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State v. Hall

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 26, 2018

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
IMERE HALL, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Dubuque County, Thomas A. Bitter, Judge.

         Imere Hall appeals his convictions of first-degree murder and first-degree robbery following a jury trial.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Shellie L. Knipfer, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kyle P. Hanson, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Heard by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.

          DOYLE, JUDGE.

         In the early morning hours of April 2, 2016, Tacari Minifee shot and killed Collin Brown. Defendant Imere Hall was at the scene of the crime. Following a jury trial, Hall was found guilty of first-degree murder and first-degree robbery by way of aiding and abetting Minifee. Hall appeals, [1] first arguing, as he did at trial, that a break in the action, along with his conduct, evidences he withdrew from the scene and was no longer aiding and abetting Minifee when Minifee killed Brown. He also challenges the constitutionality of his sentence, arguing life without parole for a person who commits a crime at just over the age of eighteen is cruel and unusual punishment and violates equal protection of the laws. Finally, Hall sets out four pro se statements alleging errors without further discussion. Upon our review, we affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         Hall testified at his trial. There, he told the jury the following transpired the night Collin Brown was murdered.

         In the late night hours of April 1, 2016, Hall, then eighteen years old, went with Tacari Minifee and Eric Campbell to buy marijuana from Collin Brown. Minifee and Campbell were members of the Dead Money gang, of which Hall was not a member. Hall's friend, Taylor Shaw, drove Hall, Minifee, and Campbell to Brown's neighborhood, but they were unsure of where Brown's home was located. The group then went to a McDonald's restaraunt and ate, and Minifee called someone that knew where Brown lived. A car, driven by Savanna Stotlar, arrived at McDonald's, and Shaw, with Hall, Minifee, and Campbell as passengers, followed Stotlar's car to Brown's home in the early morning hours of April 2. Shaw parked the car a distance from Brown's home.

         Hall walked up to Brown's door with Minifee and Campbell. Campbell kicked in Brown's door and pulled out a gun. Minifee also had a gun. Hall proceeded inside with Minifee and Campbell.

         Brown and his girlfriend, Alecea Lombardi, were inside the home when the three men entered. Minifee and Campbell sought out Brown, and Hall went to Lombardi, who was upset. Hall knew Lombardi and was attempting to calm her when Campbell came to them, pointed his gun at Lombardi, and demanded money. Lombardi grabbed her purse from the couch and gave it to Campbell. Meanwhile, Brown jumped out the window and Minifee pursued him.

         Hall fled Brown's home with Campbell, running for the getaway car. While running, Hall saw Brown and someone pursuing Brown but continued to Shaw's car. Then Hall heard two gunshots. Hall got to Shaw's car and told her to go. Minifee then got in Shaw's car, and they drove way.

         The next morning, Shaw, Minifee, and Hall were found at Shaw's home and taken in by the police for questioning. Hall admitted he was untruthful with law enforcement officers concerning his connection to the previous night's activities. Hall explained he was afraid both he and Shaw were in danger because they knew Minifee, a gang member, had killed Brown.

         Lombardi also testified and gave a different account. Lombardi testified that after the door was kicked in, three men burst in; one tall, one medium height, and one short. All were wearing dark clothing, had bandanas covering their faces, and hoods over their heads. All had guns. The shorter man came over to her while the other two men beat up Brown. The man who came to her "kept telling [her] that [her and her] kids were going to be okay." She said this person held a gun to her head.

         Lombardi testified the tall man came over to her and demanded money, so she got up and got her purse from the couch. She took out her wallet to remove the cash, and the man just took her wallet. Lombardi heard Brown say, in a kind of disguised voice, "Police 9-1-1," and everyone just left. Lombardi ran to check on her children, and then she heard gunshots. She then called 9-1-1.

         Shaw, driver of the getaway car, testified Campbell gave her directions to Brown's home but could not find it. The group went to McDonald's and someone was called to assist them in locating Brown's home. Stotlar arrived at the McDonald's, and Shaw followed Stotlar's car to Brown's home. When they got to Brown's home, Stotlar tapped her brake lights to signal they were at the right place. Shaw parked the car some distance from the home. Hall, Minifee, and Campbell then got out of the car and walked toward Brown's home. Shaw turned the car around, switched the lights off, but kept the motor running. After a couple of minutes, Campbell got in the car, and Hall followed as gunshots went off. Shaw started to drive off but waited for Minifee. Once Minifee got in the car, Shaw drove fast from the scene.

         Ultimately, the jury found Hall guilty of first-degree murder and robbery for aiding and abetting Minifee.

         II. Discussion.

         Hall appeals, arguing he did not aid and abet Minifee because he withdrew his participation in the crime when he fled Brown's home; consequently, the district court should have granted his motion for judgment of acquittal. He also challenges the constitutionality of a life-without-parole sentence for an eighteen-year-old criminal's conviction. Finally, he raises some issues pro se.

         A. Sufficiency ...

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