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State of Iowa v. Lewis Burnice Dixon

January 9, 2013

STATE OF IOWA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
LEWIS BURNICE DIXON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Thomas G. Reidel (motion) and Mark D. Cleve (trial), Judges.

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

Defendant appeals his conviction for domestic abuse assault causing bodily injury. REVERSED AND REMANDED.

Considered by Eisenhauer, C.J., and Vogel and Vaitheswaran, JJ.

LewisDixon appeals his conviction for domestic abuse assault causing bodily injury, third offense. He argues the court erred in instructing the jury. We reverse and remand for a new trial.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

Dixon and his girlfriend, Nicole Dozier, were arguing, and an altercation occurred at his residence. Police officers observed swelling on Nicole's forehead. At trial, Dixon and Nicole gave conflicting accounts of the events. Nicole testified Dixon "grabbed me below my arm and I turned around and slapped him [on the shoulder] and next thing I know he punches me in the head."

In contrast, Dixon testified Nicole was intoxicated and hit him five times in the face after he woke her up to eat supper. Dixon then grabbed Nicole's shoulders to get her to stop hitting him, but he let her go when she asked to be released. Nicole went to another room and Dixon followed and stood in front of her. When Nicole hit him in the face again, he responded by hitting her forehead. "It was accidental, but just a quick reaction, and that's how she got hit from me from that incident alone." Dixon also testified he had a prior history of domestic misdemeanors to which he had pled guilty, but his actions with Nicole were "purely accidental and yet was self-defense." He explained:

Q. And why do you believe it was self-defense? A. I was preventing a situation from happening and I just accidentally reacted the way I did, but at the same time I was trying to prevent that from going any further-any further than--

Q. What were you reacting to? A. I was reacting from her slapping me or hitting me any more-any other times after that.

Dixon objected to the portion of Jury Instruction 20 at issue in this appeal. The jury convicted Dixon of domestic abuse assault causing bodily injury, third offense and he appeals.

II. Scope and Standards of Review.

We review for correction of errors at law. State v. McCall, 754 N.W.2d 868, 871 (Iowa Ct. App. 2008). We consider whether the instructions "correctly state the law and are supported by substantial evidence." Id. Error in giving jury instructions does not merit reversal unless it results in prejudice to the defendant. State v. Kellogg, 542 N.W.2d 514, 516 (Iowa 1996). In criminal cases, the instructions must explain "technical terms or legal terms of art." Id. We review the instructions together, not piecemeal or in isolation. State v. Bennett, 503 N.W.2d 42, 45 (Iowa Ct. App. 1993).

III. Merits.

The marshaling instruction and the "reasonable force" instruction stated the State had the burden of proving Dixon "was not acting with justification." Justification ...


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