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State v. Perry

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 8, 2017

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

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Sean W. McPartland, Judge.

         Christopher Perry appeals the judgment and sentence entered following his convictions of first-degree arson and first-degree criminal mischief. AFFIRMED.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Melinda J. Nye, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

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

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., Doyle, J., and Scott, S.J. [*]

          DOYLE, Judge.

         Christopher Perry appeals the judgment and sentence entered after a jury found him guilty of first-degree arson and first-degree criminal mischief. He challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support his convictions and argues the jury initially returned inconsistent verdicts. Because substantial evidence supports the verdicts and no inconsistency has been shown, we affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         Perry and his girlfriend lived together in Perry's apartment in Cedar Rapids. When his girlfriend told him she was leaving him, Perry twice threatened to "torch" her belongings. About five or ten minutes after he made his second threat to set fire to her things, black smoke was seen coming out of an apartment window. A fire, which began in the back bedroom of the apartment, eventually engulfed the entire apartment, causing over $63, 000 in damage to the building. Neighbors pulled Perry from the burning apartment and observed him to be intoxicated, as did emergency responders when they arrived at the scene.

         The State charged Perry with first-degree arson and first-degree criminal mischief. At his trial, the court instructed the jury on the elements of first-degree arson under count I, as well as its less-included offenses of second-degree arson, third-degree arson, and reckless use of fire. The jury initially returned a verdict finding Perry guilty of two offenses under count I: first-degree arson and reckless use of fire. The jury also returned a verdict finding Perry guilty of first-degree criminal mischief under count II. Concluding the jury misunderstood the law, the court instructed the jury it "may use only one form of verdict under each count, " and resubmitted the case. The jury then returned a verdict finding Perry guilty of first-degree arson under count I, in addition to its finding of guilt on count II, the criminal-mischief charge.

         Perry moved for a new trial, arguing the jury's initial two verdicts on count I were inconsistent. After denying the motion, the court sentenced Perry to a twenty-five-year term of incarceration on count I and a ten-year term of incarceration on count II, ordering that they run concurrently, and imposed a fine on count II, which it suspended.

         Perry appeals. He argues there is insufficient evidence to support his convictions. He also alleges the jury's initial verdict finding him guilty of two charges under count I shows its verdict is legally inconsistent and, therefore, the court erred in returning the matter to the jury for further deliberation.

         II. Sufficiency of the Evidence.

         We review claims regarding the sufficiency of the evidence to support a conviction for correction of errors at law. See State v. Truesdell, 679 N.W.2d 611, 615 (Iowa 2004). In reviewing such claims, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to upholding the verdict, making all inferences that may be reasonably deduced from the evidence. See id. We affirm if substantial evidence-that is, "evidence that a rational trier of ...


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