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State v. Chamberlain

Court of Appeals of Iowa

December 19, 2018

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Buchanan County, Joel Dalrymple, Judge.

         Defendant appeals his convictions for attempt to commit murder, kidnapping in the second degree, and two counts of intimidation with a dangerous weapon with intent, as well as the extension of a no-contact order.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Theresa R. Wilson, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Louis S. Sloven, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., Doyle, J., and Blane, S.J. [*]


         Following a jury trial, Dennis Chamberlain appeals his convictions, sentences, and judgments for attempt to commit murder, kidnapping in the second degree, and two counts of intimidation with a dangerous weapon with intent. He challenges the district court's jury instructions regarding intoxication, reasonable doubt, and the definition of "confinement," as well as the extension of the no-contact order for a period longer than five years. Based upon our review, we affirm Chamberlain's convictions for attempt to commit murder and two counts of intimidation with a dangerous weapon with intent. We reverse his conviction for kidnapping in the second degree and remand for retrial. We also reverse a provision of the extension of the no-contact order and remand for correction.

         I. Background facts.

         Robin Chamberlain (Robin)[1] and Dennis Chamberlain (Chamberlain) were married and lived together in Aurora, Iowa. On October 8, 2016, Chamberlain became upset about something Robin's mother had said, which caused Robin and Chamberlain to argue on and off for the rest of the day. Sometime between 6:00 and 8:00 p.m., Chamberlain left the house and walked to a nearby bar. Robin went to bed.

         Robin woke up when Rick, who owned the nearby bar, yelled for somebody to come and help him with Chamberlain. When Robin came into the living room, she saw Chamberlain "was staggering around, fell on the couch," and "calling [her] a bitch and telling [her] that he wanted a divorce and he was going to take everything." Rick told Robin that Chamberlain "had drank two drinks up at the bar that night." Robin tried to help Chamberlain, but he kept berating her so Robin went back to bed.

         Sometime later, Robin heard and then saw Chamberlain enter her bedroom. He was no longer staggering, and she did not smell an odor of alcohol. Chamberlain walked around the bed to where Robin usually slept and "grabbed ahold of [Robin's] hair and twisted it." Chamberlain held a pistol against her head and pointed it in her face, telling her that "he was going to kill [her]." He fired two shots, one into the ceiling and another into a closet door; the gun was close enough to Robin's head that she could feel the discharge through her hair.

         After Chamberlain fired those shots, he told Robin to "call the kids and tell them goodbye." She first called Ashley, Chamberlain's daughter. She told Ashley, "Your dad is going to kill me, Ashley. He's got a gun to my head." Ashley said, "Just say yes or no. Do you want me to call the cops?" Robin answered, "Yes." Chamberlain ordered Robin to make similar calls to the other children. Meanwhile, Ashley called 911 and reported that her father was holding a gun on Robin.

         Multiple officers responded to the Chamberlain residence following the dispatcher radio notice. Sergeant Joseph Schwinghammer of the Buchanan County Sheriff's Department was one of the deputies who approached the house. He knocked on the door to try to speak with Chamberlain, but there was no response. As the deputies turned to walk away, they heard two shots fired just seconds after Sergeant Schwinghammer moved away from the door. It was immediately obvious that the gunfire was coming from inside the house, near the door. Three more shots were fired-the fourth and fifth shots struck a fence "[j]ust to [the] left" of Deputy Matthew Cook. Iowa State Patrol Trooper Justin Kane, whose military training enabled him to recognize a "whizzing" sound indicated bullets were flying past him, testified the shots were "in close proximity" to his head.

         At one point, Chamberlain called 911. He reported that officers had arrived, and he referred to it as a "hostage situation." Chamberlain told the 911 operator that he was going to release Robin and her dog. He then stated that officers needed to get off the porch or "they're gonna eat f ----- g bullets." Chamberlain then moved Robin from the bedroom to the bathroom. She had not smelled any alcohol on Chamberlain nor heard him slurring his speech. Although Chamberlain stumbled and fell onto the couch when he first arrived home with Rick, Robin did not see Chamberlain stumbling or falling when he awakened her, threatened her, dragged her into the bathroom, or pulled her from the bathroom and led her to the front door. To Robin, Chamberlain did not appear confused about where he was or what was going on.

