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State v. Rodriguez

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 16, 2017

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JONATHAN LEYVA RODRIGUEZ, Defendant-Appellant.

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

         Jonathan Rodriguez appeals his convictions and sentences, claiming there was insufficient evidence to support the guilty verdicts and counsel provided ineffective assistance. AFFIRMED.

          Jesse A. Macro Jr. of Macro & Kozlowski, L.L.P., West Des Moines, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Thomas E. Bakke, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Potterfield and Mullins, JJ.

          MULLINS, Judge.

         Jonathan Rodriguez appeals his convictions and sentences, claiming there was insufficient evidence to support the guilty verdicts and trial counsel provided ineffective assistance. He argues the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was the driver of the vehicle involved in a fatal collision. He further contends his trial counsel failed to object to the questioning of an officer at trial regarding the ultimate issue of the case and portions of victim impact statements requesting that maximum sentences be imposed. We affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         Shortly after 10:00 a.m. on August 16, 2015, a vehicle driving west on Grand Avenue near 51st Street in Des Moines struck a group of bicyclers riding in the same direction, causing several injuries to the riders and fatally injuring one rider. The driver of the vehicle did not stop to assist the injured riders and continued driving west on Grand Avenue. Other nearby bicyclists observed the collision and identified the vehicle as a white Chevrolet Equinox SUV. One witness took note of the license plate number on the vehicle, which he reported to law enforcement officials.

         Based on the license plate information, law enforcement officers determined the vehicle belonged to Rodriguez's girlfriend, Adriana Cortes, and went to the couples' home to question Cortes and Rodriguez. After speaking with Cortes, the officers determined Rodriguez was the last person to drive the vehicle. The officers detained Rodriguez and transported him to the police station for further questioning. While there, Rodriguez failed the administered standard field sobriety tests. Rodriguez refused a preliminary breath test. An officer then placed Rodriguez under arrest, and Rodriguez consented to the breath test, which showed a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .213. The officers then transported Rodriguez to a local hospital and obtained a search warrant for a body specimen, which showed a BAC of .192.

         The State charged Rodriguez by trial information with one count of homicide by vehicle by operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, in violation of Iowa Code section 707.6A(1) (2015); one count of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or a drug, second offense, in violation of section 321J.2; one count of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death, in violation of sections 321.261(4) and 321.263; two counts of leaving the scene of a personal injury accident, in violation of sections 321.261(2) and 321.263; and operating a motor vehicle while barred, in violation of section 321.561.

         A jury convicted Rodriguez on all counts. The court sentenced him to a total term of incarceration not to exceed thirty-four years, carrying a mandatory minimum sentence of seventy percent on the first count. Rodriguez filed a motion in arrest of judgment raising a sufficiency-of-the-evidence claim, which the district court denied. Rodriguez appeals.

         II. Standard of Review

         "We review challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence for the correction of errors at law." State v. Lambert, 612 N.W.2d 810, 813 (Iowa 2000). We review claims of ineffective assistance of counsel de novo. ...


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