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State v. Mathews

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 2, 2017

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
JESSIE L. MATHEWS, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, George L. Stigler, Judge.

         A defendant challenges his judgment and sentence for robbery in the second degree. AFFIRMED.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Shellie L. Knipfer, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Louis S. Sloven, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and Mullins, JJ.

          TABOR, Judge.

         Jessie Mathews challenges his conviction for robbery in the second degree. On appeal, he contends the State failed to offer adequate evidence to corroborate the testimony of several accomplices. In addition, Mathews argues his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to a joint-criminal-conduct jury instruction. Because we find sufficient corroboration and no prejudice from the submission of the instruction, we affirm.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         Between 10:00 and 11:00 p.m. on October 16, 2014, S.Y. closed the Waterloo grocery store she managed and walked to the parking lot. Because she was talking to her sister on the phone, S.Y. didn't notice the man with a gun standing near her car until she was about to get inside. He pointed the gun at S.Y., forced her to kneel, and took her keys, phone, and the money she was carrying from the store. The man moved toward a vehicle at a nearby street corner, and S.Y. ran for help.

         Police eventually arrested Mathews, along with four other individuals- Jimmy Robinson, Tammy Robinson, Jutaveus Collett, and Trivansky Swington- for the crime, and the State charged all five with second-degree robbery, a class "C" felony, in violation of Iowa Code section 711.3 (2014). Deadlocked juries prompted two mistrials. The matter came to trial for a third time on April 5, 2016. By that time, all of the defendants but Mathews and Jimmy had entered into plea agreements. Tammy, Swington, and Collett agreed to testify as part of their plea agreements. In addition, the State read into the record the prior testimony of Jimmy, who had testified for the State at the first trial but refused to testify at the April 2016 trial.

         Mathews's co-defendants detailed the events leading up to the robbery. Tammy had worked at S.Y.'s grocery store, but in early October 2014, after S.Y. caught Tammy stealing cash and merchandise, S.Y. effectively ended Tammy's employment and withheld a portion of her last paycheck. S.Y. also fired Swington, who Tammy had hired at the grocery store without S.Y.'s knowledge. Short on cash and angry, Tammy and her husband, Jimmy, began planning to burglarize the grocery store with Swington and Collett, who the Robinsons met through Swington. Tammy would go to the store, open a side door, and leave it unlatched to allow the others to enter later in the evening. Mathews, the brother of Collett's girlfriend, Ariel, was the last to join the schemers. According to Swington, Mathews enthusiastically accepted Ariel's invitation to "hit a lick, " which Swington explained meant to "rob or burglarize."

         Events did not unfold as originally planned. Tammy opened the store's side door and returned home. But Collett, Jimmy, and Mathews, the three who were plotting to enter the store, abandoned the pursuit before stealing anything.[1]Collett returned from the grocery store with Jimmy and Mathews, told Swington the door was closed, and directed Swington to "[g]o get Betsy, " the nickname for Swington's BB gun that resembled a real small caliber handgun. Jimmy remembered Mathews saying: "[M]ight as well rob the girl." When Swington returned, Mathews took charge of the gun and, along with Jimmy and Collett, walked toward the store to rob S.Y. Swington stayed with his vehicle, acting as a lookout, and when the three men returned with cash, he drove them to the apartment where Mathews had been staying with his mother and sister. Collett, Swington, Jimmy, and Mathews split the money amongst themselves, each netting approximately $100.

         Police arrived at the robbery scene and spoke with S.Y. and two employees of the grocery store. After learning of Tammy's presence in the store that evening, police officers interviewed her. Tammy implicated Swington, Collett, and Jimmy; Jimmy added Mathews to the list. Police officers located Collett and Mathews in the Mathews's apartment. They later discovered S.Y.'s cell phone and Swington's BB gun in an empty apartment across the hall. All of the suspects admitted involvement with the robbery except Mathews.

         After the close of the evidence, the court instructed the jury it could find Mathews guilty either as a principal, an aider and abettor, or under a joint-criminal-conduct theory. In a general verdict, the jury found Mathews guilty of second-degree robbery. The court sentenced Mathews to an ...

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