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State v. Chapman

Court of Appeals of Iowa

December 21, 2016

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
JAYDEN RAY CHAPMAN, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Woodbury County, John D. Ackerman, Judge.

         Jayden Chapman appeals his convictions following a jury trial for two counts of first-degree murder and one count of reckless use of fire. AFFIRMED.

          Zachary S. Hindman of Mayne, Arneson, Hindman, Hisey & Daane, Sioux City, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Sheryl Soich, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Heard by Danilson, C.J., and Doyle and McDonald, JJ.

          DANILSON, Chief Judge.

         Jayden Chapman appeals his convictions following a jury trial for two counts of first-degree murder, in violation of Iowa Code section 707.2 (2013), in the deaths of Marvin Huelsing and Alice Huisenga, and one count of reckless use of fire, in violation of section 712.5. Chapman contends his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance in failing to object to faulty jury instructions. Chapman also asserts the verdict is not supported by substantial evidence or, in the alternative, is contrary to the weight of the evidence. Because we find trial counsel did not render ineffective assistance, there is substantial evidence supporting Chapman's convictions, and the verdict is not contrary to the weight of the evidence, we affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         The facts as presented at trial reflect that in the early morning hours of March 10, 2014, Michael Schenk, Jayden Chapman, and Erika Dains met, used methamphetamine, and rode in Schenk's blue extended-cab truck to a farm belonging to Marvin Huelsing with the intent to steal scrap metal. Dains testified that while they were driving around the farm property collecting various items, including steel posts, the truck got stuck in the mud. Efforts to pull the truck out of the mud were unsuccessful, and it was beginning to become light outside. Chapman testified he noticed the cows coming toward the grain feeders and realized someone could be coming to feed them soon. Chapman testified he told Schenk "the cows are heading towards their feed bunk. They're going to need to eat soon. And I asked him, what if people come. And then that's when-that's when he made the comment that if people come, we'll kill them."

         Chapman and Schenk walked up towards the area of the property where a mobile home was located to try to find something to help extract the truck from the mud. Chapman testified he and Schenk also searched the mobile home. Schenk located a .22 rifle, and Chapman located .12 gauge and .22 shells. Chapman and Schenk were still inside the mobile home when they heard a vehicle approaching. Schenk, armed with the gun, and Chapman, armed with a knife, hid in the trailer. Chapman testified he heard a man, Huelsing, state loudly that he was going to call the sheriff, and Chapman and Schenk rushed out of the mobile home toward the man and woman outside while displaying the knife and gun. The man was Marvin Huelsing, who owned the farm, and the woman was Alice Huisenga, who was a long-time friend and farming partner of Huelsing. Huisenga would accompany Huelsing to the farm several times a week to help Huelsing on the farm or have coffee in the mobile home.

         Chapman testified Schenk was yelling and ordered Huelsing and Huisenga to throw their phones. Chapman testified,

that's when I remembered that-what he said earlier and how he was acting around these people. And I remember his comment that [if] people come, we'll kill them. And so I told Michael, I said, Michael, we don't have to do what you said earlier. . . . No one has to get hurt. We can leave.

         However, Schenk ordered Huelsing and Huisenga to go inside the mobile home. Upon hearing a click and believing Huelsing had locked the door to the mobile home, Schenk fired at Huelsing and shot him in the chest. Chapman and Schenk then entered the mobile home. Chapman testified Schenk handed Chapman the gun and ordered him to shoot Huisenga. Chapman pointed the gun at Huisenga and pulled the trigger. He then threw the gun back to Schenk and ran out of the mobile home. Huelsing struggled against Schenk and the gun while the two were exiting the mobile home. Schenk broke away with the gun, and Huelsing ran in the direction of Chapman. Chapman pushed Huelsing, and Huelsing fell to the ground. According to Chapman, Schenk then shot Huelsing again in the chest area and in the head.[1]

         Dains, who had remained with Schenk's truck, testified she heard a man yell, "I'm going to call the sheriff" followed by the sound of a gunshot. Dains testified she saw Chapman drive a "little truck"-later identified as belonging to Huelsing-around the side of the mobile home, stop, and get out. Dains then saw Schenk approach the small truck and put a "long" gun in the cab. Schenk then ran down to where Dains was located. Dains testified Schenk was crying and stated, "I had to shoot him. I had no choice." Chapman then drove the small truck to Dains and Schenk. Chapman told Dains, "I had to take control because [Schenk] couldn't go through with it." Dains noticed a purse in the small truck.

         Schenk, Chapman, and Dains then rode in the small truck back towards the area of the property near the mobile home to again try to find something to help get Schenk's truck out of the mud. Dains saw a man lying on the ground near the mobile home "with blood bubbles coming out of his mouth." Schenk approached the man and took his wallet, ID, and cellphone. Dains testified Chapman and Schenk leaned over the body whispering. Dains also saw Chapman and Schenk break two cell phones belonging to Huelsing and Huisenga. Dains, Schenk, and Chapman then drove the small truck back down near Schenk's truck and were finally able to extract Schenk's truck from the mud using chains.

