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State v. Covarrubias

Court of Appeals of Iowa

December 5, 2018

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JOSE AVALOS COVARRUBIAS, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Karen A. Romano, Judge.

         A defendant appeals his conviction for second-degree robbery.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Robert P. Ranschau, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Genevieve Reinkoester, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Vogel and Tabor, JJ.

          TABOR, JUDGE.

         A jury convicted Jose Avalos Covarrubias of robbery in the second degree. The guilty verdict followed evidence that Avalos Covarrubias tried to steal a car occupied by Deanna Sargent. On appeal, Avalos Covarrubias claims the State failed to prove he specifically intended for Sargent to sustain a bodily injury. But he misconstrues the element. To enhance robbery to second degree under Iowa Code section 711.3 (2017), the State needed to show Avalos Covarrubias had specific intent to commit an assault under section 708.1(2) and his act caused bodily injury under section 708.2(2). Because the State's proof satisfied that element of second-degree robbery, we will not disturb the verdict.

         I. Facts and Prior Proceedings

         On a July evening, Sargent was sitting in her parked car, speaking on her cell phone. While she was talking to her mother, a stranger-later identified as Avalos Covarrubias-approached her car, opened the driver's door, and started yelling. He told her to get out and give him the keys. Sargent turned off the car and pulled the keys from the ignition. In a struggle with Avalos Covarrubias over the keys, Sargent felt pain in her palm. She recalled "the key ripped the skin off my hand."

         After Sargent relinquished the keys, Avalos Covarrubias tried to grab the cell phone from her hand.[1] When he was unsuccessful, he threw the car keys back at her and ran away. Police later determined Avalos Covarrubias was the assailant.[2]

         In addition to the bloody scrape on her hand, Sargent reported a painful "knot" in her palm. An x-ray at urgent care showed no broken bones, and Sargent treated her wound with antibiotic cream and ibuprofen.

         The State originally charged Avalos Covarrubias with burglary in the first degree and robbery in the second degree. But the State dismissed the burglary charge and took only the robbery case to trial. The defense moved for judgment of acquittal at the conclusion of the State's evidence and again after Avalos Covarrubias testified. Defense counsel alleged "the State has not made a prima facie case that there was an intent to commit a theft or that an assault with bodily injury was committed." Counsel added:

And the reason I emphasize that element of the assault with bodily injury is to distinguish the robbery second from a robbery third. The code doesn't give much direction, but the jury instructions that we would propose contain the element of the State requiring to show not just an assault but an assault that caused an injury . . . .

         Counsel did not contend the State had to prove her client intended to cause the bodily injury. The court denied the motions, finding the State's evidence generated a jury question. The jury returned a guilty verdict on robbery in the second degree. See Iowa Code ยง 711.1, 711.3. Avalos ...


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