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State v. Rooney

Supreme Court of Iowa

April 10, 2015

STATE OF IOWA, Appellee,
v.
DAVID HOWARD ROONEY, Appellant

Page 368

On review from the Iowa Court of Appeals. Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Pottawattamie County, Richard H. Davidson, Judge. The defendant seeks further review of a court of appeals decision affirming his conviction of third-degree burglary.

Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Vidhya K. Reddy, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Tyler J. Buller, Assistant Attorney General, Matthew D. Wilber, County Attorney, and Thomas G. Nelson, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.

APPEL, Justice. All justices concur except Zager, Waterman, and Mansfield, JJ., who dissent.

OPINION

Page 369

APPEL, Justice.

In this appeal, we consider whether the State offered sufficient evidence to support a third-degree burglary conviction in which the allegedly burglarized structure was a soon-to-be-demolished, dilapidated house and the defendant entered the house to obtain scrap metal. A jury convicted the defendant and the court of appeals affirmed the conviction. We granted further review. For the reasons expressed below, we reverse the decision of the court of appeals related to the sufficiency-of-the-evidence claim, reverse the judgment of the district court, and remanded the matter for dismissal of the charge.

I. Factual Background and Proceedings.

The State charged David Rooney with burglary in the third degree under Iowa Code sections 713.1 and 713.6A(1) (2011). According to the trial information, on November 4, 2012, Rooney entered an occupied structure in Council Bluffs, having no right, license, or privilege to do so, with the intent to commit a theft. Rooney pled not guilty and the matter proceeded to jury trial. Based on the evidence presented, a reasonable jury could have found the following facts.

The structure located at 233 South Fourth Street in Council Bluffs has not been used as a residence since 2002. The city had owned the property since 2007. The structure was a house built in 1890 that the city hoped could be preserved due to its historic value.

A few developers looked at the property, but none wanted to rehabilitate it. The house itself was boarded up, but over the years was broken into several times, and on several occasions, the city hired workers to secure the site after apparent break-ins. The city gave permission to the Council Bluffs Historic Alliance, Preserve Council Bluffs, and Habitat for Humanity of Council Bluffs to enter the property and remove historic features from the home if they wanted, including carpentry and the fireplace mantel. None of these organizations, however, removed anything from the house before it was demolished. Additionally, a neighbor and her husband had run a few people out of the property in the months prior to the alleged burglary.

By September 2012, the city had decided it would demolish the property. After a bidding process, the city awarded a notice of demolition on October 10. The notice gave the contractor authorization to tear down the house as of that date. While the contractor brought bulldozers to the property, demolition did not occur until November 8.

On November 4, four days prior to demolition, a Council Bluffs firefighter observed two persons loading a radiator from

Page 370

the house onto a pickup truck with a homemade bed. The truck was backed up to the front door of the house. A neighbor also saw two men load metal registers onto a flatbed truck. Investigator Justin James entered the property about two hours later in the day after a fire was reported and extinguished. At that time, the house was in disrepair. The insulation was down, walls were exposed, drywall had been punctured, wires were hanging down, pipes were disconnected, and there was no electricity. Investigator James observed that " possibly at one time there had been transients living in it."

The condition of the house indicated that someone had attempted to remove several wires, basically a stripping of copper, and all but one cast-iron radiator had been removed. Copper is valued at $3 per pound and cast iron is worth about $200 per ton. Plywood had been ripped off the back door and the front door was wide open.

Fire investigators ultimate found a small truck meeting the description of the vehicle that had been on the scene that day at a residence in Council Bluffs. Investigators found two persons at the residence, one of whom was Rooney. Investigator James testified that, by his answers, Rooney implied he was with another individual that day scrapping metal from the property. The other individual admitted being at the property that day scrapping metal. Rooney further admitted that he did not have permission to be on the property and did not have permission to take any property or metal.

At the close of the State's evidence and again at the close of all evidence, Rooney moved for a judgment of acquittal on grounds that the State failed to establish the structure was an occupied structure under Iowa Code section 702.12 or that Rooney had entered the structure. The district court denied the motions.

Prior to submission of the case to the jury, the trial court crafted its jury instructions. Instruction No. 14, the marshalling instruction, required the State to prove the house was an occupied structure in order to convict Rooney of burglary in the third degree. Instruction No. 16 instructed the jury regarding what qualified as an occupied structure. Instruction No. 16 provided:

A building or structure is an " occupied structure" if it:
1. Is adapted for overnight accommodation of persons; or
2. Is used for the storage or safekeeping of anything of value unless it is too small or not designed to allow a person to physically enter it.
A building or structure is an " occupied structure" whether or not a person is actually present.

