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State v. King

Court of Appeals of Iowa

April 18, 2018

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
BLAKE FREDERICK KING, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Bremer County, Christopher C. Foy, Judge.

         Defendant challenges his convictions for two counts of burglary in the first degree and one count of sexual abuse in the third degree.

          Alfredo Parrish, Andrew J. Dunn, and Gina Messamer of Parrish Kruidenier Dunn Boles Gribble Gentry Brown & Bergmann L.L.P., Des Moines, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Linda J. Hines, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Heard by Danilson, C.J., and Vaitheswaran, Doyle, Tabor and McDonald, JJ.

          MCDONALD, JUDGE.

         Précis: twenty-first birthday; party bus; young people; alcohol; sex act; she said; he said; accused; charged; tried; convicted. In this direct appeal, the defendant Blake King now challenges his convictions for two counts of burglary in the first degree, in violation of Iowa Code sections 713.1 and 713.3 (2016), and sexual abuse in the third degree, in violation of Iowa Code sections 709.1 and 709.4(1)(d). King raises several claims on appeal. King argues he was denied a fair trial when the district court denied King's motions to strike certain jurors. King challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the convictions. King also contends his counsel provided constitutionally deficient representation in failing to raise an intoxication defense and request an intoxication instruction.


         The offense conduct at issue occurred on the night M.A. celebrated her twenty-first birthday. She rented a party bus and invited some friends, including King, to join her for a night of revelry. The friends met and boarded the bus in Shell Rock around 7 p.m. Over the course of the evening, the bus traveled to drinking establishments in Shell Rock, Waverly, Janesville, and Cedar Falls. Different people joined and left the party at different locations. M.A. testified there were approximately fifteen to twenty people on the party bus at any particular point in time. The partygoers had fun on the bus; they drank and "grinded" on each other. At the end of the night, some of the partygoers, including M.A. and King, went to a friend's house and continued to celebrate until approximately three o'clock in the morning.

         At the end of the night, King drove M.A. home. Also in the car were Ariel Pratt, King's younger brother, and the younger brother's two friends. Pratt was one of M.A.'s closest friends and part of M.A.'s "friend group, " which also included King. Pratt and King shared a mutual attraction and were in the beginning stages of a romantic relationship. The "friend group" spent nearly every weekend together, including frequently drinking together. M.A. had stayed the night at King's house on prior occasions. She had also slept in King's bed before, after a night of drinking.

         When the group arrived at M.A.'s house, King accompanied M.A. into the house while Pratt waited in the car. After waiting outside for several minutes, Pratt received a text message from King regarding M.A.'s cat. Pratt went inside to follow up. M.A. testified she conversed briefly with Pratt and King. M.A. requested Pratt and King help M.A. find her cat, which slept in M.A.'s bed with her, and get M.A. a glass of water. Pratt and King found the cat, got M.A. a glass of water, and left the house. M.A. testified she closed her bedroom door, undressed herself, changed into her pajamas, and went to sleep.

         M.A. testified the next thing she remembered was waking up and "feeling very uncomfortable." She noticed her pants and underwear were not on. She pulled a condom out of her vagina. She saw the silhouette of a person. She held out the condom and said, "What is this. What are you doing. What just happened." The person responded, "Nobody has to know." M.A. recognized the voice as King's. She told King to get out, and he did. At the time, M.A. was residing in the spare bedroom of her friends Courtney Carolus and Nick West. After King left, M.A. immediately went into Carolus and West's bedroom and woke up Carolus. M.A. said, "Blake was just here. Like he just had sex with me. I didn't have sex with him." She specifically testified she was clear headed at the time. Carolus told M.A. she had a bad dream and should go back to bed. M.A. did so.

         The next day M.A. messaged King and asked him what happened the night before. She messaged she "woke up to all of a sudden crying and pulling a condom out of me . . . I never willingly have se[x] with random people. I've only ever had sex with the people I've dated and been in a relationship with so I literally got raped." King replied, "We never had sex!" King messaged back that M.A. pulled him down toward her, she "grinded" on him, and so he put on a condom. King messaged that he could not get an erection, the condom came off, and M.A. told him "nevermind" and he should just leave. He emphatically messaged again, "We never had sex." They ended this electronic conversation by promising to not tell anyone about the prior night's events. After this initial exchange M.A. went about her day, spoke with Pratt and Carolus, and tended her social media account. At some point during the day, M.A. posted on her social media account a picture of herself with King and others and the caption, "best birthday ever." Later that evening, M.A.'s attitude changed, and she sent King a message, "I've done some thinking and honestly what you did was wrong and f*cked up. I was asleep when you basically raped me. . . . I don't remember ever pulling you down and apparently grinding on you but that is no invite to come back to someone's house that isn't yours to try and have sex with me." King responded, among other things, "We didn't have sex! . . . You initiated it, but it never even went anywhere." The parties exchanged several more messages and ceased communications.

