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State of Iowa v. Shamaur Lee Sims

February 13, 2013


Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Robert A. Hutchison (severance) and Richard G. Blane II (trial), Judges.

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

Defendant appeals his convictions for second-degree robbery and willful injury causing bodily injury. AFFIRMED.

Heard by Eisenhauer, C.J., and Danilson and Bower, JJ.

Following a jury trial, Shamaur Sims was convicted of robbery in the second degree (Kevin Stanford) and willful injury causing bodily injury (Alvaro Larios). Sims argues the evidence is insufficient to support his willful injury conviction and the district court abused its discretion in denying his motions to sever the charges and to transfer jurisdiction to the juvenile court. Sims also contends the court abused its discretion in admitting into evidence Sims's statements about prior robberies over defense counsel's relevancy objections and trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance in not objecting to the prior crimes evidence on the basis its probative value was substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice. We affirm.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

In the early afternoon of September 6, 2010, Kevin Stanford and his girlfriend, Shawn Fagen, walked to a Des Moines convenience store to buy cigarettes. Stanford used a $100 bill and received $86 in change. The store's surveillance video shows Sims in the store and Sims's friend, Shaquille Scheuermann, standing next to Stanford at the register. Stanford and Fagen walked back to their nearby apartment building and up an inside stairway. Scheuermann and Sims also walked up the stairway, and Scheuermann grabbed Fagen's purse, ran down the stairs, and exited the building.

Sims punched Stanford and knocked him down on a concrete landing area between the apartment floors. Stanford thought Sims was trying to knock him out and steal his money, so he kept one hand in his pocket and held onto the money. Fagen saw Sims reach into his pocket and grab something, but neither Fagen nor Stanford saw what Sims had in his hand. Stanford believed Sims "had brass knuckles on or a roll of quarters in his hand" and estimated Sims hit him ten to fifteen times. Sims's assault on Stanford ended when another apartment resident opened a door and Sims ran away. Stanford suffered cuts to his face, head, and hands along with bleeding and bruising. A partial shoe print in blood was later determined to be consistent with the tread pattern of Sims's tennis shoes.

Around 8:00 p.m. the same day, the police were dispatched to investigate an assault on Alvaro Larios, who had a bleeding wound on the top of his head. After speaking with Larios, Officer Swagler drove to the 1800 block of Arlington to look for a rock or a brick with blood on it and a case of Corona beer taken from Larios, but he found neither.

A few days later, Sims agreed to be interviewed by Detective Frentress. Sims first stated Scheuermann told Sims he knew where they could get some money, they arrived at the Stanford/Fagen apartment building, Scheuermann grabbed the woman's purse, and they both left. Upon further questioning, Sims changed his story and admitted he punched Stanford several times, allegedly because he wanted to keep Stanford from chasing Scheuermann. Finally, Sims admitted his intent was to knock out Stanford and take his money, but Sims denied using brass knuckles. Detective Frentress testified Stanford's injuries were consistent with the use of brass knuckles.

During a second interview with Detective Frentress, Sims wrote short apology notes to Stanford and Fagen. Sims told Fagen it was a "dumb idea to snatch your belongings," and "[y]ou guys didn't do anything to us. We were being a couple of jerks." Sims told Stanford it was my "and my partner's fault and we deserve what happens to us." Further: "I hope your wounds heal soon."

Detective Frentress also questioned Sims about the Larios assault/robbery. Sims eventually admitted being present with Scheuermann and another person, Terrance.

Sims was charged with two counts of first-degree robbery. At Sims's January 2012 jury trial, Detective Frentress detailed Sims's interview statements concerning the Larios assault:

Q. After you reviewed the [Larios police incident report] and saw the physical description of the suspects . . . did you think of Mr. Sims and Mr. Scheuermann? A. Yes, I did.

Q. So, first Mr. Sims tells you that he's not involved . . . he doesn't know anything about it, right? A. Yes.

Q. And then you get that [Larios incident] report out in front of him, and you start challenging him with the facts in that report; right? A. Yes.

