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State v. Harrison

Supreme Court of Iowa

June 22, 2018

STATE OF IOWA, Appellee,
v.
KEYON HARRISON, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Paul Scott, Judge.

         A juvenile offender appeals his conviction for first-degree felony murder and challenges his sentence of life imprisonment with the possibility of immediate parole as cruel and unusual punishment under the Iowa and United States Constitutions.

          Matthew G. Sease of Kemp & Sease, Des Moines, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Louis S. Sloven, Assistant Attorney General, John P. Sarcone, County Attorney, and Jeffrey K. Noble and Shannon Archer, Assistant County Attorneys, for appellee.

          Brent Michael Pattison of Drake Legal Clinic, Des Moines, and Marsha L. Levick, of Juvenile Law Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for amici curiae Juvenile Law Center, Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth, and the Center for Law, Brain and Behavior.

          ZAGER, JUSTICE.

         Keyon Harrison appeals his conviction for first-degree murder. Harrison argues applying the felony-murder rule to juvenile offenders based upon a theory of aiding and abetting violates the Iowa and United States Constitutions. Harrison also presents as-applied and categorical constitutional challenges to his sentence claiming a sentence of life with the possibility of parole for a juvenile offender who was convicted of felony murder constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the Iowa and United States Constitutions. Further, Harrison maintains the trial court failed to provide the jury with proper instructions regarding the types of assault required to establish the forcible felony robbery element of felony murder. Finally, Harrison presents ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims alleging he was prejudiced by the errors of his trial counsel, including trial counsel's failure to request certain jury instructions and failure to object to certain evidence presented at trial. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the conviction and sentence.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         On November 7, 2014, starting at approximately 3:45 p.m., Aaron McHenry began receiving calls and text messages from Keith Collins who was looking to buy marijuana from McHenry. Collins, then seventeen years old, and Keyon Harrison, then sixteen years old, were at an Oasis store at the time, and they initially wanted to meet McHenry at the Oasis store. However, McHenry did not know where the Oasis store was located. Therefore, McHenry arranged for them to meet at the Family Dollar store near the 2600 block of Hickman Lane around 4:20 p.m. The purpose of the meeting was to complete the sale of marijuana from McHenry to Collins and Harrison.

          At 4:23 p.m., Shirley Dick was taking her dogs outside when she saw a black male, later identified as Collins, walking near her home at 2600 Hickman Lane. Dick approached Collins to see if there was anything she could help him with, and Collins told her that he was waiting for his girlfriend. Dick told Collins there were no kids that lived on her street, and Collins turned away without responding to her. Thereafter, Dick noticed Jorge Gutierrez, a nearby neighbor, chasing his dog as it ran from his house in the direction of Dick's house. Dick waited outside, offering to help Gutierrez retrieve his dog.

         While Gutierrez was retrieving his dog and returning home, he observed Collins sitting on a retaining wall on Hickman Lane. Gutierrez also saw McHenry and Harrison walking from 26th Street in the direction of Hickman Lane. Gutierrez saw McHenry and Harrison begin to walk faster, and they eventually "started to, like, push each other." Nevertheless, Gutierrez went back inside, and Shirley Dick turned to walk back towards her home.

         As she turned around, Dick heard gunshots, and she saw Collins take off running underneath nearby bushes. Dick testified that Collins was "maybe five feet" from McHenry when she turned around, but she did not see Harrison or anyone else in the area.[1] Dick then called 911. Gutierrez also heard the gunshots and turned around to see McHenry lying on the ground. Gutierrez saw Collins and Harrison start running together "away from Hickman Road."

         Several other neighbors told police they saw two black males running away from the area, and two nearby homeowners provided police with security camera footage from their homes showing a black male running away from the area. Camera footage at Broadlawns Hospital, taken shortly after the shooting, shows Collins and Harrison together at the hospital where Collins was treated for an injury to his right hand. Harrison and Collins then went to meet up with Harrison's girlfriend at her residence. The girlfriend testified that when she joined them, she saw Harrison "was holding two bags of marijuana in his hands, like baseball size". Thereafter, the group went to a store to buy blunt wraps for smoking marijuana, and Harrison and Collins smoked some of the marijuana when they returned to the girlfriend's house. Harrison and Collins then returned to Collins's apartment around 8:00 p.m.

