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State v. Robinson

June 25, 2003


Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, William L. Thomas, Judge.

Heard by Mahan, P.J., and Miller and Vaitheswaran, JJ.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Miller, J.

Carloss Darnell Robinson appeals from his judgment, following jury trial, for murder in the first degree. AFFIRMED.

Carloss Darnell Robinson appeals his conviction, following jury trial, for murder in the first degree. He contends the court erred in (1) overruling his motion to suppress, (2) permitting the State to present impermissible rebuttal evidence, and (3) finding sufficient evidence to support the conviction. We affirm.


The record before us reveals the following facts. On Thursday August 31, 2000 Christine Sanoubane and her two-year-old son moved into the front apartment of a duplex in Cedar Rapids. The defendant Carloss Robinson and Temeca Sanders lived in the rear apartment of the duplex with their four children. While Sanoubane was moving in Sanders volunteered Robinson to help Sanoubane and her friend, Todd Hale, carry some of the heavy furniture from Hale's truck into the apartment. Robinson did so, making four trips from the truck to various rooms in the apartment. Over the course of the next few of days, which happened to be Labor Day weekend, Sanoubane came over to Sanders and Robinson's apartment to use their phone to order pizza and asked Sanders about the laundry facilities in the basement of the duplex.

On Monday September 4, 2000 (Labor Day) Hale returned to Sanoubane's apartment to collect money which he said she had promised him for helping her move. He knocked but got no response. He said he saw Sanoubane's son but was not able to communicate with him and left.

Robinson and Sanders were out of town most of Monday and returned in the early evening. Around 6:30 p.m. Sanders heard a child next door crying and she and Robinson went next door to see what was wrong. They looked in the window of Sanoubane's apartment and could see the child crying but could not communicate with him. About that time Hale arrived at the apartment again to see about getting the money he was promised. Hale also attempted unsuccessfully to communicate with the toddler through the window and called for Sanoubane but got no response.

Robinson apparently heard the telephone ring in their apartment at that point and went to answer it. Hale then pulled the screen and window out and crawled through it into the apartment. He discovered Sanoubane's body in the bathtub. He grabbed the child and ran out of the apartment shouting for someone to call 911 because he thought she was dead. Sanders then yelled for Robinson to call 911 and he did.

Officers from the Cedar Rapids Police Department responded to the call. The first officer at the scene checked Sanoubane for signs of life and found none. Statements were taken from Sanders, Hale and Robinson that night. Robinson told police he had helped Sanoubane move in on Thursday but that he knew nothing about what happened to her.

It was later determined that Sanoubane had been struck on the head and face repeatedly with a blunt object, knocking out two of her teeth. The missing teeth were found on the kitchen floor. She had then been placed in the bathtub and her throat had been cut. The massive amount of blood loss from the cut to her throat was determined to be the cause of death. The drain of the tub had been stopped up with an elastic hair pull and the tub filled. The water had drained out of the tub by the time the body was discovered but the bloody water had left a brownish ring around the tub.

Early the next morning, September 5, Officer Choate of the Cedar Rapids Police Department contacted Sanders and Robinson while they were getting ready to leave for work shortly before 7:00 a.m. He asked if they would come down to the police station to give a more detailed statement. Robinson was reluctant because he needed to get to work but Choate assured him he would be able to contact his employer to explain the situation. Sanders asked Officer Choate a question regarding whether they needed to contact a lawyer, although what specifically she asked is disputed, and Choate told them it was up to them. Sanders and Robinson agreed to the interview and drove themselves to the police station in their own vehicle.

Once at the station Robinson and Sanders were put in separate rooms. In the interview room Robinson sat in the chair nearest the door which at this point was left ajar. The only other person present at the start of the interview was Officer Choate. Choate advised Robinson he was not under arrest and was free to leave at any time and Robinson indicated he understood. Robinson was allowed to call his employer to inform him about the situation.

Robinson initially told Choate the same things he had told the police the previous evening, that he had helped Sanoubane move in on Thursday but knew nothing about her death. Early in the interview Robinson was asked to provide various samples to the police for comparison to any found in Sanoubane's apartment because he had been in the apartment helping her move. Robinson agreed to give the samples and signed a written "Permission to Search Without a Search Warrant" form agreeing to the search of his person. The police took fingerprints, footprints, shoe prints, swabings of his feet, palm prints, and buccal swabs from Robinson. At approximately 9:15 a.m. Officer Choate was informed that Robinson's footprint matched a bloody footprint found inside Sanoubane's apartment.

Choate resumed the interview with Robinson and at that point Robinson was read his Miranda rights aloud. Robinson did not sign the form acknowledging those rights. Officer Choate stated that at that point he thought of Robinson as a potential suspect in the murder rather than just a witness and the door to the interview room remained shut and locked from then on. When Choate confronted Robinson with the information regarding the footprint Robinson at first maintained his original story. However, at around noon he changed his story and told police he had in fact been in Sanoubane's apartment Sunday night while Sanders was out of town visiting her sisters.

Robinson stated that he entered Sanoubane's apartment to see if she was all right because he had heard bumping sounds coming from her apartment. He told Choate that he entered the apartment which was completely dark, knocked, called "Hello," and then looked around and discovered Sanoubane lying on the bathroom floor with her back against the bathtub. He saw some dark substance or foam coming out of her mouth, noticed he was standing in dark liquid, slipped on the liquid and caught himself on the sink or bathtub, and left the apartment. Robinson stated that he panicked, wiped his feet off in the grass and went back to his apartment to smoke a blunt and calm down. He told no one about the discovery. Officer Choate had this second version of events typed up based on notes he had taken and asked Robinson to review the statement at 3:18 p.m. Robinson reviewed the statement but refused to sign it. Shortly thereafter, Choate formally arrested Robinson and charged him with the murder of Sanoubane.

During Robinson's questioning, at approximately 11:30 a.m., the police station received a facsimile "notice" from an attorney in Des Moines which stated he was counsel for Robinson who was being questioned regarding a homicide. The "notice" also requested "reasonable notice of the right of my presence at all line ups, one-on-one show up identification and all other identification procedures including but not limited to the withdrawal of blood, hair, or other bodily specimens from Mr. Robinson." It further stated, "Any questioning of him should cease as ...

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