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State v. Reed

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 16, 2017

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
UNDRAY JERMAINE REED, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, Kellyann M. Lekar, Judge.

         A defendant challenges his conviction for possession of methamphetamine.

          Colin R. McCormack of Van Cleaf & McCormack Law Firm, LLP, Des Moines, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Darrel L. Mullins, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

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

          TABOR, Judge.

         Undray 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 trial.[1]

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         Waterloo 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.

         Officer 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."

         Officer 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.

         Searchers 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.

         In a 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 only witnesses.

         During 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, ...


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