from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Karen A.
defendant appeals from his conviction for first-degree
C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Nerissa Nan Jennisch,
Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Darrel L. Mullins, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Potterfield and Mullins, JJ.
Cason Jr. appeals from his conviction for first-degree
murder, claiming (1) his motion for new trial should have
been granted because the weight of the evidence does not
support his conviction and (2) trial counsel provided
Weight of the Evidence.
maintains the weight of the evidence does not support his
conviction for first-degree murder. Specifically, he argues
there is a lack of forensic evidence linking him to the
shooting death of Trenton Washington and maintains the
testimony from eyewitnesses-who are inherently unreliable-was
even less credible in this case because of the
inconsistencies in the statements of the individuals
throughout the proceedings and in comparison to each other.
the defendant files a motion for new trial alleging the
verdict is contrary to the weight of the evidence, the
district court's analysis "involves questions of
credibility and refers to a determination that more credible
evidence supports one side than the other." State v.
Nitcher, 720 N.W.2d 547, 559 (Iowa 2006). "'The
district court has broad discretion in ruling on a motion for
new trial, ' and thus our review in such cases is for an
abuse of discretion." Id. (quoting State v.
Reeves, 670 N.W.2d 199, 202 (Iowa 2003)).
undisputed evidence established that Washington suffered a
gunshot wound to his right thigh, which perforated his
femoral artery, ultimately causing his death. At trial, Cason
disputed that he was the person who fired the
questions the jury's apparent reliance on the testimony
of eyewitnesses, noting recent academic literature
questioning the reliability of such testimony, but here, we
believe there is less concern that the testimony is
erroneous. First, four separate eyewitnesses identified Cason
as the person who shot at Washington and his friend, Kazmond
Meade, as they ran away. Each of the eyewitnesses was
familiar with Cason before that night. See James E.
Coleman Jr., et al., Don't I Know You? The Effect of
Prior Acquaintance/Familiarity on Witness
Identification, 36-Apr. Champion 52, 53-54 (April 2012).
("As a general matter, the accuracy of facial
recognition and identification increases as a function of
familiarity: ceteris paribus, people can recognize
their own faces better than those of celebrities, the faces
of celebrities better than those of acquaintances, and those
of acquaintances better than those of strangers.");
cf. State v. Shorter, 893 N.W.2d 65, 82 (Iowa 2017)
(noting that while "[m]any of the most troublesome
[eyewitness] cases involve identification of strangers,
" "[c]areful consideration by counsel of eyewitness
identifications extends to identifications of persons known
to the witness and not simply to identification of
strangers"). Additionally, all four had been spending
time with Cason in the park immediately before the shooting
four eyewitnesses' testimony differed from each other in
some respects-where Cason had obtained the gun, how many
shots they heard fired, whether Cason chased after Washington
and Meade before opening fire, and how long the group
remained at the park after the shooting-but each linked Cason
to the shooting. Meade testified he and Washington were in a
physical scuffle with Cason, who then walked away and got a
gun from one of his friends. Meade testified that as soon as
he saw the gun, he and Washington ran away but Cason chased
them and began firing. He believed he heard "about
seventeen" shots.Jacorey James testified he saw Cason
arguing with Meade and Washington in the park before Meade
and Washington ran off with Cason chasing them. He admitted
he "didn't" or "couldn't" see
anything in Cason's hand when Cason gave chase but
testified he then heard gunshots-"maybe three."
Makayla Walls testified she was at the park when a fight
broke out; she denied knowing everyone at the park or
remembering who was there but agreed Cason was involved in
the fight. During direct examination, Walls testified as
Q. Was [Cason] fighting?
A. Yeah. But I don't know who the other people is. I