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State v. Mure

Court of Appeals of Iowa

May 3, 2017

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
TROY LEE MURE JR., Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Paul D. Scott, Judge.

         Troy Lee Mure Jr. appeals from his conviction following a bench trial for homicide by vehicle. AFFIRMED.

          Gerald B. Feuerhelm of Feuerhelm Law Office, P.C., Des Moines, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Thomas J. Ogden, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Potterfield and Bower, JJ.

          DANILSON, Chief Judge.

         Troy Lee Mure Jr. appeals from his conviction following a bench trial for homicide by vehicle, in violation of Iowa Code section 707.6A(2)(a) (2015). Mure contends the trial court erred in holding Mure did not satisfy the requirements of the necessity defense, asserts his actions were justified by self-defense, and argues his reckless driving was not the proximate cause of the death of Scalicity Boyd. Because we conclude the trial court's findings are supported by substantial evidence, we affirm.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings.

         On the morning of November 23, 2015, Mure was driving his girlfriend, Scalicity Boyd, in her vehicle in the Drake University neighborhood of Des Moines. As Mure and Boyd traveled southbound on 34th Street, Mure noticed a silver Cadillac pull onto the street following them. Mure turned right onto University Avenue and then proceeded to the middle turn lane to turn left onto 35th Street. Mure testified he then saw the Cadillac run the stop sign and turn right onto University Avenue. Mure stated he watched in the rear view mirror as the Cadillac swerved around to the side of Boyd's vehicle and an occupant of the vehicle rolled down the back window and displayed a gun.

         Mure had heard he was suspected by other members in the community of being involved in a nightclub shooting that occurred on November 8, 2015, and he had been receiving threats as a result. Mure testified he therefore was fearful of the Cadillac and believed, in displaying the weapon, the occupants of the vehicle were threatening his and Boyd's lives.

         In an attempt to flee from the Cadillac, Mure turned hastily onto 35th street and drove away at a high speed. The Cadillac followed Mure, also travelling at a high speed. Witnesses testified they saw Mure's vehicle and the pursuing vehicle traveling southbound on 35th Street, both vehicles driving extremely fast, passing other vehicles, and running a stop sign.

         Mure stated it was his intent to get to a grocery store located at 35th Street and Ingersoll Avenue because there was often a police officer at that location. However, before Mure got to Ingersoll Avenue, he lost control of Boyd's vehicle. The vehicle skidded into a utility pole, snapping the pole in half; hit an embankment; and came to a stop after wrapping around a tree. Boyd was thrown from the front passenger seat of the vehicle and killed. Boyd had more than one serious injury that could have potentially caused her death.

         Mure testified the reason he lost control of the vehicle was because the Cadillac tapped the bumper of Boyd's car. However, Officer Ryan King-an officer trained in traffic-accident investigation-testified if Boyd's vehicle was hit by the Cadillac, there would likely be "dents, paint transfer, scrapes, smudge marks, something that would show that the vehicle had been in contact" with the Cadillac. Although the vehicle had light marks on the passenger side of the bumper, Officer King testified he ruled out the possibility of another car hitting Boyd's car as a cause of the accident. Officer King stated he reached that conclusion, "Due to the lack of damage in the location that Mr. Mure stated, based on the physical evidence of the scene, and the direction that the vehicle skidded was not consistent with the damage that was on the bumper of the vehicle."

         State Trooper Kirk Lundgren was tasked with obtaining and reviewing the information from Boyd's vehicle's black box[1] following the accident. Trooper Lundgren testified the information from the black box indicated that in the five seconds prior to the crash Mure was driving between eighty-five and eighty-nine miles per hour and the vehicle's brakes were never applied.

         At trial, Mure raised the necessity defense, arguing he had no other option than to drive recklessly to escape the Cadillac. The trial court found Mure generated a fact question on the necessity defense, but the State disproved necessity beyond a reasonable doubt. Mure now appeals.

         II. Standard of Review.

         Mure asserts his appeal is based on the trial court's misapplication of the legal test for necessity. However, Mure's arguments on appeal challenge the trial court's findings upon application of the proper legal test. Thus, as the State asserts, we consider Mure's claims as challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence. Our ...


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