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State v. Brown

Court of Appeals of Iowa

April 5, 2017

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MARK WESLEY BROWN, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Keokuk County, Randy S. DeGeest, Judge.

         A defendant challenges his conviction. CONVICTION CONDITIONALLY AFFIRMED; RULING ON MOTION VACATED; REMANDED WITH DIRECTIONS.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Martha J. Lucey, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Genevieve Reinkoester, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Vogel and Vaitheswaran, JJ.

          VOGEL, Judge.

         Mark Brown appeals his conviction for sexual abuse in the second degree, in violation of Iowa Code sections 709.1 and 709.3 (2014). Brown claims his trial counsel was ineffective in failing to file a motion to suppress, or object to, the admission of statements Brown made while being questioned by law enforcement. Brown also asserts the district court applied the wrong standard in ruling on his motion for new trial. We conclude Brown was not prejudiced by his counsel's performance, but we agree the district court applied the incorrect standard when ruling on Brown's motion for a new trial. Accordingly, we conditionally affirm Brown's conviction but remand for application of the proper standard to Brown's motion for a new trial.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         In May 2013, law enforcement was contacted concerning an allegation Brown had sexually abused a minor. Following an interview with the victim, police obtained a search warrant for an apartment Brown was staying at and seized computer equipment Brown used to show pornography to the victim. While executing the warrant, law enforcement located Brown walking down the street and asked if he would be willing to accompany them to city hall. Brown agreed.

         At city hall, law enforcement informed Brown of his Miranda rights and provided him with a written copy. Following Brown's written waiver, the officers began questioning Brown.[1] Over the first eighty minutes of the interview, Brown and the officers discussed the general events surrounding the allegations, eventually drilling down to the specifics of the allegations. After being shown the search warrant, Brown asked, "Can I get a lawyer?" One officer responded, "Sure." The officer then searched Brown's bag and asked, "So do you want to continue talking to us about this?" Brown responded, "We can continue talking but there is really nothing else to say." Over the next thirty minutes, Brown denied that he had committed any inappropriate acts. He also discussed various topics unrelated to the allegations with the officers. Brown then left the building.

         On December 2, 2014, the State charged Brown with one count of sexual abuse in the second degree. The video recording of the interview with Brown was admitted at the bench trial. The court found Brown guilty as charged. Brown filed a motion for a new trial, which claimed the district court had admitted improper evidence. In ruling on Brown's motion, the court stated:

The court has-prior to this date, I have reviewed the motions and the resistance. I've reviewed Iowa's Rules of Criminal Procedure 2.242(6). Also reviewed State v Robinson and reviewed the motion and applied the standard of review that is set forth in State v Robinson, and I've reviewed it in the light more favorable to the State without regard to contradictions and inconsistencies and assisted by all reasonable inferences.
By any standard that I look at the Motion for New Trial, I must state that I cannot grant it. There is substantial evidence in the record. This Court is the one that entered the ruling. I believe it's beyond a reasonable doubt, and so I ...

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