         When police responded to the 911 call about a shooting at Hickman Lane, they discovered Aaron McHenry's dead body. McHenry had multiple gunshot wounds to the head, torso, upper back, and arm, including a couple of wounds that contained signs indicating he was shot from close range. Police were able to identify Collins as a suspect soon after the shooting. Police contacted the Hoover High School resource officer after another Hickman Lane neighbor told them that one of the individuals went to Hoover High School with her. She also told police that people at the school thought he resembled the rapper Bobby Shmurda. The resource officer identified two individuals who fit that description. Later, the police provided the neighbor with two separate photo arrays. The neighbor was able to positively identify Collins as one of the individuals running from the area of the shooting. Police subsequently obtained a search warrant for Collins's apartment, which they executed about twelve hours after responding to the scene of the shooting.

         Harrison was with Collins at the apartment when the police executed the search warrant. Collins had marijuana in his backpack, and Harrison had marijuana on his person. Both packages of marijuana confiscated from Collins and Harrison were identical in amount and packaging. Police recovered the cell phone used to communicate with McHenry, but they did not recover a gun during the search. The police then took Harrison into custody. After Harrison's mother arrived, Detective Youngblut provided Harrison and his mother with his Miranda rights, and they agreed to sign a written waiver of his Miranda rights.

         Youngblut conducted Harrison's questioning and recorded the entire interview and events surrounding the interview at the police station. The recording equipment was visible, and there was a sign outside of the interview room informing people that the room was audio and video recorded. Harrison's mother was aware of the recording. While police were not in the room, she informed Harrison that the room was being recorded. During the interview, Harrison was repeatedly dishonest with Youngblut. Harrison told Youngblut that Collins did not have a cell phone. Harrison told Youngblut that he was not with Collins around the time of the murder because he was somewhere else and that he went to Broadlawns Hospital with his girlfriend from his girlfriend's house to meet up with Collins.

         When Youngblut left the room, Harrison's mother accused Harrison of lying and told Harrison, "I can't help you if you lyin' to me." In response, Harrison stated,

Alright mama. Look, look. We was walking, [Collins]'s like, "I got a lick." I'm like, "Bro, no, bro, you're not going to do it." He's like, "Bro, I've got a lick. I need it. I need to go to Chicago." He's like-because he's trying to go to Chicago or whatever with his mom. He's like, "Bro, I need it." So I'm like, "Bro, you can hit that lick but bro, I'm just going to stay on the side." So we walking down, we walking down the street and then he was . . . .

         Harrison's mother then interjected to remind Harrison that they were being recorded before Harrison could finish the rest of the sentence. A "lick" is slang for a robbery, and the cell phone the police recovered from Collins listed McHenry's phone number under the name "Lick." Investigators found marijuana residue in McHenry's pants pocket but no marijuana, which they believed indicated someone had stolen marijuana from him.

         The State charged both Harrison and Collins with first-degree murder. They were tried separately. The State initially charged Harrison with first-degree murder in violation of Iowa Code sections 707.1 and 707.2 and first-degree robbery in violation of Iowa Code sections 711.1 and 711.2 (2015). Harrison's trial began on October 3, 2016. On October 4, before the presentation of any evidence, the State filed an amended trial information that dropped the charge of first-degree robbery.

         The State conceded during trial that "the evidence tends to suggest that it was probably [Harrison's] friend and companion Keith Collins" who shot McHenry, and it dismissed the charge of premeditated murder in the first-degree under Iowa Code section 707.2(1)(a). At trial, the State only presented the theory of first-degree murder based upon the felony-murder rule under Iowa Code section 707.2(1)(b). The State argued Harrison was guilty of aiding and abetting in the robbery and murder of McHenry. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury returned a unanimous verdict finding Harrison guilty of first-degree murder in violation of Iowa Code sections 707.1 and 707.2(1)(b) for killing McHenry while participating in a forcible felony, the robbery. Harrison was sentenced to life in prison with immediate parole eligibility. Harrison filed a timely appeal, which we retained.

         II. Standard of Review.

         We review alleged violations of state or federal constitutional rights de novo. State v. Coleman, 907 N.W.2d 124, 134 (Iowa 2018). In doing so, we evaluate each case "in light of its unique circumstances" by examining the "totality of the circumstances as shown by the entire record" to "make an independent evaluation." State v. Krogmann, 804 N.W.2d 518, 522-23 (Iowa 2011) (quoting State v. Brooks, 760 N.W.2d 197, 204 (Iowa 2009)). Further, "[w]e may review a challenge that a sentence is illegal at any time." State v. Zarate, 908 N.W.2d 831, 840 (Iowa 2018). Though we typically review challenges to illegal sentences for correction of legal errors, our standard of review for an allegation of an unconstitutional sentence is de novo. Id.

