from the Iowa District Court for Woodbury County, Steven J.
Defendant challenges his conviction for murder in the first
C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Stephan J. Japuntich,
Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Thomas J. Ogden, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
by Danilson, C.J., and Mullins and McDonald, JJ.
"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.
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."
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
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.
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.
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
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 ...