Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Johnson County, Denver D. Dillard, Judge.
Rudolph Edwards appeals from his convictions for willful injury causing bodily injury and domestic abuse assault causing injury.
Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Vidhya K. Reddy, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.
Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Thomas S. Tauber, Assistant Attorney General, Janet M. Lyness, County Attorney, and Kristin Parks and Dana Christiansen, Assistant County Attorneys, for appellee.
Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Mullins and Bower, JJ.
Rudolph Edwards appeals from his convictions for willful injury causing bodily injury and domestic abuse assault causing injury. He argues the court improperly admitted evidence of a prior assault against the same complaining witness and failed to sufficiently inquire into a conflict between Edwards and his counsel after denying counsels motion to withdraw. We affirm on condition and remand with directions, finding the prior-acts evidence was admissible for non-propensity reasons and that the district court failed to make a sufficient inquiry into the possibility of a conflict of interest.
I. Facts and proceedings.
Edwards and A.G. resided in an apartment together with two childrenKne of whom was Edwards's biological child. They also resided with a roommate, A.B., and A.B.'s children. On January 15, 2011 (an icy, cold day), Edwards and A.G. were arguing about whether A.G. could drive somewhere. Ultimately, A.G. left the apartment, and Edwards followed shortly thereafter. A.G. remembers turning around and seeing Edwards, then waking up the next day. A.Gs roommate found her lying on the icy pavement, gurgling blood, and bleeding from the head. The roommate saw Edwards walking away and called paramedics. A.G. was taken to the emergency room. Her jaw was broken in two places, her nose was broken, she had a concussion, and she had a large lump on the back of her head.
Edwards was arrested. At the police station, he was left in a room by himself while a camera recorded him. He called his brother, Marvin, and told him he "snapped out" and "caught her ass' and that he knew Marvin would be disappointed in him. He told an officer he "snapped out" and "blanked out, " that he was a "beast, " and that A.G. wanted him to fight her. He told the officer "she wanted me to snap out and beat her ass."
Edwards was charged with willful injury, domestic abuse assault causing injury, and harassment. Prior to trial, Edwards filed a motion in limine, seeking to exclude evidence of any prior acts of assaultive behavior. The State revealed it would offer testimony by A.G. regarding an uncharged assault against her that took place two days before the assault with which Edwards was finally charged. The substance of her testimony was that Edwards held her down in her bed for hours, threatening to beat her to the point she would need reconstructive surgery and a "halo " (a type of neck) brace.
The district court ruled the testimony was not propensity evidence but admissible as motive for the subsequent attack. Trial was held before a jury April 18–21, 2011. The following individuals testified in the State's case: A.G., her emergency room physician, the roommate, a friend of Edwards, three officers, a criminalist, and a detective. Edwards again objected to A.G.'s testimony describing the prior assault and was overruled. Edwards testified in his own defense, admitting being outside with A.G., but denying hitting her. Edwards said he might have elbowed A.G., but that A.G. had slipped on the ice as he walked away and her fall caused her injuries.
While the jury was deliberating, Edwards approached the court and reported his attorney told him to perjure himself, and that he testified accordingly to his detriment. The court asked Edwards's attorney if this was true, and the attorney denied the allegation, noting that providing further detail might violate attorney-client privilege. The attorney requested to withdraw from the case, due to Edwards's accusation that the attorney committed an ethics violation. The court denied the request at that time, stating, "[T]hats something that can be considered later if necessary."
Several hours later, the jury returned verdicts of guilty of willful injury causing bodily injury (a lesser included offense of the original charge of willful injury), and domestic abuse assault causing bodily injury. Through counsel, Edwards renewed his motion for judgment of acquittal, which was denied. Edwards denied the prior convictions alleged as sentencing enhancements. The court discussed with the parties the procedure for presentation of evidence regarding the prior convictions. That proceeding did not take place that afternoon for reasons unrelated to defense counsel's motion to withdraw, but the court anticipated a renewal of the motion to withdraw when it decided to empanel a second jury at a later date to hear the evidence on prior convictions.
The following week, defense counsel filed a written motion to withdraw, which the court granted the following month without hearing. Edwards was represented by substitute counsel when he appeared to stipulate to a prior conviction for purposes of sentencing enhancement on Count II, domestic abuse assault causing bodily injury. He was sentenced to consecutive terms of imprisonment of five years and two years. ...