352 N.W.2d 683, 685 (Iowa 1984). To show prejudice, a claimant must show a reasonable probability that "but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the results of the proceeding would have been different." State v. Query, 594 N.W.2d 438, 445 (Iowa Ct.App. 1999). We prefer to preserve ineffective assistance of counsel claims for possible postconviction relief proceedings, but will consider them in a direct appeal if the record is adequate. State v. Casady, 597 N.W.2d 801, 807 (Iowa 1999).

A. Inconsistent Verdicts.

Shuford was charged with first-degree murder, willful injury, and intimidation. The jury was instructed that in order to find Shuford guilty of first-degree murder, it must conclude either that (1) he willfully killed Deanna Shipp or (2) he killed her while participating in the crime of willful injury or intimidation. The jury found Shuford not guilty of first-degree murder, but guilty of second-degree murder. He was also found guilty of willful injury and intimidation. He argues that his acquittal of first-degree murder demonstrates the jury concluded he did not participate in the crime of willful injury or intimidation; however, the jury returned verdicts of guilty on those two charges. Shuford contends his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to these inconsistent verdicts reached by the jury in his trial.

Shuford concedes that the United States Supreme Court has held that inconsistent jury verdicts are not reviewable by the court in Dunn v. United State, 284 U.S. 390, 393-94, 52 S.Ct. 189, 190-91, 76 L.Ed. 356, 359 (1931) and United States v. Powell, 469 U.S. 57, 69, 105 S.Ct. 471, 479, 83 L.Ed. 461, 471 (1984). He acknowledges that these holdings are binding upon this court, but urge us to conclude the Iowa constitution provides more protection than the federal constitution. However, the U.S. Supreme Court's position in Dunn and Powell has been adopted into Iowa law in State v. Hernandez, 538 N.W.2d 884, 889 (Iowa Ct. App. 1995). Our court recognized a narrow exception to the Dunn rule when it preserved for possible postconviction relief proceedings a claim of that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to "multiple convictions, without an acquittal, of mutually exclusive offenses." State v. Pearson, 547 N.W.2d 236, 241 (Iowa Ct.App. 1996). Shuford, however, concedes that his case is not analogous to Pearson, and we agree.

Because federal and state precedent has already determined that inconsistent jury verdicts are not reviewable by the court, we conclude Shuford's trial counsel was not ineffective for failing to object to the inconsistent verdicts rendered in this case.

B. Motion to Suppress.

Shuford also asserts his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to move to suppress statements Shuford made to police officers as involuntary. He argues that this was his second interrogation in two days, that he struggled to read and understand the waiver of Miranda rights form, and that he was questioned by three hostile officers who lied to him about evidence they had already discovered. He contends these circumstances demonstrate that his confession was involuntary and that his attorney had a duty to move to suppress it.

After our de novo review of the record, including the videotape of Shuford's interrogation, we conclude Shuford's confession was voluntary and that his trial counsel had no duty to move to suppress. An attorney has no duty to raise a meritless claim. State v. Westeen, 591 N.W.2d 203, 207 (Iowa 1999). Accordingly, we conclude Shuford's attorney was not ineffective in this respect.

AFFIRMED.