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State v. Murillo

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 21, 2018

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
ROBERT MURILLO JR., Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Muscatine County, Stuart P. Werling, Judge.

         Robert Murillo Jr. appeals from his conviction for failure to appear.

          G. Brian Weiler, Davenport, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Thomas J. Ogden, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Vaitheswaran and Bower, JJ.

          DANILSON, CHIEF JUDGE

         Roberto Murillo Jr. was convicted following a jury trial for failure to appear for his pretrial conference, in violation of Iowa Code section 811.2(8) (2015). On appeal, Murillo contends the trial court erred by denying his motion for judgment of acquittal based on the State's failure to present sufficient evidence that he "willfully" failed to appear. We reverse and remand for an order of dismissal.

         In reviewing a motion for directed verdict based upon insufficiency of the evidence:

When presented with a motion for acquittal, courts must view "the evidence in the light most favorable to the State and draw[ ] all fair and reasonable inferences from it, taking all the evidence into consideration, both direct and circumstantial." State v. Duncan, 312 N.W.2d 519, 522 (Iowa 1981) (citations omitted). This
standard requires courts to assume the truth of the evidence offered by the prosecution. Nguyen v. State, 707 N.W.2d 317, 327 (Iowa 2005). The evidence must be sufficient to convince a rational fact finder that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Shanahan, 712 N.W.2d 121, 134 (Iowa 2006). A fair inference of guilt is necessary, not merely suspicion, speculation, or conjecture. State v. Geier, 484 N.W.2d 167, 171 (Iowa 1992).

State v. Schlitter, 881 N.W.2d 380, 389 (Iowa 2016) (alteration in original).

         In order to convict Murillo of failure to appear, the State was required to prove that he "willfully" failed to appear "before any court or magistrate as required." Iowa Code § 811.2(8). Murillo asserts the State failed to prove his failure to appear was willful because it did not show he received notice of his pretrial conference date. Specifically, relying upon State v. Williams, 445 N.W.2d 408, 411 (Iowa Ct. App. 1989), Murillo asserts the State did not call Murillo's previous defense attorney to testify if Murillo was sent notice of his pretrial conference date and that his presence at the pretrial conference was required.

          In Williams, the court found the prior defense attorney's testimony that the "routine practice" of the office to immediately mail court orders to clients was sufficient evidence to raise a presumption the act was done, and that there was "sufficient evidence defendant received notice" of his sentencing hearing. 445 N.W.2d at 411. The court did not, however, state testimony by defense counsel was required.[1] Yet, we must still determine whether the evidence presented was sufficient to show Murillo knew he was to attend the pretrial conference and willfully failed to do so.

         On February 19, 2015, Murillo signed a written arraignment and plea of not guilty on charges of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and a drug-tax-stamp ...


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