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State v. Stark

Court of Appeals of Iowa

December 19, 2018

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
SONYA L. STARK, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Woodbury County, Timothy T. Jarman, District Associate Judge.

         Defendant appeals her conviction and sentence for theft in the third-degree.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Brenda J. Gohr, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Linda J. Hines, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Vaitheswaran and McDonald, JJ.

          VOGEL, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         Sonya Stark appeals her conviction and sentence for the crime of theft in the third degree. Stark argues the district court applied the wrong standard when ruling on her motion for a new trial. Also, she argues there was insufficient evidence in the record to support a conviction of theft in the third degree. Because the district court did not apply the wrong standard when denying the motion for a new trial and there was sufficient evidence to support the conviction, we affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         On May 9, 2017, Stark and Brandon Grimes went to a Wal-Mart store at approximately 4:15 in the morning with the intent to steal merchandise and later sell the merchandise to make "quick money." The pair entered the store with two backpacks; each took a cart and then parted ways. The two proceeded to walk around the store, select various items, and place them in their carts but switched carts several times. Stark attempted to leave the store with two car batteries in her cart and was stopped by Wal-Mart employees, who asked to see a receipt. One battery had been placed in a garbage bag; another in a Walmart bag. At this point, Stark called Grimes, who abandoned his cart, grabbed the two backpacks, and met up with Stark. The two quickly left the store; Stark pushed out the cart with the two batteries, and Grimes left with the two backpacks. An asset protection employee followed them out to the parking lot to gather license plate information. Later, Wal-Mart's management and asset protection generated a list of merchandise believed to have been stolen. The merchandise was valued at $776.37, excluding tax.

         Stark was charged with theft in the third degree, in violation of Iowa Code sections 714.1(1) and 714.2(3) (2017).[1] A jury trial was held on November 7 and 8. At trial, Grimes[2] testified the two entered Wal-Mart with the intention to steal items and that the two did in fact leave with items that neither of them paid for.[3]After the first day of trial, defense counsel moved for judgment of acquittal. Defense counsel argued the evidence did not prove the value necessary for theft in the third degree. Defense counsel renewed the motion at the start of the second day of trial. The jury entered a guilty verdict for theft in the third degree. Stark filed a motion for new trial and a motion in arrest of judgment. The State filed a resistance to both motions and the court denied the same. Stark was convicted and sentenced to 180 days in jail, 165 days of which were suspended; placed on probation; and ordered to pay fines and surcharges. Stark appeals.

         II. Standard of Review

         "Trial courts have wide discretion in deciding motions for new trial." State v. Ellis, 578 N.W.2d 655, 659 (Iowa 1998). Claims that the district court failed to apply the proper standard when ruling on a motion for new trial are reviewed for correction of errors at law. State v. Wells, 738 N.W.2d 214, 218 (Iowa 2007); see also Iowa R. App. P. 6.907.

         "We review challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence for errors at law." State v. Rohm, 609 N.W.2d 504, 509 (Iowa 2000); see also Iowa R. App. P. 6.907. "We will uphold a finding of guilt if 'substantial evidence' supports the verdict. 'Substantial evidence' is that upon which a rational trier of fact could find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. . . . [W]e view the evidence in the light most favorable to the State." State v. Pace, 602 N.W.2d 764, 768 (Iowa 1999) (citations omitted).

         III. Motion for ...


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