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State v. Ramantez Wright

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 6, 2019

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Woodbury County, Patrick H. Tott, Judge.

         The defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support his convictions for robbery in the first degree and willful injury. AFFIRMED.

          Rees Conrad Douglas, Sioux City, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Bridget A. Chambers, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

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


         Darius Wright appeals his convictions for robbery in the first degree and willful injury. He argues neither conviction is supported by substantial evidence.[1]

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         In February 2017, Wright was charged with one count each of attempted murder, willful injury, intimidation with a dangerous weapon, and robbery in the first degree. All four counts involved allegations stemming from the night of February 10, 2017. Wright waived his right to a trial by jury, and the court heard the evidence at a bench trial in April 2017.

         At trial, N.W.[2] testified that on the night of February 10, he and two of his friends-K. R. and G.B.-walked south from his home several blocks to a local gas station. The three entered the gas station at approximately 10:41 p.m. While there, N.W. purchased two Dr. Peppers, a package of Sour Patch Kids, and a bag of Flaming Hot Cheetos.[3]

         On the return walk to N.W.'s home, N.W., K.R., and G.B. encountered a man that each identified as Wright at trial. Wright changed directions and began walking with the group, repeatedly asking N.W. what he was carrying in his pockets, to which N.W. told him, "None of your business." At some point, Wright grabbed N.W.'s arm and started throwing punches at him. N.W. dropped the gas station bag with the snacks and tried to defend himself. Wright then pulled what N.W., K.R., G.B. each testified was a gun from behind his back, pointed it at N.W., and told him to "[g]ive me what you got." N.W. threw his cell phone toward Wright, and N.W., K.R., and G.B. fled to N.W.'s home. Neither N.W. nor his friends picked up the gas station bag before they left.

         At 10:48, Wright entered the gas station carrying two Dr. Peppers. He asked the clerk for a bag for the sodas, which he was given, and then left the store. As N.W., K.R., and G.B. testified, and as was captured by the surveillance cameras, Wright wore a blue, long-sleeve jacket or sweatshirt.

         When N.W., K.R., and G.B. reached N.W.'s home, they reported to N.W.'s older brother, Alan, what had occurred. Alan and N.W. decided to try and get N.W.'s phone from Wright; they armed themselves with a BB gun and two knives. The four, including K.R. and G.B. then began walking from N.W.'s home toward the area they had encountered Wright.

         As they neared the area, Wright-who was standing on the porch of a corner home a few blocks from the gas station-yelled, "Hey you," to N.W. N.W. and Alan then approached the porch while K.R. and G.B. stayed on the other side of the street. N.W. and Wright argued about the fact that Wright had taken N.W.'s phone and whether he was going to return it. According to both N.W. and Alan, during the argument, Wright kept his hand behind his back. Alan testified he could see that Wright was holding on to the handle of a gun but that he never pulled it out or pointed it at anyone during that time. Eventually, an older man who was also on the porch told Wright to give N.W. his phone back, and Wright did so. The older man then walked away from the area. N.W. continued to argue with Wright about what had happened to his snacks and wanting them back. Wright went to the door of the home and yelled something. Four or five guys exited the house, and N.W. and Alan began running towards the gas station. At least three of the guys chased them to the store. Another one or two started chasing K.R. and G.B. the other direction.

         At 11:17, N.W. and Alan entered the gas station and asked the clerk to call 911. Wright and two friends, Donte Drappeaux and Tykell Robinson, entered the store about the same time. The store clerk tried to keep the two groups separate while Wright and his friends continued to attempt to reach N.W. and Alan. At some point, Wright, Donte, and Tykell exited the store. At 11:22, Tykell and Donte returned without Wright. According to the testimony of the gas station clerk, Wright had left the area by the time Tykell and Donte came back into the store. The first police officer arrived at the scene about one minute later.

         Around the same time, Skyla Wabasha, Eric Silvas, and A.C.-M. were walking to the gas station. On the way they encountered a girl and a boy- presumably K.R. and G.B.[4]-who reported their mutual friend had been robbed of his phone. After imparting the information, the boy and girl walked away, and Skyla, Eric, and A.C.-M continued toward the gas station.

         The three walked down the alley that passed directly behind the corner home where Wright had been standing when he argued with N.W. and Alan. As they approached the corner home, they saw a man running toward them in the alley, who then turned toward the corner home and disappeared from their view. When they got near the corner home, Eric and A.C.-M. saw a man on the porch of the corner home and approached it. The man was wearing a blue jacket and matched the description of Wright. At trial, neither A.C.-M, Eric, nor Skyla specifically identified Wright as the man on the porch. A.C.-M. shouted at the man, asking if he had taken his friend's phone. According to Eric's testimony, the man on the porch got defensive and "a little mad at [A.C.-M.] trying to be a hero"; during the interaction, the man "had, like, something on his back or whatnot. He had his hand behind his back the whole time." Almost immediately after A.C.-M shouted at the man, the man on the porch fired four shots in rapid succession. Two of the shots hit A.C.-M.-one in his hip and the other in the chest or shoulder area. Eric testified he did not see the man on the porch pull out a gun, but he saw the man on the porch pointing it A.C.-M. and saw "sparks or whatever a gun does" when he heard the first gunshot.

         A.C.-M., Skyla, and Eric fled to the gas station, where police had already gathered ...

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