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State v. Martinez

Court of Appeals of Iowa

June 20, 2018

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MARCO MARTINEZ, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Muscatine County, Thomas G. Reidel, Judge.

         Marco Martinez appeals his convictions for third-degree burglary and fourth-degree theft.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Maria L. Ruhtenberg, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Martha E. Trout, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and Tabor, JJ.

          TABOR, Judge.

         Marco Martinez appeals his convictions for third-degree burglary and fourth-degree theft. He claims the State did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he broke into a liquor store after hours. Because the only evidence placing Martinez at the scene was an identification by police officers from a surveillance video that did not show the burglars' faces or any other distinctive features, we find insufficient evidence to sustain his convictions.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         Shortly after 1:30 a.m. on November 13, 2016, video surveillance captured footage of a large rock smashing through the glass front door of Pearl City Tobacco & Liquor in Muscatine. Two individuals with their faces shrouded by black hoodies raced through the gap into the store that was closed for the night. The pair ducked behind the counter, grabbing items off shelves. They left the store less than a minute after entering. Another camera outside the store showed three individuals moments before the break-in and again as they left the scene. Before their retreat, one of them grabbed a backpack left at the curb.

         The break-in triggered an alarm, and the security company contacted police. Officer Minnat Patel responded to the business located just off Grandview Avenue; he found broken glass and the rock used to "force entry" but no suspects. Police called the owner, who tallied $207.92 worth of alcohol and cigarettes missing from the store. The owner also gave Officer Patel video files from store surveillance cameras. Police did not dispatch evidence technicians to the business until more than one week later. As a result of the time lapse, they did not attempt to collect fingerprints, hairs, or other trace evidence to help identify the burglars.

         The crime went unsolved for months. One lead came from Police Detective Todd Koch who remembered seeing three young men riding bicycles along Grandview Avenue, roughly five blocks away from Pearl City Tobacco and about half an hour before the break-in. Koch testified he was driving home after working a ten-hour shift and switched on his patrol car camera after noticing the cyclists because he thought their presence was suspicious at that late hour.[1] Given the distance and darkness, Koch's video did not provide clear enough picture quality to allow a viewer to identify the three people, but Koch nevertheless testified he recognized two of the cyclists as Marco Martinez and D.F., a junvile. The officer testified, "I've seen them multiple times. I know who they are, and they didn't have masks on." Koch acknowledged he was going thirty miles per hour when he saw Martinez and D.F. but he did not stop his car to engage with them.[2] After arriving home sometime after 1:30 a.m., Detective Koch heard about the break-in at Pearl City Tobacco on his police dispatch radio. Koch testified he reached out to several officers, including Patel, to let them know he saw Martinez and D.F. in the area before the burglary. Officer Patel did not testify to receiving a tip from Koch.

         On December 11, 2016, Koch and Officer Connor, a school resource officer, spoke with D.F. at his home regarding an unrelated issue. Connor's body camera captured photographs of D.F. Connor did not testify at trial, but Koch offered the jury a comparison of those images of D.F. and the appearance of one of the individuals on the surveillance video from Pearl City Tobacco. Koch testified he could identify D.F. because he was familiar with D.F.'s build and gait. Koch also asserted the clothes worn by D.F. on December 11 were similar to the clothes worn by the individual on November 13. Koch testified he could identify Martinez because the detective was familiar with Martinez's size and gait, and the backpack Martinez carries because of a medical condition. Koch's partner, Officer Anthony Arnaman, also testified he recognized D.F. and Martinez from the Pearl City Tobacco surveillance video based on "their stature, their build" as well as "their gait or their walk." Arnaman testified D.F. and Martinez were "close associates and friends" and he saw them together "on the street pretty much on a normal daily basis" during the work week.

         On February 27, 2017, the State charged Martinez with burglary in the third degree in violation of Iowa Code sections 713.1 and 713.6A(1) (2017) and theft in the fourth degree in violation of sections 714.1 and 7.14.2(4). The jury found Martinez guilty on both counts. Martinez appeals.

         II. ...


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