from the Iowa District Court for Dubuque County, Thomas A.
defendant appeals his conviction for murder in the first
C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Bradley M. Bender,
Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Louis S. Sloven, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
by Danilson, C.J., and Vaitheswaran, Doyle, Tabor, and
Hicks appeals his conviction for first-degree murder in the
death of his girlfriend Kahdyesha Lemon. Hicks challenges (1)
the denial of his motion to suppress statements he made to
police officers at the hospital; (2) the sufficiency and the
weight of the State's evidence rebutting his intoxication
and justification defenses; and (3) the denial of his request
for substitute counsel. Hicks also raises several pro se
suppression issue, we do not find admission of his statements
requires reversal of his conviction. The record supports the
district court's determination regarding the sufficiency
and weight of the evidence. And we find no abuse of
discretion in the court's denial of substitute counsel.
None of the claims raised in Hicks's pro se supplemental
brief entitle him to a new trial, though we preserve his
ineffective assistance of counsel claim for postconviction
Facts and Prior Proceedings
and Lemon began dating in 2006 in Chicago. They had a
tumultuous relationship marked by infidelity and abuse. They
separated after an argument in May 2015. Around Memorial Day
that year Hicks called Lemon's mother threatening to
"flatten [Lemon's] head into a pancake" and
saying "[Lemon] is going to be one daughter [she]
don't have anymore." Hicks also said he recently
discovered Lemon had misrepresented how old she was and
because she was underage when their relationship began, Hicks
expressed concern he "could be doing time as a
result." Around the same time, Hicks called Lemon's
sister with this dark message: "[Y]ou all going to catch
you all sister in the casket; tell your mama to get this
and Lemon reconciled on June 12, 2015. They took a bus from
Chicago to Dubuque four days later. When they arrived in
Dubuque, according to Hicks, "everything was fine."
But Hicks later began to feel faint and sought medical
attention. The next day started off as uneventful. Lemon went
to work; later they picked up Hicks's medication, ate,
smoked marijuana, and napped.
later said that upon waking up, he accessed Facebook on his
phone, prompting an argument with Lemon. According to Hicks,
he got up and went into the bathroom and Lemon threw a phone
at him. Then the fight turned physical and Hicks recalled
Lemon trying to hit him with a frying pan and stab him with a
paring knife. Hicks said he returned Lemon's attacks.
he fled the apartment and demanded water and alcohol from
neighbors. A witness hanging out with friends at another
apartment said she heard "somebody was yelling for
help" and found Hicks with "blood all over
him." She went to get water, but when she came back,
Hicks was demanding alcohol, or "otherwise he's
going to kill [them.]" Another witness gave Hicks a
half-full bottle of Paramount rum and he "chugged it
responded to two 911 calls reporting a stabbing. One of the
callers reported Hicks falling from a ten-foot retaining wall
outside the apartment building. In an alley near Lemon's
apartment, officers found Hicks sitting on the ground,
bleeding from "a couple stab wounds." As the squad
car pulled up, the first responding officer planned to render
medical aid, but then she saw Hicks "scooting"
toward her. Hicks started to grab the officer's leg and
try to force his way into her squad car, so she pinned him
against the door and sprayed him with mace. The second
officer to arrive observed that Hicks's conduct veered
from erratic to calm. Hicks was able to answer the officer
when asked for his first and last names, where he was
staying, and what happened. Hicks said he'd been
"stabbed up." Hicks also identified Kahdyesha as
the person who stabbed him.
medical personnel loaded Hicks onto a cot and into an
ambulance. He was handcuffed to the cot and a police officer
rode along in the ambulance to the hospital. An emergency
room doctor described Hicks as "intermittently
agitated" and recalled at times "his language was
difficult to understand" and other times he "spoke
very clearly." Hicks had benzodiazepines, alcohol, and
phencyclidine (PCP) in his system, according to a toxicology
he was sedated by medical staff so they could treat his
injuries, Hicks spoke briefly with Officer Cory Tuegel in the
emergency room. Tuegel asked Hicks just seven questions,
starting with "what happened?" Hicks responded:
"I loved her too much." Hicks clarified he was
talking about his girlfriend, Kahdyesha Lemon. Hicks said
Lemon was "home sleeping" but also acknowledged she
suffered stab wounds. Hicks soon ended the conversation.
the apartment building, officers discovered Lemon outside,
suffering from more than one-hundred incised stab wounds.
Inside the apartment, the floors were so soaked in blood that
it was difficult for officers to keep their footing. Blood
splatter glazed the walls of the bedroom, kitchen, and
bathroom. An officer testified he could not remember an area
of the home not covered in blood. Officers found a bent
frying pan matted with hair and blood. Officers also located
a paring knife on the bed and later discovered two of
Lemon's teeth, with the "whole root" attached,
under the rug.
rushed Lemon to the hospital and straight into a trauma room.