         Our standard of review for challenges to jury instructions is for correction of errors at law. Alcala v. Marriott Int'l, Inc., 880 N.W.2d 699, 707 (Iowa 2016). "We do not consider an erroneous jury instruction in isolation, but look at the jury instructions as a whole." State v. Murray, 796 N.W.2d 907, 908 (Iowa 2011). Our standard of review for claims of ineffective assistance of counsel is de novo. State v. Schlitter, 881 N.W.2d 380, 388 (Iowa 2016). "Ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims require a showing by a preponderance of the evidence both that counsel failed an essential duty and that the failure resulted in prejudice." Id.

         III. Analysis.

         Harrison presents a number of claims on appeal. First, he maintains the felony-murder rule violates the Due Process Clause of both the Iowa and United States Constitutions when it is applied to juvenile offenders pursuant to a theory of aiding and abetting. Second, Harrison argues a sentence of life with the possibility of immediate parole eligibility for a juvenile offender convicted of first-degree murder under the felony- murder rule is unconstitutional both as applied to him and on its face under the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clauses of the Iowa and United States Constitutions. Third, Harrison claims the trial court did not provide proper jury instructions on the specific types of assault necessary to establish a felonious robbery. Finally, Harrison advances ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claims alleging his trial counsel breached essential duties that resulted in prejudice by failing to request certain jury instructions and failing to object to certain evidence presented at trial. We address these claims in turn.

         A. The State and Federal Juvenile Sentencing Landscape.

         Article I, section 17 of the Iowa Constitution and the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution provide Iowans convicted of a crime with the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. U.S. Const. amend. VIII; Iowa Const. art. I, § 17. This fundamental constitutional tenet "flows from the basic 'precept of justice that punishment for crime should be graduated and proportioned' to both the offender and the offense." Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460, 469, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 2463 (2012) (quoting Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551, 560, 125 S.Ct. 1183, 1190 (2005)); State v. Propps, 897 N.W.2d 91, 98 (Iowa 2017). In 2005, the United States Supreme Court decided the first in a trilogy of cases interpreting the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause under the Eighth Amendment in relation to juvenile sentencing, which has transformed the juvenile sentencing landscape. See generally Miller, 567 U.S. 460, 132 S.Ct. 2455; Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48, 130 S.Ct. 2011 (2010); Roper, 543 U.S. 551, 125 S.Ct. 1183. An overview of these changes is necessary to provide background for our analysis of Harrison's constitutional challenge to the felony-murder rule and his sentence of life imprisonment with immediate parole eligibility.

         First, in Roper, the Supreme Court held that imposing capital punishment on juvenile offenders constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. 543 U.S. at 568, 126 S.Ct. at 1194. In doing so, the Court emphasized the differences between adult and juvenile offenders that "render suspect any conclusion that a juvenile falls among the worst offenders"-namely, the differences in maturity, sense of responsibility, vulnerability to peer pressure and negative influences, and the development of personality traits. Id. at 569-70, 125 S.Ct. at 1195. Second, in Graham, the Supreme Court held that sentencing juvenile offenders convicted of nonhomicide offenses to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. 560 U.S. at 74, 130 S.Ct. at 2030.

         Finally, in Miller, the Supreme Court prohibited all mandatory sentences of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for juvenile offenders under the Eighth Amendment. 567 U.S. at 479, 132 S.Ct. at 2469. The Court stated, "Mandatory life without parole for a juvenile precludes consideration of his chronological age and its hallmark features-among them, immaturity, impetuosity, and failure to appreciate risks and consequences." Id. at 477, 132 S.Ct. at 2468. Nevertheless, the Court did not prohibit all sentences of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Id. at 480, 132 S.Ct. at 2469. Instead, the Court held that sentencing courts must "take into account how children are different, and how those differences counsel against irrevocably sentencing them to a lifetime in prison" before issuing a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole to a juvenile offender. Id.

         Following Miller, the Iowa Governor commuted the sentences of all thirty-eight juvenile offenders serving statutorily mandated sentences of life without parole to sentences of life without parole eligibility for sixty years with no credit for earned time. See State v. Ragland, 836 N.W.2d 107, 110-11 (Iowa 2013). Shortly thereafter, we held that Miller applied retroactively, and the Governor's commutations to life without parole for sixty years with no credit for earned time, amounted to de facto sentences of life without the possibility of parole and mandated the individualized sentencing process outlined in Miller. Id. at 117, 122. The Roper-Graham- Miller trilogy, and our holding in Ragland, set the course for drastic changes to juvenile sentencing under the Iowa Constitution.

