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State v. Hutton

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 6, 2019

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
DONALD ALAN HUTTON, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, David P. Odekirk, Judge.

         Donald Hutton appeals his conviction of assault causing bodily injury.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Ashley Stewart, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Sharon K. Hall, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., Bower, J., and Scott, S.J. [*]

          SCOTT, SENIOR JUDGE.

         Donald Hutton appeals his conviction of assault causing bodily injury on sufficiency-of-the-evidence grounds. He argues the trial court erred in denying his motions for judgment of acquittal because the State failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt he acted without justification.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         Upon the evidence presented at trial, a rational jury could make the following factual findings. On May 8, 2017, Peter Klassen was hauling livestock in a tractor trailer in Black Hawk County. Klassen was following another semi up a hill in a no-passing zone of a two-lane road when a silver Kia, driven by Hutton and containing a passenger, passed Klassen and then cut him off, squeezing in between Klassen's semi and the one in front of him. Hutton slammed on his brakes. Hutton then maintained a slow speed, continued to swerve back and forth so as to prevent Klassen from passing him, and repeatedly "flipped off" Klassen. Klassen returned the gesture. Klassen was somewhat confused, being unsure if he did something to aggravate Hutton. The driver of another vehicle behind Hutton and Klassen, Jeff Badker, observed Klassen having to slam on his brakes multiple times and swerve to slow down. Klassen was eventually able to speed up and pass Hutton. Klassen stopped in the turning lane of an upcoming intersection with the purpose of making a right turn. While stopped, Klassen glanced to his left and observed Hutton "half out of his car" and yelling at Klassen. Klassen got out of his semi, approached Hutton, situating himself near the front driver side of Hutton's car, and questioned, "What did I do to you? What is your fricking problem?" Hutton retorted Klassen did not give him enough room to pass. Klassen responded it was a no-passing zone, upon which Hutton threw and landed a left punch to Klassen's jaw. A scuffle ensued. Eventually, Hutton's passenger got out of the car and advised they needed to leave. Hutton immediately disengaged in the struggle, got in his car, and fled the scene. When Hutton disengaged, Klassen noticed Hutton had blood all over his face, but did not understand why Hutton might be bleeding. Klassen observed Hutton throw a knife into his car as he and the passenger were reentering it.

         Thereafter, a bystander, Joe Peterson, approached and advised Klassen he was bleeding. Klassen thought he was fine, but then observed blood to be squirting out of his shoulder. Klassen realized he had been stabbed. He was transported to the hospital by ambulance. Medical personnel found two lacerations consistent with stab wounds located on Klassen's back and left shoulder.

         Peterson, another truck driver, was a witness to the ordeal. He did not see who threw the first blow, but while observing the subsequent scuffle from his semi approximately twenty feet away, he saw a shiny, reflective object in Hutton's hand. He also saw Hutton, in a "stabbing motion," hit Klassen multiple times in the left-shoulder area with the hand in which he was holding the object, upon which blood started shooting out of Klassen's shoulder. Peterson observed Hutton toss something into his car but could not tell what it was. Blood was still shooting from Klassen's shoulder when Peterson approached to assist Klassen after Hutton fled. Badker was also a witness to the scuffle. He did not see any objects in Hutton's hands. However, when he approached Klassen after the ordeal, Klassen advised, "He stabbed me." Badker called 911. During the call, Badker advised Hutton had stabbed Klassen in the arm.[1]

         Hutton was charged by trial information with going armed with intent and willful injury causing bodily injury, both as a habitual offender. The matter proceeded to a jury trial. Following the State's case-in-chief, Hutton moved for judgment of acquittal, arguing, among other things, his actions were justified. The court denied the motion. The court denied Hutton's renewed motion at the close of all evidence. The jury was unable to reach a verdict as to count one.[2] As to count two, the jury found Hutton guilty of the lesser-included offense of assault causing bodily injury. Hutton appealed following the imposition of sentence.

         II. Standard of Review

         Challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence are reviewed for corrections of errors at law. State v. Kelso-Christy, 911 N.W.2d 663, 666 (Iowa 2018). The court views "the evidence 'in the light most favorable to the State, including all reasonable inferences that may be fairly drawn from the evidence.'" State v. Ortiz, 905 N.W.2d 174, 180 (Iowa 2017) (quoting State v. Huser, 894 N.W.2d 472, 490 (Iowa 2017)). All evidence is considered, not just that of an inculpatory nature. See Huser, 894 N.W.2d at 490. "[W]e will uphold a verdict if substantial evidence supports it." State v. Wickes, 910 N.W.2d 554, 563 (Iowa 2018) (quoting State v. Ramirez, 895 N.W.2d 884, 890 (Iowa 2017)). "Evidence is substantial if, 'when viewed in ...


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