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State v. Jefferson

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 12, 2018

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Tama County, Mary E. Chicchelly, Judge.

         A defendant appeals his conviction for aiding and abetting first-degree murder. AFFIRMED.

          Cory J. Goldensoph, Cedar Rapids, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Darrel L. Mullins and Laura Roan, Assistant Attorneys General, for appellee.

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

          MULLINS, Judge.

         Dustin Jefferson appeals his conviction of aiding and abetting first-degree murder in violation of Iowa Code section 707.2 (2013). He argues there is insufficient evidence to support his conviction and his trial counsel was ineffective in a number of respects.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         Dustin[1] was convicted of aiding and abetting his mother, Ginger Jefferson, in the stabbing death of his wife, Kerry Jefferson. Dustin and Kerry had a volatile marriage and lived separately. Dustin lived at his cousin Carlos's house, but Kerry often spent time with him there. Kerry fearfully told a friend shortly before her death that Dustin might hurt or kill her. The next day, however, she did not want to talk about it.

         Kerry and Dustin spent the night together at Carlos's house on September 24, 2013. The next day, September 25, Ginger and her daughter Sahara, Dustin's sister, arrived at the house before 10:00 a.m. Ginger, Sahara, and Dustin began to drink alcohol together. Around 11:00 a.m., Kerry left the house. A liquor store clerk testified that between 11:00 and 11:30 a.m., Kerry arrived at the store and purchased a bottle of whiskey. The store clerk testified she knew Kerry and had a chance to observe her face during the sale; she did not notice any bruises or injury to her body or face, and testified "she looked-she actually looked really good that day."

         Kerry's mother testified that between 11:00 and 11:30 a.m., Kerry came to visit her for approximately an hour. Kerry was in a good mood and was excited that she was going to have a job interview for a new CNA job the next day. Her mother testified concerning how Kerry looked that day:

Q. When you saw your daughter Kerry on the 25th of September of 2013, did she have any bruises or injuries or any indication that she'd been in any sort of physical altercation?
A. No.
Q. She looked fine?
A. She looked fine.

         Kerry then returned to Carlos's house.

         According to Dustin's police interview given later that day, Dustin, Sahara, and Ginger were going to go for a drive and asked Kerry if she wanted to come. Dustin told police:

And I'm driving. And I'm drunk, so she's all, she's already drunk and she's already mad because I'm driving and she knows I got a warrant, so that's her main thing. Well, I'm calling the cops so you don't drive. You got a warrant. . . . I was like well, we're gonna go for a drive, you wanna go? She said no, I'm not gonna go. And I was like all right, well, we're gonna go for a cruise, and she said well, I'm calling the fuckin' cops because you're driving.

         Sometime before 1:00 p.m., Dustin, Ginger, and Sahara left in Sahara's car, with Dustin driving.

Between 1:00 and 2:40 p.m., Kerry's phone was used to place several phone calls to Dustin and several phone calls to the Meskwaki Nation Police Department.[2] Kerry called the police department at 1:22 p.m. and had a conversation with Officer Joe Hols about an outstanding arrest warrant for Dustin, and possible locations where Dustin could be found. There were then three calls to Dustin's phone-1:56 p.m. for one minute and seven seconds; 2:02 p.m. for twenty-two seconds; and 2:11 p.m. for eighteen seconds.

         At 2:15 p.m., Kerry called the police department a second time and requested the administrative assistant to connect her to Officer Hols. Officer Hols was unavailable and Kerry was transferred to Detective Craig Karr. This second call to the police department lasted seven minutes and six seconds. At 2:22 p.m., Kerry called Dustin in a call lasting sixteen seconds. Also at 2:22 p.m., Kerry called the police department for one minute and twenty-three seconds. She requested to speak to Detective Karr, was put on hold, and then disconnected. At 2:24 p.m., Kerry phoned Dustin in a call lasting fifty-five seconds.

         At 2:33 p.m., Kerry called the police department, apparently inadvertently, for fifty-six seconds, then four and seven seconds. In the first, longest call, the administrative assistant at the police department recognized the voice of Kerry arguing with two other people she said sounded like females. The assistant heard Kerry yelling that the other two were going to jail for what they had done and heard what she identified as two female voices also yelling in response, but she was unable to understand what they were saying. Eventually, Kerry realized that someone on her phone was trying to get her attention, and she identified herself and apologized for the "ass dial."

         At 2:35 p.m., approximately one minute after her inadvertent calls to the police department, Kerry called the police department again and spoke to Detective Karr in a call lasting two minutes and twenty seconds. Detective Karr testified Kerry asked him if he had arrested Dustin yet. When Detective Karr replied he had not, she told him to get to 104 Harmon Street-Carlos's house- because Dustin was there and "won't be here long."[3]

         According to Dustin's statement to law enforcement, he and Ginger returned to Carlos's house. Sahara was no longer with them; she testified that during the drive Dustin stopped the car and she got out to go to the bathroom outdoors and did not get back in the vehicle. A police officer later saw Sahara walking on the highway at 2:37 p.m. and transported her to the Grinnell Medical Center for treatment for diabetes.

         According to Dustin's statement to police the following day, he and Ginger got out of the car at Carlos's house, Dustin went to the bathroom outside, and then he sat down in a chair in front of the garage with another beer. Ginger went inside to use the bathroom. Dustin said Kerry stuck her head out the door and told him the police were coming. Minutes later, Ginger emerged from the back of the house with her hands bloody, told Dustin she had "hurt Kerry," and took off running. Dustin stated he was "in shock" and got in his car and drove around the block looking for Ginger.

         Ginger went to Amber Navarro's home, approximately one block from Carlos's house. Amber is the girlfriend of Daniel, who is Ginger's nephew and Dustin's cousin. Ginger was upset, intoxicated, and had blood on her hands. Because Amber's children were present, Amber assisted Ginger in washing her hands so the children would not see the blood and be frightened. At some point, Ginger fell and Amber helped her up. During her direct examination by the State, Amber testified:

Q. What else did Ginger Jefferson say regarding stabbing her daughter-in-law Kerry?
A. She said that her and Kerry got into it and she accused her sleeping-her and Dustin sleeping together on a gravel road.
Q. That Kerry was?
A. Kerry was accusing Dustin and Ginger of sleeping together on a gravel road.
Q. And did Ginger explain how she stabbed or came to stab her daughter-in-law Kerry?
A. No, she just said they got into it and she stabbed her twice in the neck.
Q. What did she say about a knife being brought out?
A. She said that they were playing around with a knife.
Q. Did she explain at all how she happened to take the knife?
A. No.
Q. Did she explain who they was?
A. No.

         Amber testified Ginger believed Kerry was dead. Ginger asked Amber to call Laurie Davenport, a daughter-in-law to Ginger, and both Amber and Laurie recall Ginger stating, "I stabbed ...

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