         First, in State v. Null, we held that sentencing a juvenile offender to 52.5 years imprisonment triggered Miller's individualized sentencing requirement noting "[t]he prospect of geriatric release, if one is to be afforded the opportunity for release at all, does not provide a 'meaningful opportunity' to demonstrate the 'maturity and rehabilitation' required to obtain release and reenter society." 836 N.W.2d 41, 71 (2013) (quoting Graham, 560 U.S. at 75, 130 S.Ct. at 2030). In State v. Pearson, we similarly held that the individualized sentencing requirement set forth in Miller applied under the Iowa Constitution to a juvenile offender's sentence of consecutive terms totaling thirty-five years imprisonment without parole eligibility for nonhomicide offenses. 836 N.W.2d 88, 96 (Iowa 2013).

         In State v. Lyle, we held that "the sentencing of juveniles according to statutorily required mandatory minimums does not adequately serve the legitimate penological objectives in light of the child's categorically diminished culpability." 854 N.W.2d 378, 398 (Iowa 2014). As a result, we held that article I, section 17 of the Iowa Constitution prohibits all mandatory minimum prison sentences for juvenile offenders. Id. at 400. Additionally, we established the following necessary factors for a district court to consider in deciding whether a juvenile offender warrants the minimum period of incarceration without parole:

(1) the age of the offender and the features of youthful behavior, such as "immaturity, impetuosity, and failure to appreciate risks and consequences"; (2) the particular "family and home environment" that surround the youth; (3) the circumstances of the particular crime and all circumstances relating to youth that may have played a role in the commission of the crime; (4) the challenges for youthful offenders in navigating through the criminal process; and (5) the possibility of rehabilitation and the capacity for change.

Id. at 404 n.10 (quoting Miller, 567 U.S. at 477, 132 S.Ct. at 2468).

         In State v. Louisell, we vacated a sentence for a determinate term of years in prison, holding that sentencing juvenile offenders convicted of first-degree murder to a fixed term of years was not an option "[b]ecause there was no statutory authority for the determinate sentence" and "judges may only impose punishment authorized by the legislature within constitutional constraints." 865 N.W.2d 590, 598 (Iowa 2015). We also rejected the defendant's argument on ripeness grounds that she would be denied a meaningful opportunity for release were she to become parole eligible given the low rates at which the state parole board had actually granted parole to eligible offenders. Id. at 601-02. Nevertheless, we reiterated that "juveniles convicted of crimes must be afforded a 'meaningful opportunity to obtain release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation'-if a sentencing judge, exercising discretion, determines parole should be available." Id. at 602 (quoting Graham, 560 U.S. at 75, 130 S.Ct. at 2030).

         Further, in State v. Seats, we expounded upon the sentencing factors espoused in Lyle and Miller that a sentencing court must consider "before sentencing a juvenile to life in prison without the possibility of parole." 865 N.W.2d 545, 555-57 (Iowa 2015). In applying these factors, we first established that "the presumption for any sentencing judge is that the judge should sentence juveniles to life in prison with the possibility of parole for murder unless the other factors require a different sentence." Id. at 555. Additionally, we explained that the sentencing factors require sentencing courts to acknowledge the differences between children and adults and consider the offender's "family and home environment," "the circumstances of the homicide offense," any substance abuse that may have played a role in the juvenile's offense, and that juveniles have a greater capacity for rehabilitation than adults do. Id. at 555-56 (quoting Miller, 567 U.S. at 477, 132 S.Ct. at 2468).

         In State v. Sweet, we adopted "a categorical rule that juvenile offenders may not be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole under article I, section 17 of the Iowa Constitution." 879 N.W.2d 811, 839 (Iowa 2016). Underlying this holding was our finding that a sentence of life without the possibility of parole required the sentencing judge to "do the impossible, namely, to determine whether the offender is 'irretrievably corrupt' at a time when even trained professionals with years of clinical experience would not attempt to make such a determination." Id. at 837. We concluded that the parole board is in the best position to determine whether the offender is invariably corrupt. Id. at 839.

