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State v. Buchanan

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 15, 2018

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
ISAIAH T. BUCHANAN, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, Andrea J. Dryer, Judge.

         Isaiah Buchanan appeals from his convictions for robbery in the first degree, being a felon in possession of a firearm, and carrying weapons.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Melinda J. Nye, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Zachary C. Miller, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

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


         Isaiah Buchanan appeals from his convictions for first-degree robbery, in violation of Iowa Code section 711.2 (2016); being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of section 724.26(1); and carrying weapons, in violation of section 724.4(1). Buchanan asserts the district court erred in instructing the jury that a claim of right is not a defense to theft because he did not raise the defense. In the alternative, he maintains that if this court concludes the claim-of-right defense was implicated, his trial counsel was ineffective in failing to assert it affirmatively. Buchanan also contends the court erred in denying Buchanan's request to have three jurors removed for cause. Finally, he claims the district court erred in allowing the State to play the recordings of his jailhouse phone calls.

         We are not convinced Buchanan has suffered any prejudice as a result of the claim-of-right jury instruction. He cannot establish his trial attorney breached an essential duty in failing to raise a claim-of-right defense; this ineffective-assistance-of-counsel claim thus fails. With respect to Buchanan's juror challenge, Buchanan must show that the result was a juror being seated who was not impartial, which Buchanan has not attempted to do. Finally, we find no prejudicial error in the admission of the recorded jail phone calls. We therefore affirm his convictions.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         On April 4, 2016, Isaiah Buchanan confronted Jose Galindo inside J's R&B Lounge (hereinafter J's) in Waterloo. Buchanan was carrying some sort of weapon, and when he left, he had Galindo's coat. Buchanan was charged in four counts: robbery in the first degree, going armed with intent, being a felon in possession of a firearm, and carrying weapons.

         During jury selection, Buchanan moved to strike jurors 60, 7 and 92 for cause, and the district court denied Buchanan's motions as to all three potential jurors. Buchanan utilized peremptory strikes to remove jurors 60 and 7, but juror 92 remained on the panel and served as a juror in Buchanan's trial.

         In opening argument, defense counsel stated the evidence would show,

Mr. Buchanan did ask Mr. Galindo for the money that he was owed. The evidence will show that Mr. Galindo turned out his pockets and said "I don't have any money but here, you can have my coat." He offered his coat. Whether that was security, collateral for what was still owed or whether he thought that constituted some sort of partial payment, I don't know. I don't know what his rationale was in doing so. But what the evidence will show is that the coat was not demanded from him. It was not taken from him. There was no theft involved. This was Mr. Galindo's voluntary act to try to buy himself more time on the debt that he owed.
The evidence will also show that Mr. Buchanan does have a past. As [prosecutor] Mr. Walz indicated, there is a stipulation. Mr. Buchanan will acknowledge that he has previously been convicted of a felony. That's his past. He has come to terms with that. He accepts that. He is not hiding from that. He is not running from that. He acknowledges it. But I believe that the evidence will also show that that is not a violent past. That he does not have a history of doing the kind of things that he has been accused of here. And we intend to present witnesses including Mr. Buchanan who will say as much.

         At trial, Galindo testified he had known Buchanan since they were young. A few days before the interaction at J's, Buchanan pulled up in a vehicle in front of Galindo's house and Galindo saw Buchanan had a pistol in his lap, either a .38 or nine millimeter. Galindo stated, "I just told him to do what he had to do."

         Then, on April 4, Galindo was at J's with a friend, Rob, and played a game of pool. Rob left and Galindo was sitting at the end of the bar having some drinks and talking with the owner of the establishment, Jay Wilder. Galindo saw Buchanan enter J's and approach Galindo "waving a gun" at him-the same gun Galindo had seen a few days earlier. Galindo testified Buchanan pointed the gun at his face and "said that he wanted the money from my pockets. I told him no, and then he decided to take my jacket." Galindo stated the whole interaction lasted "a minute or less." Galindo stated he feared Buchanan was going to shoot him. Galindo testified he did not owe Buchanan money and had never borrowed money from Buchanan.

         On cross-examination, Galindo acknowledged he did not tell police Buchanan had a gun when he pulled his car up to the residence. Galindo also testified as follows:

Q. Is there another incident that occurred around that time where you claim that Mr. Buchanan came up to your truck with a bat or something like that?

         A. He approached my truck.

Q. Were you in the truck?
A. Yes. I was in the truck.
Q. Why did he approach your truck?
A. I got waved down to stop so I stopped. I was with a friend of mine. He was in the passenger side. And he came up to the truck and started accusing me of something that I had no-no idea what he was talking about, and we just took off.
Q. So it had nothing to do with you owing Mr. Buchanan money?
A. No, sir.
Q. Was there an incident around that time where you went to a person's house to obtain some marijuana, and you saw Mr. Buchanan at that house?
A. No, sir.
Q. Was there a time that you went to someone's-around this time, around the April 4th time, that you went to someone's house to get a movie and saw Mr. Buchanan?
A. I can't recollect that, sir.
Q. Was there a time around this April 4th date that you actually sat down with Mr. Buchanan and smoked marijuana with Mr. Buchanan?
A. Years ago.
Q. You said that you don't recall the incident where you went over to the friend's house to go get movies; is that correct?
A. That's correct, sir.
Q. You do recall though getting your deposition taken here at the courthouse on December 2, 2016?
A. Yes, I remember that, sir.
Q. So when you went to that friend's house to get a movie, was Mr. Buchanan there?
A. He showed up after I did.
Q. Mr. Buchanan, did he in any way demand money or that he be repaid for a debt?
A. He demanded money, but I did not owe him any money, and I told him I don't know what he was talking about.
Q. So you don't know anything about this debt that Mr. Buchanan claims that you owe?
A. This debt-he wants-he wants to collect a debt from me that is not even about me. I don't even know about the debt that he wants-he wants to collect something that I have nothing to do with.
Q. So you do know something about this debt?
A. Well, it was brought to my attention.

         Wilder described that at about 7:30 p.m. on April 4, he was talking to Galindo at the end of the bar at J's when he saw Buchanan, who "had a gun" that looked like a nine millimeter. Wilder owned a nine millimeter so he was familiar with its appearance. He stated he also knew what a Taser looked like, and Buchanan was not holding a Taser. Wilder said he could not understand what Buchanan was saying to Galindo because the music was loud, but he heard Galindo say, "I don't have anything." Buchanan then searched Galindo's pockets while holding the gun against Galindo's stomach. Galindo then said to Buchanan, "You can have my coat." Wilder told Buchanan to "[g]et that thing out of here," and Buchanan left, "apologiz[ing] to Mr. Jay . . . [he] didn't mean no disrespect." Wilder called the police when Buchanan left.

         Police arrived and were talking with Wilder when Buchanan called J's to ask if the police were there. Wilder said they were, and gave the phone to an officer, but Buchanan hung up. Investigator Brice Lippert retrieved the phone number from Wilder's call history, and phone records confirmed it was Buchanan's phone number. Lippert attempted to telephone Buchanan several times. Buchanan insisted he had not been at J's and had nothing to talk to the officer about. Cell phone records indicate Buchanan traveled from Waterloo to Tennessee in the next several hours.

         The bartender, Tina Ackerson, testified she saw Buchanan enter the bar "like he was agitated," approach Galindo, say something like "[j]ust give it up," and "finally he demanded [Galindo's] jacket and just pulled it off of him." She stated she saw Buchanan with a gun in his hand, "swinging it back and forth" but not pointing it at anyone. Ackerson described the gun as a nine millimeter semiautomatic. ...

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