from the Iowa District Court for Johnson County, Christopher
L. Bruns, Judge.
Matthew Kozak appeals his conviction for first-degree murder
following a jury trial.
Alfredo G. Parrish of Parrish Kruidenier Dunn Boles Gribble
Gentry Brown & Bergmann L.L.P., Des Moines, for
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Genevieve Reinkoester,
Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.
by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and McDonald, JJ.
VAITHESWARAN, PRESIDING JUDGE.
Matthew Kozak worked at the Coral Ridge Mall in Coralville,
Iowa. He engaged in a verbal and electronic, semi-romantic
relationship with a woman who worked at the mall, Andrea
Farrington. When Farrington broke off the relationship, Kozak
retrieved his gun, went to the mall, and shot her. Farrington
died despite the heroic resuscitation efforts of a former
combat medic, two nurses, and a landscaper, among others.
State charged Kozak with first-degree murder. A jury found
him guilty as charged.
appeal, Kozak contends: (1) the State engaged in
prosecutorial misconduct in cross-examining his expert about
Kozak's mental state; (2) the district court abused its
discretion in allowing evidence of certain admissions he made
to law enforcement officers; (3) the State improperly
referenced his decision not to testify; and (4) the trial was
infected with cumulative error.
Prosecutorial Misconduct in Questioning of
frames the first issue as follows: "The State denied
[him] due process when, in violation of a sustained motion in
limine, it invaded the jury's province and questioned a
witness regarding [his] ability to plan, deliberate, and
premeditate." The procedural history informing this
issue is as follows.
trial, Kozak notified the court of his intent to rely on a
diminished responsibility defense. At the same time, he
identified Dr. Andrew C. High as an expert witness. The State
filed a motion in limine, seeking to preclude Dr. High from
testifying to Kozak's "mental status or condition,
" on the ground that he was unqualified to do so. The
State explained Dr. High was "a Communication Studies
professor" and "[a]ny testimony from him would be
irrelevant." The State followed up with a second motion
in limine, reiterating the irrelevance of Dr. High's
testimony. The defense responded with its own motion seeking
"to prohibit" the testimony of the State's
experts "regarding . . . Kozak's mental state and
whether he was capable of forming the requisite specific
intent to commit the charged offense."
hearing on the motions, the district court addressed the
question "whether experts should be permitted to state
an opinion . . . on the ultimate legal standards in the case,
" which was "whether Mr. Kozak did or did not form
specific intent." The court disallowed testimony on the
legal standard, as follows:
As a general rule, experts are not allowed to render the
opinion to the legal standard. Rather, they can talk about
the factual predicate to the legal standard or the factual
And I would expect that all the experts in this
case, to the extent they are testifying, will limit
themselves to testimony as to the factual predicate and not
stray beyond that. And I would apply that to both sides of
the case. We shouldn't hear Mr. Kozak did or
didn't have specific intent, because that's really
not a proper question. . . . [T]hat would be my ruling there.
(Emphasis added.) The court reserved ruling on the
State's motion to preclude Dr. High's testimony as
irrelevant pending an offer of proof on the nature of his
opinions. Following the offer of proof, the court denied the
State's motion, reasoning, "The standard for
relevance in Iowa is exceptionally broad, " and Dr.
High's proposed testimony goes "to the issue of
whether [Kozak] may have 'Antisocial Personality
trial, Dr. High testified to "whether or not certain
people communicate easier electronically as opposed to in
person." He opined, "[T]he Internet is an
attractive channel of communication. It's easier to
present or express yourself online than it is face-to-face.
We talk a lot about face threat in communication. It can be
less face threatening to present yourself online." He
further opined that online communication "can"
create some ambiguity because many "nonverbal cues"
are lost. Finally, he stated certain text messages between
Kozak and Farrington evinced "a relationship with some
commitment, some intimacy, " which he characterized as
an "off and on sort of relationship." In his view,
"[P]eople who communicate primarily on line can
certainly experience as intimate and committed a relationship
as they can face-to-face, " but it was "hard to say
about this relationship in particular."
cross-examination, the prosecutor asked Dr. High the
Q. Just to clear up for the jury-you're not a
psychologist, right? A. I am not.
Q. And you're not a psychiatrist? A. I am not.
Q. So you don't have any information to share with [the
jury] on [Kozak's] mental ...