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State v. Payne

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 7, 2018

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
RANDALL THOMAS PAYNE, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Des Moines County, Mark E. Kruse, Judge.

         Randall Payne appeals his conviction of child endangerment resulting in death following a jury trial.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Melinda J. Nye, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Timothy M. Hau, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

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

          DOYLE, Presiding Judge.

         Following a two-week jury trial involving a battle of medical experts as to the cause of Randall Payne's infant son's death, Payne was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter by commission of a public offense, child endangerment resulting in serious injury, and child endangerment resulting in death. He was convicted of child endangerment resulting in death.[1] Payne now appeals his conviction, asserting the district court erred (1) by submitting a flawed model jury instruction that improperly allowed the jury to consider Payne's out-of-court statements "just as if they had been made at trial" and (2) in denying his motion for new trial, based on the State's late disclosure of potentially exculpatory autopsy evidence. We affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         Stacy Newton and Randall Payne are the parents of C.P., born October 18, 2014. Before the child's birth, in the first trimester of Stacy's pregnancy, Stacy received abnormal test results indicating the child had an increased risk of a genetic disorder. She was referred to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment Unit for additional testing, and she was examined there in May, June, and July of 2014. Ultimately, an alternative screening test returned a negative test result for the genetic disorder. However, the child's estimated fetal weight remained below average over the course of those months, increasing the risk of stillbirth. Consequently, the pregnancy was considered to be high-risk.

         On October 16, 2014, approximately a week before her estimated due date, Stacy had a routine appointment with her general obstetrician. At that time, an ultrasound showed the child's estimated weight had gone down since Stacy's prior appointment, further increasing the risk of stillbirth. At the recommendation of her physician, Stacy agreed to have labor induced that evening. Drugs were administered to Stacy for that purpose, but after almost two days without progress, the child was delivered via a Cesarean section without incident, weighing 5.41 pounds.

         Even though the child was ultimately born by way of a C-section, the child's head was described after the birth as having "considerable molding, " which commonly occurs during a vaginal birth.[2] Along with "considerable molding" of the head, "a small caput"-a spot where fluid has gathered underneath the scalp- and a small amount of bruising on the right side of the child's head were noted.[3]These conditions, like molding, are not uncommon following vaginal labor and, given the length of Stacy's labor before the surgery, did not concern her physicians. The child's physical condition at the time of his birth was assessed as excellent.[4]

         C.P. and Stacy were discharged from the hospital on October 22, 2014. Other than a bit of jaundice, for which Stacy and the child were to return the next day for continued treatment, the child was essentially found to be healthy. By the time of their release, the molding, the caput, and the bruising of C.P.'s head had gotten better; the child's head was reported to be "[n]ormocephalic with open soft fontanelle"-normal with a soft spot.[5] C.P.'s discharge summary also reported:

Eyes: Good red reflex.
ENT: Palate intact.
Neck: Supple without masses or adenopathy[6].
Chest: Clear to auscultation.[7]
Cardiovascular: Quiet precordium[8] with regular rhythm. S1 and S2 normal.[9] No murmurs are audible. He has good femoral pulses.
Abdomen: Soft without masses or visceromegaly.[10] Cord remains intact without evidence of inflammation.
GU[11]: Normal prepubertal male. He is circumcised. Testes are descended bilaterally.
BJM[12]: Normal hip mobility without evidence of subluxation.[13]
Skin: Patient is icteric[14] but without rashes.
Gen.: Good suck and Moro. Good tone and cry.[15]

         About one week after Stacy and C.P. were discharged from the hospital, Payne and Stacy took the child to the emergency room. The hospital documentation from the visit stated:

Chief Complaint: [Payne] reports [C.P.] has not moved [both lower extremities] on own since birth. Father reports he has been doing leg exercises on [child]. [Child] now cries in pain when [both lower extremities] moved.
. . . .
[C.P.] presents with lower extremity pain. The onset was 2 days ago. The course/duration of symptoms is constant. Type of injury: none. Location: Left thigh. The character of symptoms is pain. The degree at present is moderate. The exacerbating factor is movement. The relieving factor is none.

         The child was physically examined and x-rays of the lower extremities were obtained. C.P.'s vital signs at that time were reported to be:

General: Appropriate for age.
Skin: Warm, dry, pink.
Head: Normocephalic, atraumatic.[16]
Neck: Supple.
Cardiovascular: Regular rate and rhythm.
Respiratory: Lungs are clear to auscultation. Gastrointestinal: Soft.
Musculoskeletal: Leg position: Appropriate contraction of bilateral lower extremities for age.

         The physician that reviewed the child's x-rays reported:

Two projections were obtained. Positioning is less than optimal.
The bony pelvis appear symmetric. The proximal femurs appear intact. I'm suspicious of bilateral congenital hip dislocation, but the femoral epiphysis are not ossified. Clinical correlation required. The femurs appear intact. The tibia and fibula are poorly visualized, but are grossly normal.

         The child was discharged from the emergency room shortly thereafter, with the physician noting in the report that the child "appears in no distress" and that the parents "voice no concerns." The parents were directed to follow up with a physician within two-to-three days or return to the emergency room if the child's symptoms worsened.

         C.P. had his two-week examination on November 3, 2014. Stacy conveyed concerns about the possibility of the child having a genetic abnormality, but the doctor, noting "the parents [were] not terribly sophisticated, " reported the child "seem[ed] to be doing well at this point and clearly does not have [the genetic disorder] trisomy 18." The child's vital signs were stated as:

Head: Nonnocephalic.
Eyes: Good red reflex.
ENT: No abnormalities noted. Palate ...

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