Q. What does Mr. Sims do after you describe the people involved in that robbery? A. He admits that he's involved in the robbery.

. . . . Q. Did Mr. Sims tell you what happened . . . ? A. Briefly, says that they meet an individual. I make the statement to him that, you know they used a brick. He said, no, it was a rock. I asked him if they'd got anything from [Larios]. I think [Sims] states, no, they did not.

I think their intent was to get some beers from the individual. The individual was carrying a box of Coronas or some beer.

. . . . Q. And he told you the purpose for the attack was to take beer from [Larios]? A. I don't know if that was his actual words. [Larios] had beer . . . . And [Sims] says: If I remember correctly, I think they did not get any beer from him.

Q. But that was the purpose, they were going to try to take some [beer] from him? A. I don't think he really stated his purpose. So I can't say what his actual purpose was.

. . . . Q. Then once you start confronting him with the evidence from [the Larios] case, all of a sudden he's there; right? A. Yes. Then he does admit his involvement in it.

Q. [Sims] makes it very clear that actually the officers have got it wrong; it wasn't a brick, it was a rock that [Terrance] used; right? A. Yes.

Q. So he never admits that he did anything to [Larios] with a rock; isn't that correct? A. Correct.

Against the advice of counsel, and after being informed the State would seek to introduce evidence of other crimes if Sims "tries to say that the intent of that group confronting Mr. Larios was not for the intent to take property from him," Sims elected to testify. Sims admitted to having a felony conviction involving dishonesty. Sims testified he and Scheuermann were cutting grass on September 6, 2010, and they stopped at the convenience store. Sims was outside the store talking on his phone when Scheuermann told him he knew where they could make some money. Sims thought Scheuermann meant they would be cutting more grass. At the Stanford/Fagen apartment building, Scheuermann mentioned looking for "Mike" to see about work. While Sims was walking up the stairs, he passed Stanford and Fagen, and then Sims heard Fagen say "there's no money in there." Sims looked back and thought Stanford looked mad. Stanford was going down the stairs, and Sims thought Stanford was going to chase after Scheuermann. Sims hit Stanford to keep him from hurting Scheuermann. When Stanford struck back at Sims, Sims became so mad that he "kind of like black[ed] out" and swung hard at Stanford, knocking him down. During cross-examination, Sims acknowledged he did not mention "blacking out" at any point during his interview with Detective Frentress. Sims also stated, "By that time [Stanford] said that he was going to call the cops. I was already leaving out the door." Sims denied having anything in his hands during his fight with Stanford. Sims testified he "didn't even know a robbery was going to happen" and he thought Scheuermann was looking for mowing jobs or other work. Further, when Sims hit Stanford it was not his intent to cause him a serious injury.

Sims also testified to playing basketball with Scheuermann and Terrance several hours after the Stanford incident. Terrance was upset over losing the basketball game. As Sims and Scheuermann walked to Scheuermann's house, they encountered Larios dinking and talking with friends. Terrance took out his anger over the basketball game on Larios and began arguing with him before picking up a rock and throwing it at Larios. When this happened, Sims turned around and walked home. Sims testified he had no idea Larios was going to be robbed; rather, Sims was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sims stated he did not know who took the beer.

After Sims's direct testimony and before the State's cross-examination, the State argued Sims's testimony addressed intent and sought to "question Sims in regards to his statements regarding other robberies he was involved in with these kids." The State asserted such evidence is permissible to show intent as well as absence of mistake or accident. Defense counsel argued the evidence should be excluded under Iowa Rule of Evidence 5.404 because it was not relevant to motive, opportunity, preparation, plan, or other concepts. The State responded:

Now the story is that [Sims] was unaware that Mr. Larios was going to be assaulted at all. I think that the jury has not been given a clear picture about what [Sims] has admitted to and what was actually going on, and [Sims] has opened the door for me to clarify what the situation is.

These robberies were going on all summer long . . . . He knows what happens or what is going to happen because he's actively ...

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