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State v. Majerus

Court of Appeals of Iowa

October 11, 2017

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
MICHAEL JOHN MAJERUS, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Michael D. Huppert, Judge.

         A defendant appeals his convictions and sentences for burglary in the second degree and stalking in violation of a protective order.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Theresa R. Wilson, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kyle P. Hanson, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Doyle and McDonald, JJ.

          MCDONALD, Judge.

         Michael Majerus appeals his convictions and sentences for second degree burglary, in violation of Iowa Code sections 713.1 and 713.5 (2015), and stalking in violation of a protective order, in violation of Iowa Code sections 708.11(2) and 708.11(3)(b)(1). He claims the prosecutor improperly obtained a presentence investigation report (PSI) from a prior case in which Majerus was convicted of assaulting the same victim as in this case. Majerus argues the district court erred in allowing into evidence derivative evidence of the prior PSI. He claims his conviction for stalking should be vacated on the ground of issue preclusion. He claims the district court erred in not granting his request for a spoliation instruction. He also claims a statutory surcharge was illegally imposed.


         Majerus has spent much of his life in and out of placements. He is a borderline-functioning adult with a self-reported history of violence and sex abuse, both as a victim and perpetrator. In 2011, Majerus was placed at the Woodward Resource Center for programming. There he met Megan Hill, the treatment program manager. Majerus developed an obsession with Hill. He openly expressed and documented both his desire to harm Hill and his sexual fantasies involving Hill. In 2013, Majerus acted on his impulses and punched Hill in the face, breaking her nose and orbital bone. Majerus pleaded guilty to assault with intent to inflict serious injury. The district court sentenced Majerus to prison and issued a sentencing no-contact order.

         The conduct at issue in this proceeding arose after Majerus was released from prison in August 2014. Upon his release, Majerus moved to Des Moines. From the fall of 2014 until the fall of 2015, Hill reported to the police several encounters with Majerus, but the police informed her there was little they could do.

         In November 2015, Hill went out for drinks with friends after work. She arrived home at approximately 1:45 a.m. accompanied by a friend. Several days later, Hill discovered a basement window in her home had been broken out and a table was pushed under a window, allowing a person to access and climb out the window. Hill took photos of the window, but she deleted them at some point. It is unclear when she deleted the photos. Hill's discovery of the broken window caused her to review video captured by her home surveillance system. The record reflects the video from the night Hill went out with friends showed a man approaching the front door of Hill's home. The man tried to open the door, peered inside, looked under the doormat, and briefly disappeared from view. The man reappeared at the door and then walked out of view. The record reflects the sound of breaking glass followed by footsteps can be heard on the recording. The headlights to Hill's car appear on the video when she returns home at 1:45 a.m.

         After reviewing the security footage, Hill contacted the police. She provided the investigating detective with two pieces of video from her surveillance system. One piece of footage showed the man approaching her home and the sound of breaking glass. The second contained footage from the time Hill arrived at her home that night. Hill identified the man in the security footage as Majerus. At trial, others identified the man on the film as Majerus. The pieces of surveillance video were clips edited from longer pieces of footage. Hill provided the pieces of video because they showed relevant activity and because her security system had limited storage capacity and automatically deleted footage after seven days. Hill did not provide the photos of the broken window to the police. She assumed the police took photos.

         Pursuant to Iowa Code section 664A.7(1), the State sought to hold Majerus in contempt for violating the sentencing no-contact order issued in 2013. The summary contempt hearing was held on December 7, 2105. The district court dismissed the application because the prosecutor failed to offer into evidence the no-contact order. Specifically, the district court stated, "[T]he Court finds that there has not been evidence established beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant violated the No-Contact Order, as alleged in the affidavit, because the Court has no idea what's in the No-Contact Order."

         In addition to the contempt proceeding, the State also filed felony criminal charges against Majerus. The amended trial information charged Majerus with burglary in the second degree arising out of the entry into Hill's home and stalking in violation of a protective order arising out of conduct from 2011 until November of 2015.

         A discovery issue relevant to this appeal arose prior to trial. In March 2016, the State notified Majerus it had obtained a copy of the PSI prepared in connection with the 2013 case. How the prosecutor came to be in possession of the 2013 PSI is not in dispute. The prior case involving Majerus and Hill was prosecuted by Assistant Boone County Attorney Kailyn Heston. At some point after the 2013 case was closed, Heston became employed by the Polk County Attorney's Office. Heston was assigned to prosecute this case involving Majerus. Heston requested from the Boone County Attorney's Office a copy of Heston's file from the prior prosecution. Included in the file was a copy of the 2013 PSI.

         The State filed a motion to disclose the 2013 PSI to the defense. The motion provided the State intended on using information in the file, including the PSI. The State acknowledged Iowa Code section 901.4 provides that a PSI is confidential and requested a court order allowing the State to provide a copy of the PSI to Majerus as part of its required disclosure.[1] Marjerus resisted the motion to disclose, contending use of information obtained from ...

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