         In Propps, we upheld a juvenile offender's indeterminate sentence with no mandatory minimum and immediate parole eligibility because it gave the juvenile the "potential for immediate parole if rehabilitation, maturity, and reform have been demonstrated." 897 N.W.2d 91, 101 (Iowa 2017). Moreover, in State v. Roby, we further developed the sentencing factors first set forth in Lyle, explaining that these factors should generally mitigate the punishment of a juvenile offender so that sentencing courts can devise a "punishment that serves the best interests of the child and of society." 897 N.W.2d 127, 144 (Iowa 2017) (quoting Lyle, 854 N.W.2d at 402). We also declined to categorically prohibit imposing a minimum term of incarceration without immediate parole eligibility on juvenile offenders convicted of first-degree murder as long as such sentences were only imposed after the sentencing judge considered the necessary mitigating factors associated with youth. Id. at 148. Finally, in Zarate, we held that article I, section 17 of the Iowa Constitution did not categorically prohibit sentencing juveniles convicted of first-degree murder to "life with the possibility of parole after serving a minimum term of confinement as determined by the court," or life with the possibility of immediate parole. 908 N.W.2d at 843, 856 (quoting Iowa Code § 902.1(2)(a)(2)).

         B. Applying the Felony-Murder Rule to Juvenile Offenders.

         Harrison argues applying the felony-murder rule to juvenile offenders when their liability is grounded on a theory of aiding and abetting violates due process under the Iowa and United States Constitutions. Specifically, Harrison alleges the felony-murder rule is premised on the assumption that juvenile offenders who participate in a forcible felony can appreciate the potential consequences of their participation even though juvenile offenders are "not developed enough to appreciate not only the assumption, but the natural consequence of the [forcible felony] (i.e. the murder)." Harrison relies primarily on our state and federal juvenile sentencing jurisprudence which recognizes that there is a "fundamental and virtually inexorable difference between juveniles and adults for the purposes of punishment." Lyle, 854 N.W.2d at 393. Further, Harrison reasons, even if he did understand the potential consequences of his participation in the robbery, science on juvenile development indicates that he was incapable of controlling his impulses with regard to his participation in the murder.[2]

         Iowa Code section 707.2(1)(b) states, "A person commits murder in the first degree when the person commits murder under any of the following circumstances . . . . The person kills another person while participating in a forcible felony." Iowa Code § 707.2(1)(b) (2015).[3] This definition of first-degree murder is known as the felony-murder rule, and it "began as a common-law doctrine of criminal law that any death resulting from the commission or attempted commission of a felony constitutes murder." State v. Tribble, 790 N.W.2d 121, 124 (Iowa 2010). "Felonies that have historically been used to support application of the felony-murder doctrine are those that are particularly serious or inherently dangerous." Id. In Iowa, the legislature has specified which felonies are classified as a "forcible felony" under the felony-murder rule in section 702.11(1). A forcible felony includes "any felonious child endangerment, assault, murder, sexual abuse, kidnapping, robbery, human trafficking, arson in the first degree, or burglary in the first degree." Iowa Code § 702.11(1).

         The felony-murder rule aims to deter people from committing those felonies the legislature has deemed inherently dangerous to the life of others. See Tribble, 790 N.W.2d at 127. To promote deterrence, the rule transforms those felonies "into first-degree murder if a person is killed in the course of the felony, even though the felon had no specific intent or premeditation otherwise necessary to elevate the killing of another into first-degree murder." Id. at 127-28. Consequently,

[w]hen a person engages in conduct dangerous enough to be identified by our legislature as a predicate felony for felony murder, the elements of the felony-murder statute are satisfied if the person also engages in an act causing death while participating in the dangerous conduct.

Id. at 126. "In other words, our legislature adopted felony murder to deter the commission of felonies, but not by totally eliminating the relationship between criminal intent and criminal liability." Id. at 128.

         In contrast to first-degree murder under section 707.2(1)(a), which requires a showing that the defendant "willfully, deliberately, and with premeditation kills another person," first-degree murder under the felony-murder rule only requires a showing that the defendant acted with the specific intent to commit the predicate felony that led to the killing. Compare Iowa Code § 707.2(1)(a), with id. § 707.2(1)(b). This difference between the intent required for premeditated murder and felony murder has produced confusion and a lack of conformity in the way our court and other courts have explained the felony-murder rule in the past. For example, Harrison notes that our court previously stated in State v. Heemstra, that the elements of premeditated murder under section 707.2(1)-namely that the murder was committed "willfully, deliberately, and with premeditation"-"are presumed to exist if the State proves participation in the underlying forcible felony" for a charge of felony murder. 721 N.W.2d 549, 554 (Iowa 2006) (quoting Iowa Code § 707.2(1) (2001)). Harrison capitalizes on this language in his argument that the felony-murder rule creates a conclusive presumption that the defendant committed the killing with malice aforethought in violation of the Due Process Clauses of the Iowa and United States Constitutions.