The jury returned a guilty verdict. Rooney appealed. He raised a sufficiency-of-the-evidence argument concerning the jury's conclusion that he entered an occupied structure. Additionally, he argued the district court erred in submitting the adapted-for-overnight-accommodation and the used-for-the-storage-or-safekeeping-of-anything-of-value alternatives defining occupied structure to the jury. Finally, he claimed the district court erred in overruling his motion for mistrial based on alleged prosecutorial misconduct during closing argument. The court of appeals affirmed Rooney's conviction. Rooney filed an application for further review, reprising his original claims on appeal, which we granted.

" On further review, we have the discretion to review all or some of the issues raised on appeal or in the application for further review." State v. Clay,

Page 371

824 N.W.2d 488, 494 (Iowa 2012). Here, we choose only to review the sufficiency-of-the-evidence claim. We let the court of appeals' affirmance of the district court's order overruling Rooney's motion for mistrial based on alleged prosecutorial misconduct stand as the final decision of this court. See id.

II. Standard of Review.

We review sufficiency-of-evidence claims for correction of errors at law. State v. Sanford, 814 N.W.2d 611, 615 (Iowa 2012). In reviewing the evidence, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the State. State v. Pace, 602 N.W.2d 764, 768 (Iowa 1999). " [W]e will uphold a verdict if substantial evidence supports it." Sanford, 814 N.W.2d at 615 (internal quotation marks omitted). " 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." Id.

III. Discussion.

A. Overview of the Crime of Burglary. At common law, burglary was the breaking and entering of a dwelling house of another, at night, with the intent to commit a felony. Common law burglary was an offense against the security of habitation or occupancy rather than against ownership of property. See 4 William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England 223 (1st ed. 1723--1780), available at http://avalon.law. yale.edu/18th_century/blackstone_bk4ch16.asp (historical principle underlying the law of burglary is the protection of the right of habitation); see also Sanford, 814 N.W.2d at 617--18 (citing 3 Charles E. Torcia, Wharton's Criminal Law § 331, at 302 (15th ed. 1995); 13 Am.Jur.2d Burglary § 3, at 219 (2009)). In this respect, the crime of burglary historically has been distinct from theft statutes, which protect ownership interests. See Pace, 602 N.W.2d at 768; see also Sanford, 814 N.W.2d at 618 (noting " [t]he deterrence of the trespass and the crime intended to be committed within [the structure] is of secondary importance" (internal quotation marks omitted)).

At first, our statutory crime of burglary tracked the common law. See Iowa Code § 2608 (1851) (defining burglary as breaking and entering " any dwelling house in the night time with intent to commit the crime of murder, rape, robbery, larceny, or any other felony; or after having entered with such intent break any such dwelling house in the night time, any person being then lawfully therein" ); State v. Jones, 10 Iowa 206, 208 (1859). More recently, however, the Iowa legislature has expanded the scope of the crime of burglary beyond its common law parameters.

Of particular importance to this case, in 1978 the Iowa legislature replaced the term " dwelling house" with the more expansive term " occupied structure." See 1976 Iowa Acts ch. 1245, ch. 1, § 1301 (codified at Iowa Code § 713.1 (1979)); see also Pace, 602 N.W.2d at 769 (noting our " legislature rewrote the burglary statute, in part, to replace 'dwelling house' with 'occupied structure'" ). Compare Iowa Code § 708.1 (1977) (defining punishment for burglary when " any person break and enter any dwelling house in the nighttime, with intent to commit any public offense; or, after having entered with such intent, break any such dwelling house in the nighttime, he shall be guilty of burglary" ), with Iowa Code § 713.1 (1979) (defining burglary as " [a]ny person, having the intent to commit a felony, assault or theft therein, who, having no right, license or privilege to do so, enters an occupied structure" ), and id. § 702.12 (defining occupied structure as " any building, structure,

Page 372

land, water or air vehicle, or similar place adapted for overnight accommodation of persons, or occupied by persons for the purpose of carrying on business or other activity therein, or for the storage or safekeeping of anything of value" ). As was observed at the time, the term significantly expanded the reach of the burglary statute. See 4 John L. Yeager & Ronald L. Carlson, Iowa Practice: Criminal Law and Procedure § 293, at 76 (1979) (noting " [t]he term occupied structure, includes anything which would be a dwelling, and much more" ). Iowa law currently defines occupied structure as

any building, structure, appurtenances to buildings and structures, land, water or air vehicle, or similar place adapted for overnight accommodation of persons, or occupied by persons for the purpose of carrying on business or other activity ...

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