from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Paul D. Scott,
Brown appeals his second-degree-murder conviction.
C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Mary K. Conroy,
Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Louis S. Sloven, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Doyle and McDonald, JJ.
Brown appeals the judgment entered after a jury convicted him
of second-degree murder for his role in the death of Timothy
Washington, who died after suffering multiple stab wounds in
a fight that began at a house party in the early morning
hours of June 21, 2015. Witnesses saw Brown in a group
fighting Washington, and several of those witnesses saw Brown
holding a knife in his hand and stabbing Washington during
the fight. On this basis, the State charged Brown with
first-degree murder. After a trial, a jury found Brown guilty
of the lesser-included offense of second-degree murder with a
dangerous weapon, a class "B" felony, and the
district court sentenced Brown to a term of imprisonment not
to exceed fifty years.
challenges the trial court's evidentiary rulings, arguing
the court erred in admitting evidence of his prior bad acts
and hearsay evidence. He first contends the court abused its
discretion in denying his motion in limine and allowing
evidence of his prior bad acts. See State v. Huston,
825 N.W.2d 531, 536 (Iowa 2013) ("We review evidentiary
rulings for abuse of discretion."). Specifically, he
argues evidence that he was involved in two other stabbings
that occurred at the party around the time of
Washington's stabbing was inadmissible under Iowa Rule of
Evidence 5.404(b). That rule prohibits evidence of prior bad
acts meant "to prove a person's character in order
to show that on a particular occasion the person acted in
accordance with the character." Iowa R. Evid.
5.404(b)(1). However, evidence of prior bad acts evidence may
be admissible for the purpose of proving "motive,
opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity,
absence of mistake, or lack of accident." Iowa R. Evid.
trial court was within its discretion in admitting evidence
concerning Brown's involvement in other stabbings that
occurred at the party. That evidence was not introduced to
show Brown had a propensity for stabbing others. Rather, it
was relevant to the question of opportunity and identity
because it showed Brown had a knife in the moments leading up
to the fight with Washington. Witnesses also testified Brown
made statements after stabbing others at the party that
indicated he was going to continue stabbing persons, which
was relevant to his plan.
also challenges the admission of statements made by law
enforcement officers in a video of his police interview. He
claims the statements were inadmissible hearsay, violated his
right to confront witnesses against him, and impermissibly
commented on his credibility and the credibility of other
witnesses. He argues the risk of unfair prejudice outweighed
any probative value of that evidence. See Iowa R.
Evid. 5.403 (providing the court "may exclude relevant
evidence if its probative value is substantially outweighed
by the danger of . . . unfair prejudice").
review the admission of hearsay evidence for correction of
errors at law. See State v. Huser, 894 N.W.2d 472,
495 (Iowa 2017). If the court improperly admitted hearsay
evidence, we presume the error is prejudicial unless the
State can show it was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.
See id. In making this determination, we first
consider what evidence the jury actually considered in
reaching its verdict and then weigh the probative force of
that evidence against the probative force of the erroneously
admitted evidence standing alone. See State v.
Kennedy, 846 N.W.2d 517, 527-28 (Iowa 2014).
error to Brown in admitting the statements made in a video of
Brown's police interview was harmless. Multiple
eyewitnesses observed Brown fighting Washington with a knife
in his hand and witnessed Brown stabbing Washington. The
probative force of that evidence outweighs the probative
force of the evidence Brown challenges. Because the evidence
did not influence the outcome of the trial, it was harmless.
See Huser, 894 N.W.2d at 497 (stating "error is
harmless if the court is sure the evidence did not influence
the jury or had only slight effect"). For the same
reason, we reject Brown's claim that his trial counsel
was ineffective by failing to request a limiting instruction
regarding the evidence challenged on appeal. See State v.
Harris, 891 N.W.2d 182, 185 (Iowa 2017) (articulating