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State v. Walker

Supreme Court of Iowa

November 14, 2014

STATE OF IOWA, Appellee,

On review from the Iowa Court of Appeals. Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Nancy A. Baumgartner, Judge. Defendant seeks further review of a court of appeals decision sustaining the writ of certiorari requested by the State, vacating the sentence imposed by the district court, and remanding for resentencing.

Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Patricia Reynolds, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Kevin Cmelik, Assistant Attorney General, Tyler J. Buller, Assistant Attorney General, and Jerry Vander Sanden, County Attorney, for appellee.



The general assembly has enacted enhanced penalties for persons who commit a second " sexually predatory offense" after having been previously convicted of a sexually predatory offense. See Iowa Code § 901A.2 (2011). Under this law, sexually predatory offense includes " [a]ny offense involving an attempt to commit [sexual abuse]." Id. § 901A.1(1)( e ). Today, we must decide whether a jury finding that the defendant committed kidnapping with intent to subject the victim to sexual abuse, see id. § 710.1(3), means that the defendant committed an offense involving an attempt to commit sexual abuse and therefore is eligible for this enhancement.

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For the reasons set forth herein, we follow our prior decision in State v. Harrington, 608 N.W.2d 440 (Iowa 2000), and hold that the jury finding has that effect. We therefore sustain the State's requested writ of certiorari, vacate the district court's ruling that the jury finding cannot serve as the basis for an enhanced sentence under Iowa Code section 901A.2(3), affirm the court of appeals decision, and remand for further proceedings.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

During the early morning hours of May 7, 2011, a Linn County sheriff's deputy was on routine patrol in a rural, northeastern part of the county. He noticed a vehicle parked at an abandoned farmstead with its lights off.

The deputy decided to investigate. As he pulled up the driveway, he saw two individuals. One was sitting in the front passenger seat of the car. The other, a man, was standing between the open front passenger door and the vehicle. The standing man was later identified as the defendant, Jabari Walker, and the person seated in the front passenger seat was later identified as the female victim, L.N. Upon the deputy's approach, L.N. jumped out of the car and ran toward the deputy's vehicle crying and upset.

Walker yelled at L.N. to tell the deputy she was Walker's girlfriend. He started to run after her. As he ran, he zipped up his pants. L.N., speaking frantically, said that she did not know Walker, that she had just met him, that she was afraid Walker was going to kill her, and that Walker had demanded that she give him oral sex.

It later turned out that Walker and L.N. had met in an Iowa City bar about an hour earlier and, according to the bar's surveillance video, walked out of the bar together. Walker and L.N. then drove their respective vehicles to a Coralville motel where Walker dropped off two male companions and paid for their motel room. After that, Walker and L.N. proceeded away from the motel in Walker's car, leaving L.N.'s car behind in the motel parking lot.

According to L.N., the plan was for the two of them to go out to eat at a nearby restaurant. However, Walker refused to do this and instead drove toward Cedar Rapids on I-380. While Walker was driving, according to L.N., he grabbed her head and forced her mouth on his penis. Urgently seeking an excuse to get out of the car, L.N. told Walker she needed to urinate. As related by L.N., Walker ignored her pleas and continued north on I-380. Walker drove past the exit for his own Cedar Rapids apartment, took a subsequent exit, drove another five miles, and finally parked at the abandoned farmhouse in a rural area.

When they reached the deserted farmstead, as L.N. related at trial, Walker let her out of the car to urinate but she was unable to do so. According to L.N., Walker then made her get back into the car and was again forcing her to engage in oral sex when the sheriff's deputy arrived.

L.N.'s DNA was found on Walker's penis. At trial, Walker took the stand and described a different set of events. He claimed that L.N. had consensually committed an oral sex act on him in his vehicle in an Iowa City parking lot right after leaving the bar. He also claimed that the plan was for the two to go to Walker's Cedar Rapids apartment for the night after dropping off Walker's companions at the motel, but that L.N. changed her mind while they were in Walker's car on I-380.

Walker testified he told L.N. he was too tired to turn around and drive her back

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home, but when L.N. mentioned having a friend in Cedar Falls, he agreed to take her there and proceeded to drive further north on I-380. Walker explained that he was new to the area and did not immediately realize how far away Cedar Falls was. According to Walker's version of events, L.N. then began insisting she needed to urinate, so he took the exit after the one for his apartment and drove around unsuccessfully looking for a restroom, finally ending up at the abandoned farmhouse. Walker denied that he had involuntarily confined L.N. or that he had forced or intended to force L.N. to have sex with him.

On May 31, the State filed a trial information charging Walker with first-degree kidnapping, a class " A" felony, in violation of Iowa Code sections 710.1 and 710.2.[1] The trial information included a proposed enhancement under Iowa Code section 901A.2(3) based on Walker's prior 2006 conviction in Ohio of a sexually predatory offense.[2]

Trial commenced on August 22. On August 30, the jury returned a verdict finding Walker guilty of the lesser included offense of third-degree degree kidnapping, a class " C" felony. Kidnapping in the third-degree required the jury to find that the defendant confined or removed the victim with the intent to commit sexual abuse on her, but did not require a finding that the victim had actually been subjected to sexual abuse. See Iowa Code § § 710.1(3), .4. In particular, according to the relevant marshaling instruction, the jury had to find:

1. On or about the 7th day of May, 2011, Jabari Walker:
a. confined [L.N.], or
b. removed [L.N.] from one place to another.

2. Jabari Walker knew he did not have the consent of the victim to do so.3. Jabari Walker did so with the specific intent to subject [L.N.] to sexual abuse, as defined in Instruction No. 21.[3]

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In the ensuing enhancement proceeding, Walker did not dispute that he had a prior Ohio conviction for " sexual imposition," a misdemeanor. However, he argued the Ohio conviction did not qualify as a sexually predatory offense within the meaning of Iowa Code section 901A.1(1).[4] He further argued that his Iowa third-degree kidnapping conviction was not a sexually predatory offense under section 901A.1(1), either. Walker urged that a jury finding he had intended to commit sexual abuse did not amount to a finding he had attempted to commit sexual abuse as required by section 901A.1(1).

The State, meanwhile, asserted that both the Ohio predicate offense and the Iowa conviction qualified as sexually predatory offenses within the meaning of section 901A.1(1). According to the State, the jury's findings that Walker had confined or removed L.N. while intending to sexually abuse her, as required for the third-degree kidnapping conviction, were enough to establish that Walker had committed an " offense involving an attempt to commit" sexual abuse. Thus, in the State's view, Walker met section 901A.2(3)'s grounds for an enhanced sentence.

On May 29, 2012, the district court ruled that the third-degree kidnapping conviction did not qualify as a sexually predatory offense within the meaning of Iowa Code section 901A.1(1). The district court essentially agreed with Walker's position; it explained that an attempt to commit an offense and an intent to commit an offense were not interchangeable. The district court found it unnecessary to reach the question whether the Ohio conviction met the definition of a sexually predatory offense. Because the court ...

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