Lemon was given roughly three times her blood volume to
improve her blood pressure. Doctors shocked her heart and
gave her epinephrine fifteen to twenty times to restart her
heart. Despite these efforts, Lemon died three to four hours
later of hemorrhagic shock. She was twenty-one years old.
woke up the next day in the hospital and asked about Lemon.
Officers Brendan Welsh and Nick Schlosser set up an
audio-recorder in Hicks's hospital room and interviewed
him. According to Hicks, Lemon was angry because she just
found out from Facebook that Hicks had been cheating on her
"on and off for ten years." Hicks told them Lemon
hit him with a pan and was trying to stab him. Hicks told the
officers: "I hit her once probably, twice, all I was
trying to do was get this girl up off of me." He later
admitted hitting her as many as four times in the head. Hicks
also said Lemon tried to stab him in the heart. He showed the
officers he had four or five cuts to his chest and neck. But
Hicks said he was able to take the knife from her. He
admitted cutting her multiple times "anywhere" on
her body. He also said he "knew he was stronger than
her, that [he] could get away from her." Hicks told the
officers he last smoked PCP four days before the stabbing.
When Hicks was discharged from the hospital, he left in
State charged Hicks with murder in the first degree, in
violation of Iowa Code sections 707.1 and 707.2(1)(a) (2015).
He pleaded not guilty claiming self-defense and intoxication.
Hicks filed a motion to suppress his statements to Officers
Tuegel, Welsh, and Schlosser. After concluding Hicks was not
in custody when questioned at the hospital, the district
court denied Hicks's motion to suppress. Hicks also filed
pro se motions requesting a change of venue and a new
presiding judge. Hicks also filed a pro se motion seeking
substitute counsel and claiming his legal team treated him
poorly and lied to him. The court set Hicks's motion for
hearing. At the hearing Hicks expressed his dissatisfaction
with his attorneys and the court. The court denied his motion
for substitute counsel.
waived his right to a jury trial and requested a change of
presiding judge. The court noted his waiver of a jury trial,
denied his request for a change of judge, and proceeded with
a bench trial. Several responding officers and emergency
medical personnel testified, as did Officers Tuegel, Welsh,
and Schlosser. Lemon's mother and sister also testified
about Hick's threatening phone calls. Both parties also
presented expert testimony regarding the intoxicating effects
of PCP. Hicks testified in his own defense. After a six-day
trial, the court rejected Hicks's self-defense and
intoxication defenses and found him guilty of first-degree
murder. Hicks now appeals.
Scope and Standards of Review
review Hicks's suppression and
ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims de novo. See
State v. Young, 863 N.W.2d 249, 252 (Iowa 2015);
State v. Straw, 709 N.W.2d 128, 133 (Iowa 2006). For
those constitutional claims, we independently evaluate the
totality of the circumstances. State v. Turner, 630
N.W.2d 601, 606 (Iowa 2001). We examine challenges to the
sufficiency of the evidence for legal error. See State v.
Sanford, 814 N.W.2d 611, 615 (Iowa 2012). We review
Hicks's challenges to the denial of a new trial, the
denial of substitute counsel, and the judge's recusal
decision for an abuse of discretion. See State v.
Lopez, 633 N.W.2d 774, 778 (Iowa 2004); State v.
Millsap, 704 N.W.2d 426, 432 (Iowa 2005). A court abuses
its discretion if it acts unreasonably or bases its
conclusions on untenable grounds. Millsap, 704
N.W.2d at 432.
Did the District Court Properly Deny the Motion to
trial, Hicks moved to suppress all statements he made when
interviewed by police at the hospital, alleging they were
obtained in violation of the Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth
Amendments to the United States Constitution and Article I,
Section l0 of the Iowa Constitution. The district court
denied the suppression motion.
admissible, Hick's inculpatory statements to police must
pass a "dual test." See State v.
Countryman, 572 N.W.2d 553, 557 (Iowa 1997). We first
decide if police were required to give Miranda
warnings, and, if so, whether police properly gave them.
Id.; see Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436,
479 (1966) (holding before police subject a person to a
custodial interrogation, they must inform him of the right to
counsel, that counsel may be appointed if he cannot afford
it, his right to remain silent, and that any of his
statements may be used as evidence against him). Second, we
resolve whether the statement is voluntary and satisfies due
process. Countryman, 527 N.W.2d at 557.
Miranda warnings are not required unless police
subject the suspect to both custody and interrogation.
Berkemer v. McCarty, 468 U.S. 420, 429 (1984).
Statements to Officer Tuegel
contends the district court should have suppressed his
statements to Officer Tuegel made shortly after arriving at
the hospital. He asserts Tuegel's bedside questioning
amounted to a custodial interrogation, and Tuegel did not
provide Hicks with his constitutionally guaranteed
Miranda warning. The State counters the ...