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State v. Bauer

Court of Appeals of Iowa

July 19, 2017

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MICHAEL CARL BAUER, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Robert A. Hutchison, Judge. Michael Bauer appeals his conviction for willful injury resulting in bodily injury.

          Moines, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Timothy M. Hau, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., Bower, J., and Mahan, S.J. [*]

          MAHAN, SENIOR JUDGE.

         Michael Bauer appeals his conviction for willful injury resulting in bodily injury, contending the prosecutor's conduct during cross-examination and closing argument violated his rights under the Iowa Constitution and denied him a fair trial. Bauer also claims the district court's conduct denied him a fair trial. We affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         The State filed an amended trial information charging Bauer with willful injury as a habitual offender, in violation of Iowa Code sections 708.4(1) and 902.8 (2015), following allegations that he attacked Jerald Stewart in a bar restroom after accusing Stewart of having sexual relations with Rhiannon King, a woman Bauer had recently given $2000 and purchased a car for and who had accompanied Stewart to the bar that evening.

         The case proceeded to a jury trial. The State presented testimony from Dr. Javaid Abbasi (who treated Stewart's "serious injuries to his face and head" in the emergency room at Iowa Methodist), Jason Ehlers (the Des Moines police officer who responded to the incident), King, and Stewart. Bauer elected to testify in his defense. Bauer and Stewart gave conflicting accounts of what happened prior to and during the altercation. Specifically, both Bauer and Stewart testified the other made derogatory statements and was the first to strike. There were no other witnesses; Bauer "got off" Stewart when a third party entered the bathroom.

         The jury convicted Bauer of the lesser-included offense of willful injury causing bodily injury. Bauer filed a motion for new trial, a motion in arrest of judgment, and a renewal of his motion for judgment of acquittal. Following a hearing, the district court entered a ruling denying Bauer's motions. The district court entered judgment and sentence. Bauer appeals. Facts specific to his claims on appeal will be set forth below.

         II. Standards of Review

         We review a district court's denial of a motion for new trial based on claims of prosecutorial misconduct for abuse of discretion. See State v. Greene, 592 N.W.2d 24, 30-31 (Iowa 1999). We review questions of the admissibility of evidence for abuse of discretion. See State v. Wilson, 878 N.W.2d 203, 210 (Iowa 2016). We also review a district court's denial of a motion for new trial on the basis of judicial impartiality for abuse of discretion. See State v. Millsap, 704 N.W.2d 426, 432 (Iowa 2005). We review challenges raising an alleged violation of constitutional rights de novo. See State v. Cronkhite, 613 N.W.2d 664, 666 (Iowa 2000).

         III. Prosecutorial Misconduct [1]

         Bauer claims the prosecutor's conduct during cross-examination and closing argument violated his rights under the Iowa Constitution and denied him a fair trial.[2] See Iowa Const. art. I, §§ 9 ("The right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate; . . . no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law."); 10 ("In all criminal prosecutions, . . . the accused shall have a right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury; . . . to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for his witnesses; and, to have the assistance of counsel.").

         On cross-examination, the prosecutor asked Bauer if having access to particular documents or evidence in the case gave Bauer the opportunity to tailor his testimony to the other evidence. The following colloquy is relevant to Bauer's contention:

STATE: Q. Now, before you testified today you've had, through your attorney, in your possession or your attorney's possession all the evidence the State has against you. Would you agree?
DEFENSE COUNSEL: Objection, Your Honor. One, that invades the attorney/client privilege. Two, it requires him to make a legal determination that he would not be aware of. And, three, it is argumentative.
COURT: Well, I think it does invade the attorney/client privilege, Mr. Salami.
STATE: I'll rephrase it.
Q. You've had an opportunity to review the evidence we had-that the State has, correct, before you testified today?
DEFENSE COUNSEL: Isn't that the same question, Your Honor?
COURT: Well, it's not. No, it isn't.
DEFENSE COUNSEL: I would object to the form.
COURT: On what basis?
DEFENSE COUNSEL: Not specific enough. And it asks to assume something that there would be no evidence as to how much he's reviewed or not reviewed.
COURT: I think it would be better if you asked him about specific ...

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