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State v. Ingram

Court of Appeals of Iowa

April 18, 2018

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
BRIAN EUGENE INGRAM, JR., Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Boone County, Paul G. Crawford, District Associate Judge.

         Brian Ingram appeals his convictions for domestic abuse assault with a dangerous weapon and child endangerment.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Robert P. Ranschau, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Louis S. Sloven, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Potterfield and Mullins, JJ.

          VOGEL, Presiding Judge.

         Brian Ingram appeals his convictions for domestic abuse assault with a dangerous weapon, in violation of Iowa Code section 708.2A(3)(b) (2016), and child endangerment, in violation of Iowa Code section 726.6(7). He claims his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the introduction of text messages and for failing to strike a juror. He also claims the district court erred in allowing the State to impeach his witness with prior convictions and for denying his motions for new trial based on the weight of the evidence and a biased juror. Because the text messages were sufficiently relevant and not unfairly prejudicial, we find his counsel was not ineffective for not objecting to their introduction. We also agree with the district court that the probative value of the witness's prior convictions outweighs their prejudicial effect, the weight of the evidence does not require a new trial, and the juror was not impermissibly biased. We preserve the ineffective-assistance claim relating to the use of peremptory strikes. We affirm the convictions.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         In August 2016, Brian[1] and Amanda Ingram had been married for about twelve years. Around 5:30 or 6:00p.m., on the evening of August 12, 2016, Brian and Amanda began arguing in their home. The couple argued over whether to visit Laurie Larsen, Amanda's friend, and Adam Winger, Larsen's friend. Brian and Amanda's minor children-including twelve-year-old J.I.-were in the home during the argument, as were some of the children's friends. During the argument, Brian entered their bedroom and picked up two of his shotguns. Amanda testified Brian looked right at her, pointed the shotguns at her toes, "and asked what toe [she] wanted him to shoot first." J.I. was in the bedroom at the time, and the other children in the home could have heard-and possibly seen-Brian make the threat. An eight-year-old friend who was in the Ingram home at the time testified he saw and heard Brian threaten to shoot Amanda while holding a shotgun. Amanda felt scared and did not know what Brian would do. Brian then left the house with J.I. and the shotguns.

         After the argument, Amanda went to Larsen's home to meet Larsen and Winger. Brian called and sent text messages to Amanda while she was in the home. The text messages indicated Brian was watching Amanda, Larsen, and Winger in the home. Brian threatened Winger in the text messages. Amanda testified she believed Brian still had his shotguns at the time, and the text messages made her more scared. Amanda called the police around 9:00 or 10:00p.m. that night.

         Shortly after midnight on August 13, Deputy Dallas Wingate stopped Brian's vehicle on a county road and identified Brian in the driver's seat. Deputy Wingate also identified a child matching J.I.'s description in the vehicle. The child did not appear to be injured. Deputy Wingate did not find any firearms in the vehicle.

         At trial, the State offered testimony from multiple witnesses, including Amanda and the eight-year-old friend. Brian offered the testimony of his uncle, Herbert Miller. Miller testified that Amanda told him she had not been truthful with law enforcement about the events of August 12. According to Miller, Amanda was afraid she would go to jail if she corrected her statements. On cross-examination, in response to a question about his criminal history, Miller admitted he had been convicted of two counts of theft in 1999.

         The jury found Brian guilty of domestic abuse assault with a dangerous weapon and child endangerment. Brian then filed a motion for new trial. In a hearing on the motion, Brian testified about the claimed bias of Juror G. Juror G is married to Brian's ex-girlfriend. Brian dated the ex-girlfriend for over four years, with their most recent date in 1998. Brian testified the ex-girlfriend still wanted to "get back with" him even after they broke up and after she married Juror G. Once, the ex-girlfriend entered Brian's apartment and asked to reunite with him, and she only left when Juror G arrived and yelled for her to come outside. Most recently, in 2009, Brian testified Juror G told a friend he wanted to fight Brian after Brian moved into a home one block away from Juror G. Although voir dire was not reported, Brian later testified that Juror G said he had no feelings toward Brian and he could be a fair and impartial juror. Brian disputed the truthfulness of both of these statements. During jury selection, Brian told his counsel to use his final peremptory strike on Juror G, but his counsel struck a different prospective juror. Brian changed counsel between the trial and the post-trial hearing, and his voir dire counsel did not participate in the post-trial hearing.

         The court denied the motion for new trial and entered judgment on both counts. Brian appeals.

         II. Scope and Standard of Review

         We review ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims de novo. State v. Maxwell, 743 N.W.2d 185, 195 (Iowa 2008) (citing State v. Nitcher, 720 N.W.2d 547, 553 (Iowa 2006)). We review the underlying claims about admission of evidence for abuse of discretion. State v. Brown, 569 N.W.2d 113, 116 (Iowa 1997) (citing State v. Plaster, 424 N.W.2d 226, 229 (Iowa 1988)). We review a motion for new trial based on the weight of the evidence for abuse of discretion. State v. Ary, 877 N.W.2d 686, 706 (Iowa 2016) (citing State v. Shanahan, 712 N.W.2d 121, 135 (Iowa 2006). We review the admissibility of a witness's prior crimes for abuse of discretion. State v. Redmond, 803 N.W.2d 112, 117 (Iowa 2011) (citing State v. Parker, 747 N.W.2d 196, 203 (Iowa 2008)). Finally, we review a motion for new trial due to juror bias for abuse of discretion. State v. Webster, 865 N.W.2d 223, 231 (Iowa 2015) (citations omitted).

         III. Relevancy and Prejudice of the Text Messages

         Brian argues his counsel was ineffective for failing to object to the text messages he sent to Amanda on the night of August 12, 2016. He claims the text messages ...


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