         M.A. reported the incident to police, and King was criminally charged. King testified at trial. King testified when he dropped M.A. off at her house, he went to say good night to her and M.A. "grabbed [him] by [his] shirt and kissed [him]. And she told [him] that she didn't want to be alone for the night." King testified this took a few minutes so he sent Pratt a text message regarding the cat, apparently as a cover for the delay. King told M.A. he would come back after he dropped off Pratt. After King sent the text message to Pratt, she came into the house. King and Pratt then found M.A.'s cat, got M.A. a glass of water, and had a brief conversation with M.A. before they left. King dropped off Pratt, his brother, and his brother's friends and then returned to the house. He testified he entered the house and entered M.A.'s bedroom. He remembered the door was closed, but he was able to nudge the door open without turning the doorknob. He said to M.A., "Hey, [M.A.] do you still want me to stay, " and she replied, "Yes, come here." According to King, M.A. shifted in the bed and lifted the blanket for him. He got into the bed and under the blanket. He was wearing only his boxer shorts and a shirt. The two began "spooning." King testified M.A. was "grinding" on him. She eventually reached back and grabbed his erect penis and manually stimulated him. He ejaculated after "a couple minutes." King testified he stood up to remove his wet boxer shorts, and M.A. told him "she wasn't on birth control and if [they] were going to have sex, [he] would have to use a condom." She initially directed him to her nightstand for a condom, although from there he testified he could not remember all the details about how a condom was located. He put on the condom but was unable to maintain an erection. The two spoke for a bit, including agreeing not to tell Pratt, before M.A. told King he should go. King left. He maintained at trial that he did not have sexual intercourse with M.A. and that the sex act that did occur was consensual.

         There was forensic evidence presented at trial. A semen sample was collected from the string of M.A.'s tampon. M.A. testified she found the tampon lying on the floor under her bed the day after the events at issue. M.A. testified she did not remember removing the tampon and King must have removed it while she was sleeping. In contrast, King testified M.A. removed the tampon in his presence, which he found unpleasant, which was one of the reasons he could not maintain an erection. The seminal fluid found on the string of the tampon matched King's DNA. King's DNA was also found on the fitted sheet. There was no DNA evidence in M.A.'s underwear, mouth, vagina, or anus.

         After hearing the evidence, the jury found King guilty of two counts of burglary in the first degree and sexual abuse in the third degree. The district court merged the convictions and sentences for sex abuse in the third degree and one count of burglary in the first degree into the other count of burglary in the first degree. The district court sentenced King to an indeterminate term of incarceration not to exceed twenty five years, and King timely filed this appeal.


         We first address King's claims of error related to the district court's denial of King's request to strike for cause two jurors. We review the district court's rulings on challenges to potential jurors for cause for abuse of discretion. State v. Jonas, 904 N.W.2d 566, 570-71 (Iowa 2017).

         "The Iowa Rules of Criminal Procedure provide a list of factual circumstances which constitute a basis for which the trial court may sustain a challenge for cause." State v. Hatter, 381 N.W.2d 370, 372 (Iowa Ct. App. 1985). "Three principles govern our review of such questions." State v. Williams, 285 N.W.2d 248, 267 (Iowa 1979). First, the trial court has broad discretion. Id. Second, "a determination of a prospective juror's qualifications must rest upon the entire record of the examination." Id. Third, the trial judge is the fact-finder when determining whether a ground for challenge exists. Id. "While we have generally reviewed disqualification of jurors deferentially, we have long cautioned trial courts against allowing close issues to creep into the record and threaten the validity of a criminal trial." Jonas, 904 N.W.2d at 575.


         King claims the district court erred in denying his motion to strike for cause juror J.B. During voir dire, the juror disclosed that her daughter had been sexually assaulted by an acquaintance, specifically a twenty-two or twenty-three year old man, three months prior to this trial and that the incident was under investigation. The juror explained to the court she could nonetheless remain fair and impartial in evaluating the evidence in this case. The district court denied King's motion to strike the juror for cause. King exercised a peremptory strike to remove the juror, but King did not request an additional peremptory strike as a remedy.

         This claim does not entitle King to any relief because he cannot establish prejudice. In the recent Jonas case, the supreme court reaffirmed a criminal defendant is not entitled to relief "where a judge improperly denies a challenge for cause but the defendant does not specifically ask for an additional peremptory challenge of a particular juror after exhausting his peremptory challenges under the rule." Jonas, 904 N.W.2d at 583. The defendant's briefing was submitted prior to ...

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