from the Iowa District Court for Marion County, Terry R.
defendant challenges her conviction for assault causing
bodily injury, contending she acted in self-defense.
L. Merrill of Lubinus Law Firm, PLLC, Des Moines, for
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Sharon K. Hall, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Tabor and Bower, JJ.
found Laura Ann Allen guilty of assault causing bodily injury
after hearing evidence she repeatedly punched Alicia Wright
in the face, splitting open Wright's upper lip and
bruising her forehead. Allen argues the State failed to offer
sufficient evidence to rebut her claim of self-defense.
Because the jurors were entitled to sort through the varying
versions of events, we decline to upend their verdict.
Facts and Prior Proceedings
couples, who had been close friends, started bickering over
Facebook and sending disparaging text messages to each other
into the early morning hours of November 5, 2016. One of the
couples, Jeremy Moon and Alicia Wright, went to the
Pleasantville home of the other couple, Richard Heck and
Allen, to "talk things out." Wright knocked at the
door, and Heck came storming out, chest-bumping Moon.
to the prosecution, Wright tried to get between the two men,
and Allen attacked her. When Allen pushed Wright against the
car, Wright lost her balance and fell to the ground. Heck
eventually pulled Allen off Wright. When she stood up, Wright
realized her face was bleeding and she started shouting at
Allen. Meanwhile, Moon called 911 to report an assault in
progress; loud yelling can be heard in the background during
his conversation with the dispatcher. While Moon was on the
phone, Allen started hitting Wright again. Moon recalled
Allen launching three separate forays on Wright. Wright
testified Allen hit her "more times than [she] could
two minutes of Moon's 911 call, Pleasantville Police
Chief Joe Mrstik arrived at the "chaotic" scene. He
saw Wright's face "covered in blood" and
offered medical assistance. By contrast, the chief saw no
injuries to Allen, but she did have blood on her hands and
arm. The chief asked Allen several times if she had been
assaulted, but she said she had not been. When explaining her
fight with Wright, Allen told Chief Mrstik: "I'm
sick of her shit and I'm gonna beat her ass." Allen
admitted punching Wright when they were pushed against the
car and again when they were down on the ground.
State charged Allen with assault causing bodily injury, a
serious misdemeanor, in violation of Iowa Code sections
708.1(2)(a) and 708.2(2) (2016). She claimed self-defense.
Moon, Wright, and several police officers testified for the
State. Allen did not testify but called two neighbors to
support her justification defense. The jury found Allen
guilty as charged. The district court sentenced her to ninety
days in jail with all but three days suspended and placed her
on probation for one year. Allen appeals her conviction.
Standard of Review
review Allen's challenge to the sufficiency of evidence
for correction of legal error. See State v. Shorter,
893 N.W.2d 65, 70 (Iowa 2017). We will affirm the denial of a
motion for judgment of acquittal if the trial record contains
substantial evidence supporting conviction. See id.
We view the evidence in the light most favorable to the
State, and we indulge "all reasonable inferences that
may be fairly drawn from the evidence." State v
Howse, 875 N.W.2d 684, 688 (Iowa 2016) (quoting
State v. Showens, 845 N.W.2d 436, 439 (Iowa 2014)).
We consider all evidence, both inclupatory and exculpatory.
State v. Thomas, 561 N.W.2d 37, 39 (Iowa 1997).
"Evidence that raises only 'suspicion, speculation,
or conjecture' is not substantial
evidence." Id. (citing State v.