Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, Nathan A. Callahan, District Associate Judge.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Potterfield, J.
Daeton Guldberg appeals from his conviction of domestic abuse assault causing injury. AFFIRMED.
Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Potterfield and Doyle, JJ.
Daeton Guldberg appeals from his conviction after a jury trial of domestic abuse assault causing injury. He contends there was insufficient evidence to sustain the conviction; the court erred in allowing testimony from the complaining witness that the defendant had hit her before; and trial counsel was ineffective in failing to request a justification jury instruction that one need not take an alternate course of action in one's own home.
I. Sufficiency of the Evidence.
Guldberg does not deny that he and Diana Watson resided together and that he choked her on September 23, 2011. He argues here, as he did at trial, that his actions were justified because Watson struck him with a bat.*fn1
When a defendant raises justification as a defense, the State is required to prove the absence of justification. State v. Shanahan, 712 N.W.2d 121, 134 (Iowa 2006).
We review sufficiency-of-the-evidence claims for a correction of errors at law. State v. Sanford, 814 N.W.2d 611, 615 (Iowa 2012). In assessing the sufficiency of the evidence, we are obliged to view the record in a light most favorable to the State. State v. Johnson, 770 N.W.2d 814, 819 (Iowa 2009).
"[W]e will uphold a verdict if substantial record evidence supports it." We will consider all the evidence presented, not just the inculpatory evidence. Evidence is considered substantial if, when viewed in the light most favorable to the State, it can convince a rational jury that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Sanford, 814 N.W.2d at 615 (citations omitted).
Whether the defendant acted without justification was a fact question for the jury to decide. See Iowa R. Crim. P. 2.21(2); State v. Badgett, 167 N.W.2d 680, 683 (Iowa 1969). "[T]he jury is at liberty to believe or disbelieve the testimony of witnesses as it chooses and give such weight to the evidence as in its judgment the evidence was entitled to receive." State v. Blair, 347 N.W.2d 416, 420 (Iowa 1984). "The very function of the jury is to sort out the evidence presented and place credibility where it belongs." Id.
The jury was instructed in Jury Instruction No. 11 that the State could meet its burden of proving the defendant acted without justification by establishing any one of the following: "[t]he defendant started or continued the incident which resulted in injury"; "[a]n alternative course of action was available to the defendant"; "[t]he defendant did not believe he was in imminent danger of death or injury and the use of force was not necessary to save himself"; "[t]he defendant did not have reasonable grounds for the belief"; or "[t]he force used by the defendant was unreasonable." Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to upholding the conviction, the jury could reasonably find that Guldberg was not justified in choking Watson for any of the reasons stated.
Watson testified she went to the bedroom to retrieve her cell phone and Guldberg followed her and "was aggressive." She stated she grabbed a bat that she kept in the bedroom as she felt threatened because "me and him have been into arguments and he's hit me before." Watson stated she jumped on the bed and Guldberg lunged at her. From this testimony, the jury could find Guldberg did not believe he was in imminent danger or the use of force was not necessary to save himself; or, if he did so believe, his belief was unreasonable. We conclude there was sufficient evidence that Guldberg's actions were without justification and, thus, there is substantial evidence to sustain the conviction.
Guldberg argues the district court erred in allowing prior bad acts evidence. The State had moved in limine for a ruling as to the admissibility of the defendant's prior assaultive behavior toward the complaining witness, as well as toward another. The district court discussed the ...