from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Thomas G.
Crawford appeals the judgment and sentence imposed following
his second-degree-murder conviction. CONVICTION
AFFIRMED, SENTENCE VACATED IN PART, AND REMANDED.
C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Mary K. Conroy,
Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Timothy M. Hau, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee.
Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Potterfield and Doyle, JJ.
convicted William Crawford of second-degree murder for his
role in the 2016 stabbing death of Romane Nunn. On appeal,
Crawford challenges the district court's rulings denying
his motion to continue trial and admitting a video recording
of his police interview into evidence. He also challenges the
portion of his sentence requiring the assessment of appellate
Denial of Motion to Continue.
contends the district court abused its discretion in denying
his motion to continue trial. Our standard of review of
depends on the grounds for the motion. See State v.
Clark, 814 N.W.2d 551, 560 (Iowa 2012). Generally, we
review the denial of a motion for continuance for an abuse of
discretion. See id. This standard is a difficult one
to meet. Van Hoff v. State, 447 N.W.2d 665, 669
(Iowa Ct. App. 1989). However, if the court's denial of a
continuance impedes the defendant's right to present a
defense, it implicates a fundamental element of due process
and our review is de novo. Clark, 814 N.W.2d at
560-61; In re Orcutt, 173 N.W.2d 66, 70 (Iowa 1969)
(noting that the assignment of counsel under circumstances
that deprive a defendant of the right to prepare a defense
does not satisfy due process requirements). Because motions
for continuance are discouraged, the court may not grant a
continuance unless the defendant shows a "good and
compelling cause." Iowa R. Crim. P. 2.9(2). "The
burden rests on the one seeking a continuance to show that
'substantial justice will be more nearly obtained'
thereby." State v. Ruesga, 619 N.W.2d 377, 384
(Iowa 2000) (quoting Iowa R. Civ. P. 1.911(1)).
September 21, 2016, the State charged Crawford with
first-degree murder and willful injury resulting in serious
injury. The district court scheduled trial to begin on August
21, 2017. Initially, Crawford was represented by the public
defender's office, but after a break down in his
relationship with his attorneys, he requested new counsel be
appointed. A hearing was held on May 24, 2017, and the
district court granted Crawford's motion and appointed
new counsel to represent Crawford finding there was
"sufficient time for an attorney to get up to
speed" before trial began. On July 26, 2017, the court
approved the appointment of a second-chair attorney.
August 15, 2017, Crawford's new counsel moved to withdraw
from representing him based on Crawford's statements that
he no longer wanted her to represent him. At the hearing,
held the same day, Crawford also moved for a continuance. The
district court denied both the motion to withdraw and motion
to continue in an order entered the same day.
alleges that denying a continuance violated his due process
right to a fair trial with effective counsel because his
trial counsel had inadequate time to prepare a defense before
trial. "Whether in any case enough time has been
afforded for consultation, investigation for witnesses, and
preparation of the law and facts depends upon the
circumstances of the case including the complexity of the
factual issues and the legal principles involved."
Orcutt, 173 N.W.2d at 71. The seriousness of the
offense is another consideration in determining whether there
has been adequate time to prepare. See Clark, 814
N.W.2d at 569 (Appel, J., dissenting).
is no denying the seriousness of the first-degree-murder
charge that Crawford faced. See Iowa Code §
902.1 (requiring a sentence of life without the possibility
of parole). We also note that Crawford's trial counsel
had been appointed to represent him only two months earlier,
after his first attorney withdrew from representation due to
a deterioration in his relationship with Crawford. However,
the engagement of counsel just prior to the trial date is not
grounds for a continuance if the replacement counsel had
ample time to prepare. See 17 C.J.S. Continuances
§ 49. The record here shows the issue was not a matter
of counsel's lack of preparation but one of surprise
because a witness that Crawford anticipated would help his
defense had just given deposition testimony that harmed him.
Whether to grant a continuance on this ground is within the
trial court's discretion. See id. § 93
("It is largely within the discretion of the court to
grant or refuse to grant a continuance on grounds of surprise
occasioned by the fact that a party's own witness has
testified contrary to the reasonable expectations of the
on the record before us, we are unable to find the trial
court abused its discretion in denying Crawford's motion
to continue. Both Crawford's prior counsel and his
replacement counsel deposed numerous witnesses during the
eleven months after he ...