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State of Iowa v. Shara Harrington

April 24, 2013

STATE OF IOWA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
SHARA HARRINGTON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, Nathan Callahan, District Associate Judge.

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

Defendant appeals her conviction for domestic abuse assault causing bodily injury. AFFIRMED.

Considered by Potterfield, P.J., Doyle, J., and Miller, S.J.*fn1

I. Background Facts & Proceedings

Kenneth Young and Shara Harrington were previously in a relationship and they had a child together. On October 31, 2010, Harrington went to Young's apartment at about 4:30 p.m. She stated she wanted Young to care for the child for awhile because she needed a break. Dashauna Spates, who was at that time in a relationship with Young, testified she was at Young's apartment that afternoon.

Young testified he did not want to speak to Harrington. He stated, "She was just knocking on the door and knocking on the windows, because she wanted me to come out." Spates testified Harrington banged on the windows with a car scraper. Spates stated, "She was talking about me. She wanted to get at me and, you know." Eventually Young went out to speak with Harrington, where she yelled at him so he went back inside. Young called the police and Officer David Bovy of the Waterloo Police Department came to the apartment. Harrington had already left so no further action was taken at that time. Officer Bovy did not notice any injuries to Young when he saw him at around 4:30 p.m.

At about 7:30 p.m., Young and Spates were leaving Young's apartment when Harrington approached them. Young testified he grabbed Harrington because she was too close to him, and he pushed her so he could get back into his apartment. Harrington agreed that Young pushed her back, then shut the door to his apartment, stating he did not want to hear what she had to say.

Spates testified that as she and Young were leaving his apartment Harrington ran towards them, yelling and screaming. She stated Harrington yelled, "I'm going to get you." She testified Young got in front of her to stop Harrington from attacking her. Spates stated Young and Harrington fell on the ground and Harrington was biting Young. She stated Young told her to go, so she left the building and drove away.

Officer Bovy testified that shortly after 7:30 p.m. Young came down to the police station. At that time he observed a large bite mark on Young's cheek, which appeared fresh and had droplets of blood on it. Officer Bovy stated Harrington came to the police station shortly thereafter and she told him she had bitten Young.

Harrington was charged with domestic abuse assault causing bodily injury, in violation of Iowa Code section 708.2A(2)(b) (2009). She filed a motion in limine seeking to exclude evidence of the incident at 4:30 p.m. on the ground that it was evidence of prior bad acts which would not be admissible under Iowa Rule of Evidence 5.404(b). The State argued the incident was part of a continuous act and so did not constitute prior bad acts. The State also claimed that if the incident was considered a prior bad act, it was relevant to show Harrington's intent, and furthermore, it was not more prejudicial than probative.

The district court determined the 4:30 p.m. incident could be characterized as prior bad acts. The court found the evidence was relevant on the issue of Harrington's "state of mind and her intention." The court determined that when the prejudicial impact was weighed against the probative value, the probative value came out on top. The court stated it would give a limiting instruction on the use of the evidence of other wrongful acts.

The case proceeded to a jury trial with the parties testifying as outlined above. The jury found Harrington guilty of domestic abuse assault causing bodily injury. She was sentenced to 365 days in jail, with all but fourteen days suspended. Harrington now appeals her conviction.

II. Standard of Review

We review a district court's ruling regarding the admission of prior bad acts evidence for an abuse of discretion. State v. Richards, 809 N.W.2d 80, 89 (Iowa 2012). A court abuses its discretion when its ruling is based on grounds or reasons clearly untenable or to an ...


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