from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, Kellyann
M. Lekar, Judge.
defendant challenges his conviction for possession of
R. McCormack of Van Cleaf & McCormack Law Firm, LLP, Des
Moines, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Darrel L. Mullins, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and Mullins, JJ.
Reed appeals his conviction for possession of
methamphetamine, claiming the prosecutor improperly vouched
for the candor of a law enforcement officer during closing
arguments. By telling jurors the officer was "being
honest" and wouldn't risk perjury or his career by
lying, the prosecutor engaged in misconduct and defense
counsel's objection should have been sustained. Because
Reed's drug conviction hinged on the officer's
truthfulness, we find the misconduct to be prejudicial.
Accordingly, we reverse and remand for a new
Facts and Prior Proceedings
police officer Albert Bovy recalled the weather was clear but
"fairly chilly" during his early morning shift on
March 10, 2015. His dash camera showed a "good
frost" on the ground at the Kwik Star parking lot where
he was patrolling. Outside the Kwik Star, Officer Bovy
noticed a Buick Century being driven without license plates.
The officer turned on his lights and sirens to signal a
traffic stop, but the driver-later identified as Reed-failed
to pull over. In fact, Reed sped away, reaching speeds of
forty-five to fifty miles per hour on residential streets.
Reed eventually skidded through an intersection and crashed
the Buick into a house.
Bovy testified: "I could see his driver's window was
open. His arm comes flinging up as if to throw something, and
then he comes rolling out of the car and takes off running
down the sidewalk." The officer chased Reed down the
sidewalk-losing sight of him in an alley for about one minute
but soon spotting Reed trying to squeeze under a parked car.
The dash cam video recorded the loud barking and snarling of
police dogs, as an officer yelled at Reed: "Come out
from under the car or you're gonna get bit."
Bovy testified that, after arresting Reed, the officer
searched the ground around the Buick and found "a baggie
of crystal ice" on the edge of the sidewalk toward the
rear tire on the driver's side, within throwing distance
of the car. Bovy testified the baggie "appeared to be
recently put there. Like I said, there was quite a bit of
frost that night. I got out with my flashlight out and looked
at it closely and there was no frost on it. It wasn't
damp or anything like that." Lab testing recorded .18
grams of methamphetamine in the baggie.
also found a glass methamphetamine pipe in the grass toward
the street that appeared to be recently placed there,
according to Bovy's testimony. When interviewed by Bovy
at the police station, Reed said he fled because he
didn't have a driver's license. Reed admitted smoking
methamphetamine about an hour before the crash but denied the
baggie picked up outside the Buick belonged to him.
three-count trial information, the State charged Reed with
eluding, possession of methamphetamine, and driving while his
license was revoked. His case went to trial on March 30,
2016, with Officer Bovy and two other police officers as the
closing argument, Reed's attorney urged the jurors to
evaluate specific frames of the dash cam video from the crash
scene, asserting Officer Bovy planted the baggie of
methamphetamine: "You see his hand go down and place
something on the ground." Defense counsel then focused
on a segment of the video two minutes earlier when two
officers walked on the same trajectory without noticing any
evidence, scoffing, "Officer Bovy is luckier than any of
the other officers, ...