         Josh-Chamberlain's son-arrived at the scene right before his father started firing more shots. Josh used his cell phone to call his father, and his father answered. Sergeant Schwinghammer used Josh's phone to talk to Chamberlain. Chamberlain did not seem to be at all confused about what was happening, and his speech was not slurred. Josh convinced his father to speak with Trooper Stephen Dudak, a trained hostage negotiator.

         Trooper Dudak asked about Robin's condition and requested Chamberlain let her go. Trooper Dudak recalled Chamberlain was very defiant, insisting that neither Robin nor he was coming out, and stating a number of times that officers would have to shoot him or he was going to shoot himself. Based on his language, Dudak did not believe Chamberlain was going to give up. Chamberlain also told Dudak that no officers should try to come in or he would shoot them. When Dudak said they had no idea what charges he was facing, Chamberlain responded: "Don't bullshit me. I know that I'm going to prison if I come out," and "[a]fter holding my wife hostage and after firing rounds, I believe my fate has been sealed." Dudak was certain that Chamberlain understood the situation and "was in complete control."

         The trooper believed that Chamberlain responded more favorably when he spoke with his son, Josh, so he gave the phone back to Josh and coached him on what to say. Eventually, Chamberlain pulled Robin out of the bathroom and told her that he would let her go. As they approached the front door, Chamberlain fired a shot through the door. Robin and her dog then fled out the door at approximately 1:00 a.m. on October 9. She was crying, shaking, and appeared to be in shock.

         After Robin's departure, Trooper Dudak continued to negotiate with Chamberlain and observed his emotions started to "come down tremendously," like at the end of a "roller coaster ride emotionally." Trooper Dudak said that his negotiations with Chamberlain involved back-and-forth discussions that enabled him to confirm Chamberlain understood what he was saying "[v]ery clearly." Eventually, Chamberlain agreed to come out and surrender. Dudak told Chamberlain the arresting officers would give him orders and he should "[l]isten to everything they have to say and everything will end just fine." Around 2:00 a.m., Chamberlain exited the residence and followed the officers' directions. The arresting officers, who were in close physical proximity to Chamberlain, did not smell any odor of alcohol and noted he was coherent, not confused, able to speak clearly and without difficulty, able to walk without assistance, and sorrowful for his actions.

         Mary Astleford was a corrections officer at the Buchanan County Jail. She was familiar with intoxicated persons as she had booked intoxicated arrestees on prior occasions. She observed Chamberlain following his arrest, and he did not appear to be intoxicated-he was not disoriented or confused, was able to follow instructions and answer questions, and appeared to understand why he was in jail. She observed Chamberlain did not have an odor of alcohol or any other typical indicator of intoxication. Allan Nunemaker was the other corrections officer who participated in booking Chamberlain. Like Astleford, Nunemaker did not observe an odor of alcohol or any other sign that Chamberlain was intoxicated.

         At trial, Chamberlain testified and gave his own account of the October 8 events. He stated that while at the bar he consumed four double shots of whiskey and three bottles of beer as chasers. That night, sometime after he returned to the house, he recalls being in his bedroom, taking his gun, and putting it to his temple with the intention to shoot himself. He wanted to ask Robin why she had argued with him, so he went to her bedroom. He got mad and shot into the ceiling. At no time during his testimony did Chamberlain claim his actions were due to being so intoxicated that he did not know what he was doing. He recalled firing a second shot at the closet a few minutes later but specifically not at Robin, stating, "I didn't even plan to shoot anywhere near her."

         Chamberlain went into the living room because officers were pounding on the front door. He shot through the living room window but testified he was not shooting at anyone because he could not see outside as the shade was drawn. As he walked back toward the bedroom where Robin remained, he shot out through the kitchen windows. When he saw lights outside, he figured it was the cops, so he had Robin go into the bathroom: "I put her in there because there's no windows, and if they were gonna maybe shoot, she would be safe."