         The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, and Article I, section 9 of the Iowa Constitution, prohibit the state from depriving any person of "life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." U.S. Const. amends. V, XIV; Iowa Const. art. I, § 9. " 'Due process requires fundamental fairness in a judicial proceeding,' so a trial that is fundamentally unfair violates the guarantees of due process in the United States and Iowa Constitutions." More v. State, 880 N.W.2d 487, 499 (Iowa 2016) (quoting State v. Becker, 818 N.W.2d 135, 148 (Iowa 2012), overruled on other grounds by Alcala, 880 N.W.2d at 708 & n.3). "[T]he Due Process Clause protects the accused against conviction except upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt of every fact necessary to constitute the crime with which he is charged." In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 364, 90 S.Ct. 1068, 1073 (1970). We have recognized that "a mandatory presumption violates the due process clause because it undermines the fact finder's responsibility to find the ultimate facts beyond a reasonable doubt." State v. Winders, 359 N.W.2d 417, 419 (Iowa 1984). "[T]his presumption would conflict with the overriding presumption of innocence with which the law endows the accused and which extends to every element of the crime." Sandstrom v. Montana, 442 U.S. 510, 522, 99 S.Ct. 2450, 2458 (1979) (emphasis omitted) (quoting Morissette v. United States, 342 U.S. 246, 275, 72 S.Ct. 240, 256 (1952)).

         We have previously addressed a due process challenge like the one Harrison now makes regarding the alleged presumptions incorporated in the felony-murder rule, as well as application of the felony-murder rule to defendants who were convicted of felony-murder for aiding and abetting a felony. See generally Conner v. State, 362 N.W.2d 449 (Iowa 1985). Similar to this case, the defendant in Conner claimed "that conclusively attributing malice aforethought to him in relation to the killing, merely from his participation in the underlying felony," violated his right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Id. at 455. Like Harrison, the defendant argued that the felony-murder rule creates an unconstitutional presumption that takes the burden off the state to prove the requisite culpability for murder. Id. at 456. We rejected this argument, holding it was "misplaced" because "[a]ccomplice liability . . . is a matter of substantive law that places responsibility on a wrongdoer for the direct and indirect consequences of his joint criminal conduct with another." Id.; see also State v. Nowlin, 244 N.W.2d 596, 604-05 (Iowa 1976) ("The felony-murder statute does not relieve the State of the burden of proving essential elements of first-degree murder. The elements [of willfulness, deliberation, and premeditation] alleged by defendant to be essential are not essential [to felony murder]."). Finally, we exclaimed, "The State, through the enactment of laws, has a right to prescribe the nature of the acts that constitute criminal conduct." Conner, 362 N.W.2d at 456.

         Despite our rejection of Harrison's argument in Conner, Harrison argues Conner is not controlling because we did not decide Conner under the Iowa Constitution, it did not involve a juvenile offender, and it directly contradicts our recognition in Heemstra of the presumptions inherent to the felony-murder rule. While we acknowledge our court previously stated in Heemstra that the felony-murder rule presumes the defendant committed the killing with malice, we were not speaking to the constitutional issue now raised. See 721 N.W.2d at 554. As such, that language is not controlling in this case.

         The felony-murder rule does not create a conclusive presumption that the defendant committed the murder "willfully, deliberately, and with premeditation," because these are not elements of first-degree felony murder in Iowa. Nowlin, 244 N.W.2d at 604-05. The substantive statutory definition of first-degree felony murder in Iowa does not include these elements since the state is only required to show the specific intent to commit the predicate felony rather than show the defendant acted with premeditation and deliberation to commit murder. See Iowa Code § 707.2(1)(b). This is a substantive rule of law in Iowa and not simply an evidentiary shortcut to find malice or a presumption that malice existed on the part of the defendant. Consequently, whether the defendant acted "willfully, deliberately, and with premeditation" is wholly irrelevant when the defendant is charged with felony murder, regardless of the dicta Harrison cites from Heemstra. "In that event the 'conclusive presumption' is no more than a procedural fiction that masks a substantive reality, to wit, that as a matter of law malice is not an element of felony murder." People v. Dillon, 668 P.2d 697, 717 (Cal. 1983) (en banc). Therefore, it does not follow that the felony-murder rule violates the Due Process Clauses of the Iowa or United States Constitutions by creating a conclusive and unconstitutional presumption about the defendant's intent to commit murder. Our ruling is supported by a number of other states, which have likewise considered and rejected claims that the felony-murder rule violates due process because it creates an unconstitutional presumption that the defendant committed the killing with malice aforethought.[4]

