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State v. Booth-Harris

Court of Appeals of Iowa

April 3, 2019

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
EARL BOOTH-HARRIS, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Des Moines County, John G. Linn, Judge.

         Defendant appeals his conviction for murder in the first degree. AFFIRMED.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender (until his withdrawal), and Nan Jennisch, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

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

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Tabor and Bower, JJ.

          BOWER, JUDGE.

         Earl Booth-Harris appeals his conviction for murder in the first degree. We find the district court properly denied Booth-Harris's motion to suppress based on a claim of an impermissibly suggestive identification procedure. We preserve for a possible postconviction relief action defendant's due process claim raised under the Iowa Constitution and his claim defense counsel should have requested a different eyewitness identification instruction. We affirm Booth-Harris's conviction for first-degree murder.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings

         On February 16, 2015, Deonte Carter and Terrance Polk had a verbal argument in the front yard of the home of Rita Lewis in Burlington. Carter claimed Polk had taken some items from his home, which Polk denied. Lewis told the men to leave. Carter and Polk then communicated through Facebook and agreed to meet to fight near South Hill Park.

         Later that afternoon, Carter arrived at the park with his cousin, Donnell Watson, and a friend, Edward DeWitt. There was evidence Polk was there with some men, including Booth-Harris. According to Watson, Booth-Harris was holding a gun. Carter said, "You going to have to do what you're going to have to do with it," and Booth-Harris shot him several times. When the shooting started, Watson ran away. After a short time, he came back and saw Carter lying in the street. DeWitt called 911. Carter died as a result of the gunshot wounds. He had been shot with a .45 caliber handgun.

         During this same time period, Booth-Harris was shot in the leg.[1] He went to his home, leaving drops of blood on the front step and in the home. He changed clothes and had his father drive him to a hospital in Monmouth, Illinois, rather than the hospital in Burlington. Booth-Harris told officers he had been with Polk and had been shot near an argument but denied shooting Carter. During a search of Booth-Harris's home, a .45 caliber shell casing was found near his back door and .45 caliber ammunition was found in a closet. The ammunition found in Booth-Harris's home was of the same type as found at the murder scene.

         Watson gave a statement to officers on the day of the shooting. He was shown a photographic array, and Watson said none of the men was the shooter. This array contained a picture of Polk but did not have a picture of Booth-Harris. On February 16, 2015, officers believed Polk might be the shooter. Also, at the time, officers did not know if the shooting of Booth-Harris was related to the shooting of Carter, and an officer showed Watson a single photograph of Booth-Harris, asking, "do you know this person?" Officer Derek Schwandt, who showed the photograph of Booth-Harris to Watson, testified:

Q. Why did you show him the picture then? A. Well, we just had a shooting in Burlington and there's a subject with a gunshot wound. We don't know if he's a victim. We don't know if he's a suspect. We don't know if he's a bystander, ...

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