         Chamberlain went back to the kitchen. He saw Sergeant Schwinghammer outside. He testified, "I could have shot him . . . . I did not do it. I was not trying to hurt anybody." He yelled at the officers to get off the porch and then shot up through the kitchen ceiling. Then he again shot through the kitchen windows. Chamberlain recalled that Schwinghammer called him first. It made him mad that Schwinghammer claimed to "know" him. Chamberlain wanted the officers to go away; he was not going to hurt anyone. His son Josh got on the phone and wanted him to release Robin. As Chamberlain testified: "I did calm down for a while somewhat." Then, as he talked to Trooper Dudak, "I wasn't thinking," he testified. "I was enraged," he added, as he wanted answers from Robin.

         II. Procedural background.

         On October 18, 2016, the State filed a trial information against Chamberlain charging him with eight counts arising from the events of October 8. At arraignment, Chamberlain pleaded not guilty and waived his right to a speedy trial. On December 5, Chamberlain filed a notice of intoxication defense, and on February 13, 2017, he filed a notice of diminished responsibility defense.[2] On June 28, the State filed an amended and substituted trial information removing counts V through VIII.

         The jury trial also commenced June 28. The jury found Chamberlain guilty of attempt to commit murder (count I), a class "B" felony in violation of Iowa Code section 707.11 (2016); kidnapping in the second degree (count II), a class "B" felony in violation of section 710.3; and two counts of intimidation with a dangerous weapon with intent (counts III and IV), class "C" felonies in violation of section 708.6. Each of the offenses required proof of specific intent.

         Chamberlain filed a combined motion for judgment of acquittal and motion for new trial. The district court denied the motions and held a sentencing hearing. The court sentenced Chamberlain to indeterminate terms of imprisonment not to exceed twenty-five years with a mandatory 70% minimum on counts I and II, and indeterminate terms of imprisonment not to exceed ten years with five-year mandatory minimums on counts III and IV. The court ran the sentences concurrently with one another. The court also imposed a $1000 fine, court costs, and surcharges on counts III and IV. Finally, the court extended the no-contact order against Chamberlain as to Robin "for a period of 5 years or the maximum term of confinement, whichever is greater." Chamberlain filed a timely notice of appeal.

         III. Discussion.

         A. Whether the trial court erred in denying Chamberlain's request for an intoxication defense jury instruction?

         Prior to trial, Chamberlain timely filed a notice of intoxication defense. Defense counsel also submitted to the court a set of requested jury instructions, including one on the intoxication defense. At the close of evidence, the court conducted a hearing regarding the jury instructions. The court determined that there was not substantial evidence of Chamberlain's intoxication to support instructing the jury on the intoxication defense and declined to give it. On appeal, Chamberlain claims this was error and entitles him to a new trial.

         Absent a discretionary component, a court's refusal to give a requested jury instruction is reviewed for correction of errors at law. Alcala v. Marriott Int'l, Inc., 880 N.W.2d 699, 707 (Iowa 2016). A trial court is required to submit a requested intoxication-defense instruction if there is substantial evidence in the record to support that defense. See State v. Guerrero Cordero, 861 N.W.2d 253, 260-61 (Iowa 2015), overruled on other grounds by Alcala, 880 N.W.2d at 708 n.3.

         Our supreme court has recently discussed the intoxication defense and when it applies. See id. at 259. Simply asserting the defense or requesting a jury instruction does obligate the trial court to submit the intoxication defense to the jury. Id. at 260 ("Courts are required to instruct the jury on the law for all material issues raised by the evidence in a case. It ordinarily 'must instruct on a defendant's theory of a defense provided the defendant makes a timely request, the requested theory of defense instruction is supported by the evidence, and the requested instruction is a correct statement of law.'" (citations omitted)). The court is only required to give the instruction when it is supported by ...

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