from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Robert J.
defendant appeals from his convictions for attempted murder
and willful injury.
C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Brenda J. Gohr,
Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Louis S. Sloven, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
Considered by Doyle, P.J., and Tabor and McDonald, JJ.
LaJeunesse was convicted of attempted murder, in violation of
Iowa Code section 707.11 (2016), and willful injury causing
serious injury, in violation of Iowa Code section 708.4(1),
after he beat and strangled a woman (This opinion will refer
to her as "Jane Doe.") with whom he was having a
romantic relationship. In this direct appeal, LaJeunesse
challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his
conviction for attempted murder and raises two claims of
ineffective assistance of counsel. LaJeunesse also makes
several pro se challenges to the adequacy of his
trial counsel's representation.
first claim of error, LaJeunesse challenges the sufficiency
of the evidence in two respects. First, he contends his
voluntary intoxication precluded him from forming the
specific intent to kill or injure Doe. Second, he contends
there was insufficient evidence to establish he strangled
court reviews challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence
for the correction of legal error. See State v.
Sanford, 814 N.W.2d 611, 615 (Iowa 2012). We will uphold
a verdict if substantial record evidence supports it. See
State v. Webb, 648 N.W.2d 72, 75 (Iowa 2002).
"Evidence is substantial if it would convince a rational
fact finder that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable
doubt." Id. at 75-76. When reviewing for the
sufficiency of the evidence, we view the evidence in the
light most favorable to the State but consider all evidence
in the record. See id. at 76. "Inherent in our
standard of review of jury verdicts in criminal cases is the
recognition that the jury [is] free to reject certain
evidence, and credit other evidence." State v.
Nitcher, 720 N.W.2d 547, 556 (Iowa 2006).
court assesses the legal sufficiency of the evidence in light
of the jury instructions given where, as here, the
instructions were given without objection. See State v.
Canal, 773 N.W.2d 528, 530 (Iowa 2009). With respect to
attempted murder, the district court instructed the jury the
State had to prove the defendant "beat and
strangled" Doe and the defendant "specifically
intended to cause the death" of Doe. The instructions
did not define "strangled." The instructions
defined specific intent as follows:
Specific intent means not only being aware of doing an act
and doing it voluntarily, but, in addition, doing it with a
specific purpose in mind.
Because determining the Defendant's specific intent
requires you to decide what he thinking when an act was done,
it is seldom capable of direct proof. Therefore, you should
consider the facts and circumstances surrounding the act to
determine the Defendant's specific intent. You may, but