         Dains testified Chapman then "said that, you know, we have to get rid of the [small] truck-or get rid of it, like start it on fire or something." To which Schenk responded, "Yeah, I know." Dains testified she and Schenk then again drove in Schenk's truck up to the area of the property near the mobile home. Schenk went back down to the small truck, where Chapman had remained. Chapman testified he spray painted the knobs on a tractor to obliterate any fingerprints while Schenk lit the small truck on fire. Dains testified she did not see Chapman or Schenk set fire to the truck, but she "heard the horn going off, and it wouldn't stop going off."

         Dains testified Chapman and Schenk then came back up to Schenk's truck. While Dains waited in Schenk's truck, Schenk went into the mobile home. Chapman stood outside Schenk's truck and yelled at Schenk "to hurry up, hurry up. Come on, come on." After about five or ten minutes, Schenk came out carrying gas cans and placed them in the truck near Dains, along with the gun and other items taken from Huelsing and Huisenga. After Schenk came out of the mobile home, Dains saw flames coming from the structure. Schenk, Chapman, and Dains then left the property. They retrieved Dains' car, and she followed Schenk and Chapman to Derek Olbertz's house.

         Olbertz testified he saw Schenk, Chapman, and Dains on the morning of March 10, 2014, trying to unload items into his backyard and he told them they could not leave the scrap metal there. He testified Schenk, as well as the cab of Schenk's truck where Chapman was sitting, smelled of gasoline. Dains testified that while at Olbertz's house, Schenk and Chapman moved items taken from the farm including the gun, clothing items, and gas cans to her car. Dains then took Chapman to the hotel where he was staying, and Chapman unloaded the gun, clothing items, and gas cans.

         A fire was reported, and officers arrived at Huelsing's farm on the afternoon of March 10, 2014. Officers found both the small truck and the mobile home on fire. Officers also found Huelsing's badly-burned body near the mobile home. After the fire subsided, a body-later identified as Huisenga's-was found inside the mobile home. The medical examiner testified Huelsing sustained two gunshot wounds to his chest, one to his back, and one to the back of his head. The medical examiner stated Huisenga likely had sustained one to four gunshot wounds based on evidence of internal lacerations and skull fractures.

         A witness who drove by Huelsing's farm on the way to school every day testified that on the morning of March 10, 2014, she saw two "skinny" men standing near a blue extended-cab truck on Huelsing's property.

         On March 12, 2014, Chapman and Schenk went to Dains' house. Dains testified they were worried, said they were going to Mexico, and told her not to tell police officers anything she knew. While Chapman and Schenk were at her house, officers arrived and arrested them.

         When interviewed by police officers, Chapman admitted his involvement in the crimes but purposefully lied and did not reveal the location of the gun or other incriminating items. However, Schenk provided information leading the officers to find the items left near the motel where Chapman was residing, including a rifle and ammunition, clothing, and items belonging to Huelsing and Huisenga. Huelsing's blood was found on the rifle. The neckline and cuffs of a black coat found with the items, along with a stain on the left pocket of the coat, were found to contain Chapman's DNA. Huelsing's DNA was extracted from a blood stain on the underneath side of the left sleeve of the black coat. Additionally, a pair of jeans found with the other items was determined to have Schenk's DNA on the waistband. Huelsing's DNA was extracted from a spot of blood found on the back of one of the legs of those jeans. Gas cans were also found inside Chapman's hotel room.

         On March 21, 2014, Chapman was charged by trial information with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of first-degree arson.[2] Jury trial was held April 28, 29, and 30, and May 1, 4, and 5, 2015. The jury returned guilty verdicts on both counts of first-degree murder, and on one count of reckless use of fire-a lesser-included offense of second-degree arson. The jury verdict did not designate whether Chapman was found guilty as the principal or as an aider and abettor to each of the first-degree-murder convictions. Chapman filed a motion for new trial and a motion in arrest of judgment on May 22, 2015. The district court denied the motions prior to the sentencing hearing held June 5, 2015. Chapman was sentenced to incarceration for the rest of his life without the possibility of parole on each count of first-degree murder and incarceration for a period of one year on the count of reckless use of fire.

         II. Standard of Review.

         We review claims of ineffective assistance of counsel de novo. State v. Clay, 824 N.W.2d 488, 494 (Iowa 2012). Sufficiency-of-evidence claims are reviewed for correction of errors at law. State v. Tyler, 873 N.W.2d 741, 746 (Iowa 2016). And "[w]e review a district court's ruling as to whether a verdict was contrary to the weight of the evidence for abuse of discretion." State v. Thompson, 836 N.W.2d 470, 476 (Iowa 2013).

         III. Analysis.

         A. Ineffective Assistance of Trial Counsel-Jury Instructions.

         Chapman first asserts trial counsel was ineffective in failing to object to improper jury instructions regarding Chapman's guilt as an aider and abettor to the murders of Huelsing and Huisenga.

         "To prevail on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, a claimant must satisfy the Strickland [v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984)] test by showing '(1) counsel failed to perform an essential duty; and (2) prejudice resulted.'" Clay, 824 N.W.2d at 495 (quoting State v. Maxwell, 743 N.W.2d 185, 195 (Iowa 2008)). Both elements must be proved by a preponderance of the evidence. State v. Straw, 709 N.W.2d 128, 133 (Iowa 2006). "[B]oth elements do not always need to be addressed. If the claim lacks prejudice, it can be decided on ...

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