         By asking us to rely on a procedural fiction to hold that the felony-murder rule creates an unconstitutional presumption about the intent of juvenile offenders, Harrison is essentially asking us to implement greater due process rights for juvenile offenders than adult offenders. Harrison is right that we have recognized that "children are constitutionally different from adults," Seats, 865 N.W.2d at 556 (quoting Miller, 567 U.S. at 471, 132 S.Ct. at 2464), for sentencing purposes due to "the features of youthful behavior, such as 'immaturity, impetuosity, and failure to appreciate risks and consequences.' " Lyle, 854 N.W.2d at 404 n.10 (quoting Miller, 567 U.S. at 477, 132 S.Ct. at 2468). Yet, we have never held or implied that these constitutionally recognized differences require our court or the legislature to transform the elements of any given offense to account for these differences. Harrison seeks to expand the scope of our juvenile sentencing jurisprudence far beyond its rational reach.

         "Harm to a victim is not lessened because of the young age of an offender." Propps, 897 N.W.2d at 102. "[W]hile youth is a mitigating factor in sentencing, it is not an excuse." Lyle, 854 N.W.2d at 398 (quoting Null, 836 N.W.2d at 75). Consequently, our "constitutional analysis is not about excusing juvenile behavior, but imposing punishment in a way that is consistent with our understanding of humanity today." Propps, 897 N.W.2d at 102 (quoting Lyle, 854 N.W.2d at 398). We do this by providing juveniles with an individualized sentencing process that incorporates a number of mitigating factors associated with "the features of youthful behavior." Lyle, 854 N.W.2d at 404 n.10; see also Zarate, 908 N.W.2d at 855-56. Nevertheless,

the State has a legitimate interest in holding persons responsible for their criminal acts. When those acts are particularly serious, as in the case of forcible felonies, it is logical that the State would assign grave consequences to them . . . . "Having placed certain designated crimes committed by juveniles who have reached the age of sixteen within the criminal court jurisdiction, the legislature presumably thought the need for adult discipline and legal restraint was necessary in these cases."

State v. Mann, 602 N.W.2d 785, 792-93 (Iowa 1999) (quoting State v. Terry, 569 N.W.2d 364, 367 (Iowa 1997)).

         Harrison does not provide us with any reason for further intruding upon the role of the legislature to expand our juvenile sentencing jurisprudence to hold that juvenile offenders cannot be tried for certain crimes altogether due to their mens rea requirements. No other state that has considered this issue has abolished the application of the felony-murder rule to juvenile offenders.[5] Moreover, despite the controversy surrounding the felony-murder rule, few states have actually abolished the felony-murder rule, and one of these states has only abrogated the common law felony-murder rule as opposed to a statutory version.[6]Notably, with the exception of Michigan, those states that have abolished the use of the felony-murder rule have done so through statutes enacted by their state legislatures as opposed to judicial abrogation.

         Further, Harrison misrepresents the felony-murder rule in his argument that it is premised on the ability to foresee danger. Though the inherent dangerousness of the forcible felonies encompassed within the felony-murder rule may make certain killings foreseeable, the felony-murder rule encompasses unforeseeable crimes. The premise of the rule is that there are certain felonies that "are so inherently dangerous that proof of participating in these crimes may obviate the need for showing all of the elements normally required for first-degree murder." Heemstra, 721 N.W.2d at 554. Robbery, especially armed robbery, requires the use of force and is "so inherently dangerous" that participating in it as the principal or aider and abettor in the manner that Harrison did carries with it an undeniable prospect of grave harm to the life of others. See Conner, 362 N.W.2d at 456.

The fact that killing was not within the actual contemplation and intention of one of the parties to the robbery does not relieve such person of the responsibility as long as the other party to the robbery had the necessary mens rea and the act was a consequence of carrying out the unlawful common design.

Id. at 455. Thus, foreseeability is irrelevant to the felony-murder rule, and Harrison's alleged inability to foresee the consequences of his decision to participate in a robbery is likewise irrelevant to his conviction.

         Finally, Harrison's contentions that he could not foresee the consequences of his decision to participate in a robbery, or that he could not control his impulses even if he could foresee the consequences, are irreconcilable with his admitted role in the commission of the robbery. Harrison admitted that he knew Collins was going to commit a "lick" when Harrison knowingly accompanied him to Hickman Lane that day. Harrison then lured McHenry to Collins and used force against him to help Collins carry out the robbery. By participating in robbery-a forcible felony that the Iowa legislature has deemed inherently dangerous to human life-Harrison became liable for any killing committed in the commission of that offense by him or Collins. While there may be a unique factual situation in which the felony-murder rule is unconstitutional as applied to a certain juvenile offender, this is not that case. Therefore, we decline to hold that the felony-murder rule is fundamentally unfair or that it violates due process under the Iowa or United States Constitutions when applied to juvenile offenders pursuant to a theory of aiding and abetting.

