from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Douglas F.
Garcia appeals his convictions for two counts of first-degree
murder and two counts of first-degree robbery.
C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Melinda J. Nye,
Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kyle P. Hanson, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and Tabor, JJ.
VAITHESWARAN, Presiding Judge.
men hatched a plan to rob a person who was seeking to buy
marijuana from one of them. They enlisted the help of Albert
Garcia because they knew Garcia had a gun. Garcia ended up
shooting the would-be marijuana purchaser and his friend.
State charged Garcia with two counts of first-degree murder,
in violation of Iowa Code sections 707.1 and 707.2 (2015),
and two counts of robbery in the first degree, in violation
of sections 711.1 and 711.2. A jury found him guilty as
charged, and the district court sentenced him to two terms of
life imprisonment without the possibility of parole and two
prison terms not exceeding twenty-five years. The sentences
were to run consecutively.
appeal, Garcia contends (1) a police detective lacked the
qualifications to provide expert testimony about cell phone
technology; (2) accomplice testimony was not corroborated by
sufficient evidence; (3) his trial attorney was ineffective
in failing to object to an instruction informing the jury it
could consider his out-of-court statements "just as if
they had been made at trial"; and (4) his murder
convictions and sentences should be vacated under a merger
Expert Testimony-Cell Phone Technology
trial, the prosecutor asked a Des Moines police detective to
pinpoint the locations of a cell phone belonging to one of
the participants in the crimes, based on cell tower
information. The detective testified the locations were near
the crime scene. The prosecutor then asked about the
locations of Garcia's cell phone. After the detective
identified the locations, the prosecutor engaged in the
following exchange about cell phone tower technology:
Q. Generally speaking based upon your training and
experience, how do cell phones connect to particular towers?
A. When it's trying to get a signal, it goes to whatever
the clearest closest tower is. If you start a call and you
are traveling, it will sometimes switch towers from one to
another. A lot of times if you have a lengthy phone call, it
will connect to multiple towers.
juncture, Garcia's attorney objected to the testimony on
the ground the detective was not "certified as an expert
in cell phone technology." The district court overruled
the objection and the detective continued: "Essentially
it connects to the closest tower and communicates with
whatever the closest tower is that it can communicate
contends, "Testimony about cellular phone technology and
the use of cell tower data to estimate the location of a cell
phone is technical, specialized information that is beyond
the understanding of the average lay person and properly the
subject of expert testimony." In his view, the detective
was unqualified to testify about "location based on the
cellphone tower records because the State presented no
evidence of [the detective's] experience or knowledge in
the area of cell phone technology."
State responds with several error preservation concerns. We
agree with the State that Garcia's objection to the
question quoted above came too late and he failed to object
to other testimony about cell phone technology. Accordingly,
he did not ...