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State v. Sisco

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 16, 2017

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
RYDER LEE SISCO, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Jackson County, Nancy S. Tabor, Judge.

         A defendant appeals his convictions for kidnapping in the first degree and domestic abuse assault, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence and claiming ineffective assistance of counsel. AFFIRMED.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Nan Jennisch, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Sheryl Soich, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Potterfield and Bower, JJ. Tabor, J.takes no part.

          BOWER, Judge.

         Ryder Lee Sisco appeals his conviction for kidnapping in the first degree and domestic abuse assault.[1] See Iowa Code §§ 708.2A(2)(d), 710.1(3) (2015). Sisco claims the evidence was insufficient to convict him of first-degree kidnapping. Sisco also claims trial counsel was ineffective in failing to object to the jury instructions defining kidnapping in the first degree. We affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         On April 15, 2015, Sisco and his girlfriend D.R. went on a walk. Sisco rode home on his motorbike, while D.R. drove home in a car. During the ride home, Sisco crashed his motorbike, but he was able to drive it the rest of the way. D.R. did not see the crash and did not stop. When she arrived back to the trailer they shared, Sisco was visibly angry. When D.R. got out of the car, Sisco yelled at her and slammed the door of the trailer. Sisco then pulled D.R. into the trailer. A neighbor saw the altercation and called the police when he heard D.R. screaming.

         After Sisco pulled D.R. into the trailer, he ordered her to get undressed. D.R. refused, and Sisco got on top of her and began punching and slapping her. Sisco then stretched D.R.'s right leg past her head until she "could hear it cracking." D.R. then convinced Sisco to let her bandage his injury from the crash. After D.R. bandaged Sisco, he again ordered her to get undressed. She did and testified she "knew bad things would happen" if she didn't. Sisco then told her to go into the bedroom and lay down, and she complied. Sisco began to strangle D.R. with a tank top. D.R. testified that she could feel a tingling in her body and "was just gonna let go."

         While he strangled D.R., Sisco yelled at her saying he was "[t]ired of your mouth. Why do you have to be such a bitch? You're going to start listening to me. You're going to do what I want, how many times I want it, wherever I want it." Sisco also stated, "I'm the meanest boyfriend you ever had. I'm gonna show you." As he was choking D.R. with the tank top, he proceeded to forcibly anally penetrate her. Sisco released the tank top briefly and asked, "Do you understand me?" D.R., while trying to catch her breath, said "Yes." Sisco said, "I don't fucking believe you, " and resumed strangling D.R.

         Law enforcement responded to the scene and knocked on the door. Sisco ignored the knock, but after the knocking continued he ordered D.R. to get dressed and "be quiet and don't say anything." Sisco informed the police they could not come in, but eventually allowed D.R. to go outside. D.R. informed the police of what happened, and the police took Sisco into custody. D.R. was then transported to the police station and the hospital.

         A five-day jury trial was held, and the jury convicted Sisco of one count of kidnapping in the first degree and one count of domestic abuse assault. At trial two experts testified about the nature of D.R.'s injuries. Dr. David Posey, who testified for the defense, did not believe the victim's injuries matched her description of events and claimed they did not create a substantial risk of death. The State called Dr. Dennis Klein, who testified the injuries were consistent with D.R.'s account and the injuries were life-threating.

          II. Standard of Review

         "On the issue of sufficiency of the evidence, we review claims for correction of errors at law." State v. Robinson, 859 N.W.2d 464, 467 (Iowa 2015). The test for whether the evidence is sufficient is whether the evidence is "substantial." State v. Musser, 721 N.W.2d 758, 760 (Iowa 2006). "Substantial evidence" is evidence that could lead a rational trier of fact to find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Robinson, 859 N.W.2d at 467. On appeal, we look at all the evidence as a whole and view it in the light most favorable to the State. Id.

         We review claims of ineffective assistance of counsel de novo. Ledezma v. State, 626 N.W.2d 134, 141 (Iowa 2001). "To prevail on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, the [defendant] must demonstrate both ineffective assistance and prejudice, " and each element must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence. Id. at 142. "If the claim lacks prejudice, it can be decided on that ground alone without deciding whether the attorney performed deficiently." Id. "Representation by counsel is presumed competent, and a postconviction applicant has the burden to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that counsel was ineffective." Jones v. State, 479 N.W.2d 265, 272 (Iowa 1991). Regarding prejudice, "the proper standard requires the defendant to show that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result ...

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