         C. Sentencing Juveniles Convicted Under the Felony-Murder Rule.

         Harrison presents both an as-applied and categorical constitutional challenge to his sentence of life imprisonment with immediate parole eligibility. Harrison argues that the sentence of life imprisonment with the possibility of immediate parole for juvenile offenders convicted of first-degree murder as an accomplice to felony murder constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the Iowa and United States Constitutions. Further, Harrison claims his sentence of life imprisonment with the possibility of immediate parole is "grossly disproportionate to [his] ultimate[ ] culpability" since he "did not personally murder any individual, [and] no evidence was presented that he knew a murder would happen or was likely to happen."

         1. Categorical challenge.

         We analyze categorical challenges to a sentence through a two-step inquiry. Lyle, 854 N.W.2d at 386. We first review " 'objective indicia of society's standards, as expressed in legislative enactments and state practice' to determine whether there is a national consensus against the sentencing practice at issue." Id. (quoting Graham, 560 U.S. at 61, 130 S.Ct. at 2022). Next, we examine "our controlling precedents and our interpretation of the Iowa Constitution's text, history, meaning, and purpose to guide our own independent judgment on the constitutionality of the challenged sentence." Zarate, 908 N.W.2d at 843. We also assess "the culpability of the offenders at issue in light of their crimes and characteristics, along with the severity of the punishment in question," as well as whether the sentencing practice furthers legitimate penological goals. Lyle, 854 N.W.2d at 386 (quoting Graham, 560 U.S. at 67, 130 S.Ct. at 2026).

         First, there is not a national consensus against sentencing juvenile offenders convicted of felony murder as the principal or accomplice to life imprisonment with immediate parole eligibility, and Harrison acknowledges this. In fact, he "is not aware of any state that has categorically held that life with the possibility of parole should be categorically prohibited for juveniles convicted of felony murder."[7] The national consensus remains in favor of subjecting juvenile offenders convicted of first-degree murder under the felony-murder rule-regardless of whether an offender was aiding and abetting or the principal actor-to the same sentencing options as juvenile offenders convicted of premeditated first-degree murder.[8]

         In addition to the national consensus in favor of treating felony murder and premeditated murder the same for sentencing purposes, there are objective indicia that the Iowa legislature has adopted this standard regarding the challenged sentencing practice. "Legislative judgments can be 'the most reliable objective indicators of community standards for purposes of determining whether a punishment is cruel and unusual.' " Lyle, 854 N.W.2d at 388 (quoting State v. Bruegger, 773 N.W.2d 862, 873 (Iowa 2009)). The legislature is aware of the different forms of first-degree murder, yet it has declined to treat them differently for sentencing purposes. This legislative decision to require mandatory life imprisonment with the possibility of immediate parole for juvenile offenders convicted of either premeditated murder or felony murder is indicative of a consensus in Iowa in favor of the challenged sentencing practice.

         Despite the fact that there is no national consensus in opposition to the challenged sentencing practice based on the laws of other states, Harrison asks us to consider "that many legal scholars throughout the country have not only routinely held that the felony murder rule is improper, but have specifically argued for the abolishment of the felony murder rule as applied to juveniles." Nevertheless, much of the scholarly criticism-including from some of the legal scholars Harrison cites-of applying the felony-murder rule to juveniles focuses on the sentence of life without parole that many jurisdictions impose on juveniles convicted of felony murder. See, e.g., Steven A. Drizin & Allison McGowen Keegan, Abolishing the Use of the Felony-Murder Rule When the Defendant Is a Teenager, 28 Nova L. Rev. 507, 536, 541 (2004) (noting "it is debatable as to whether we should ease the prosecution's burden for a crime that can carry the death penalty or life without possibility of parole, and especially debatable when child defendants are involved and concluding that juveniles "convicted of felony murder should be exempted from the sentence of life without the possibility of parole"); Erin H. Flynn, Comment, Dismantling the Felony-Murder Rule: Juvenile Deterrence and Retribution Post-Roper v. Simmons, 156 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1049, 1068 (2008) ("If convicted of a felony-murder charge, juveniles are often subject to corresponding mandatory sentencing laws that remove a judge's discretion to account for a juvenile offender's ...


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