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State v. Dixon

Court of Appeal of Iowa

May 30, 2013

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
CHRISTOPHER DIXON, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Thomas G. Reidel, Judge.

         Christopher Dixon appeals from judgment and sentences entered upon his convictions of delivery of a controlled substance.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Bradley M. Bender, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Sharon K. Hall, Assistant Attorney General, Michael J. Walton, County Attorney, and Melisa K. Zaehringer, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.

          Considered by Doyle, P.J., and Danilson and Mullins, JJ.

          DANILSON, J.

         Christopher Dixon appeals from judgment and sentences imposed upon his convictions for three counts of delivery of a controlled substance (cocaine), in violation of Iowa Code section 124.401(1)(c) (2011). He asserts there is insufficient evidence to support the convictions and that the district court erred in denying his motion for new trial. After considering the trial record, we conclude that there is sufficient evidence to support the guilty verdicts. Furthermore, we find the district court did not abuse its discretion in overruling Dixon's motion for a new trial under Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 2.24(2)(b)(6). We affirm.

         I. Background Facts.

         Twice in 2009, and once in 2010, Davenport narcotics officers Brian Morel and Gilbert Proehl used the same confidential informant (CI) to engage in controlled buys targeting Christopher Dixon. According to the officers' testimony, they employed the same strategy on each occasion: after searching the CI and finding no drugs or money, they affixed a recording device to him, provided him with $160 in pre-recorded money, and instructed him to purchase cocaine from Dixon at his suspected residence. The CI was under constant surveillance by undercover police officers while traveling to and from the officers' car and the target residence. The residence itself was similarly watched. Directly after each of the three controlled buys, the officers once again searched the CI and retrieved drugs from him. No other items were found on the CI after any of the controlled buys.

         Dixon was charged with three counts of delivery of a controlled substance. After the State's presentation of evidence Dixon moved for a judgment of acquittal on each charge, contending the evidence submitted was not sufficient to support a finding that he delivered cocaine on any of the three dates alleged by the State. The court denied the motion. At the conclusion of the trial Dixon made a motion for a new trial, arguing the verdicts were against the weight of the evidence. The district court denied the motion.

         Dixon raises two issues on appeal. He asserts that the evidence provided at the district court was insufficient for the jury to convict him of any of the criminal offenses. He also maintains the district court abused its discretion in denying his motion for new trial.

         II. Standard of Review.

         We review challenges to the sufficiency of evidence for errors at law. State v. Sanford, 814 N.W.2d 611, 615 (Iowa 2012). We review the evidence "in the light most favorable to the State, including all reasonable inferences that may be deduced from" it to determine whether the finding of guilt is supported by substantial evidence and should be upheld. Id. Evidence is substantial if it would convince a rational fact-finder of the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Id.

         The district court has broad discretion when ruling on motions for a new trial in which the defendant alleges the verdict is contrary to the weight of the evidence and we review its decision for an abuse of that discretion. State v. Nitcher, 720 N.W.2d 547, 559 (Iowa 2006). The weight-of-the-evidence standard differs from the sufficiency-of-the-evidence standard in that the district court does not view the evidence from a standpoint most favorable to the government. State v. Taylor, 689 N.W.2d 116, 134 (Iowa 2004). Rather, the court weighs the evidence and considers the credibility of the witnesses. Id. While it has the discretion to grant a new trial where a verdict rendered by the jury is contrary to law or evidence, the court should do so only "carefully or sparingly." Id. In our review, we limit ourselves to the question ...


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