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State v. Abdinur

Court of Appeals of Iowa

June 6, 2018

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
ISACK MAHAD ABDINUR, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Woodbury County, Steven J. Andreasen, Judge.

          Defendant challenges his conviction for murder in the first degree.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Stephan J. Japuntich, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

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

          Heard by Danilson, C.J., and Mullins and McDonald, JJ.

          MCDONALD, JUDGE.

         Isack "Zack" Abdinur challenges his conviction for murder in the first degree, in violation of Iowa Code section 707.2(1)(a) (2015). In this direct appeal, Abdinur contends the district court erred in finding he did not prove his insanity defense and the district court abused its discretion in granting a continuance over his objection.


         The victim in this case is Cori Stead, Abdinur's girlfriend. Abdinur and Stead had a volatile relationship. According to numerous witnesses, they argued almost daily. Many witnesses recounted Abdinur making threats of violence and using hateful language. By way of example, Abdinur told Stead, "You should just die. I wish you would die. I hate you." He accused her of cheating. He called her "a b*tch, a whore, " and "a slut." Abdinur, an immigrant, told Stead, "Women in my country, when they don't listen to their men, we chop their heads off." He told her "he was going to make her pay for it if she didn't listen to him." On one occasion, he told Stead's family "if he had a beer bottle, . . . he would break it over her head, " and "how these whores act, how they act, how women like that behave in Africa, we kill them."

         On the night in question, June 22, 2015, Abdinur went out to a local casino with Stead and Stead's niece, Leslie Cournoyer. Abdinur and Stead were living with Cournoyer and Cournoyer's five children. According to Cournoyer, Abdinur had been drinking with friends when she and Stead picked him up to go to the casino. When he got in her car, he "looked mean." Abdinur and Stead began arguing in the car, as they often did, and Abdinur told Stead "he wished she would die." Cournoyer testified she witnessed Abdinur punch the back of Stead's head out of the corner of her eye. The group spent a short time at the casino. They left around 9:00 p.m. and returned to Cournoyer's apartment.

         Shalena Dupree, a friend of Cournoyer's, was babysitting the children. Dupree testified that when Abdinur, Stead, and Cournoyer returned home from the casino Cournoyer prepared dinner. Shortly thereafter, Cournoyer, Dupree, and the five children went into Cournoyer's bedroom to watch a movie. Both Cournoyer and Dupree heard Stead and Abdinur arguing outside the bedroom. Stead asked Cournoyer to call 911. They did not call 911 because the phone was not working. Stead then entered the bedroom, locked the door behind her, and laid on a mattress on the floor with two of the children. Abdinur requested entry into the bedroom, which was denied. He then forcibly broke the lock and entered the bedroom. According to Dupree, Abdinur told Stead "if you want the cops here then that's what we will get." Cournoyer testified Abdinur then "went towards [Stead] and grabbed her, [and] started punching her" in the face. Cournoyer told Dupree to get out, take two of the children from the room, and ask the landlord to call 911. Cournoyer then "jumped on [Abdinur's] back and tried to pull him off." After a minute or so, Abdinur got up and walked out of the room.

         Cournoyer was helping Stead when Abdinur came back into the room with a kitchen knife. She witnessed Abdinur stab Stead as Stead begged him to stop. As he stabbed her, Abdinur told Stead, "This is what you want, you f*cking b*tch. F*cking hate you." Cournoyer grabbed two of her other children, fled to the balcony, and yelled for help. She heard Stead scream for help as Abdinur continued to curse and stab her. After several minutes, Cournoyer concluded she had to leave the apartment and returned inside. She saw Abdinur in the doorway still holding the knife. She saw him toss the knife towards the kitchen before she ran outside with two of her children in tow. A short time later, she saw Abdinur walking away from the apartment in the opposite direction.

         Several police officers testified about the events of the evening. A call came into dispatch at approximately 12:47 a.m. on June 23, 2015. Officers responded to the scene and cleared the home for medical personnel, but Stead was already deceased. Officers located Cournoyer's fifth child underneath a blanket next to Stead's body. The child was unharmed. There was a bloody knife on the kitchen floor and blood in the refrigerator next to some cans of beer. Several officers followed a trail of blood away from the apartment. When the visible trail disappeared, the officers used a canine to track Abdinur. As the officers walked down an alley, Abdinur, covered in blood, stepped out from a garage and said, "It's me. I'm right here." Officers located several bloody beer cans and a bloody liquor bottle in the garage. Although Abdinur initially complied with the officers' commands, he became belligerent and began flailing and spitting. Physical force was necessary to place him in a squad car and take him to the hospital to check him for injuries.

         Officer Greg Rose testified that as he drove Abdinur to the hospital, Abdinur said "he didn't want to live." Abdinur also said a previous jail stay had "made him this way" because "they made him take drugs." Abdinur claimed the police spilled warm blood over his head to frame him for the murder. Abdinur received several sutures for a wound on his hand. When at the hospital, Officer Jamie Mattas testified that Abdinur was tearful, and made comments like, "I had hurt my love" and "you know, I actually did it." From the hospital, Abdinur was taken to an interview room at the police station. There, he continued making similar statements, including "I hurt my love" and "I ...

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