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State v. Sanders-Galvez

Court of Appeals of Iowa

May 15, 2019

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
JORGE SANDERS-GALVEZ, Defendant-Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Des Moines County, Mary Ann Brown, Judge.

         Jorge Sanders-Galvez appeals his conviction for murder in the first degree.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, (until withdrawal) and Shellie L. Knipfer, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Tyler J. Buller, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Heard by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Doyle and Tabor, JJ.


         A Burlington teenager was shot to death in an alley. The State charged twenty-one-year-old Jorge Sanders-Galvez and another individual with first-degree murder. See Iowa Code §§ 703.1, 703.2, 707.1, 707.2 (2016). A jury found Sanders-Galvez guilty as charged.

         On appeal, Sanders-Galvez contends (1) the evidence was insufficient to support the jury's finding of guilt; (2) his trial attorney was ineffective in failing to object to a statement on hearsay grounds; (3) the district court abused its discretion in admitting a phone video; and (4) juvenile-sentencing precedent "should be expanded" to young adults.

         I. Sufficiency of the Evidence

         The jury was instructed Sanders-Galvez could be found guilty of first-degree murder of a teenager, K.J., either as a principal or aider and abettor and either (1)"willfully, deliberately, premeditatedly, and with specific intent to kill" or while (2)"participating in the offense of kidnapping." The jury returned a general verdict.

         In light of the general verdict, we cannot determine which of the murder theories the jury accepted. See State v. Smith, 739 N.W.2d 289, 295 (Iowa 2007) (stating because the jury was instructed to return a general verdict, court had "no way of knowing" which of multiple theories the jury adopted). To uphold the finding of guilt, then, we must find substantial evidentiary support for both theories. See State v. James, No. 13-1067, 2014 WL 4230203, at *7 (Iowa Ct. App. Aug. 27, 2014) ("Submission of multiple alternatives to the jury is permissible only if substantial evidence is presented to support each alternative method of committing a single crime." (citing State v. Bratthauer, 354 N.W.2d 774, 776 (Iowa 1984))); cf. State v. Myers, 924 N.W.2d 823, 827 (Iowa 2019) ("[S]ubstantial evidence must support each alternative under the statute.").

         Sanders-Galvez does not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence supporting guilt under the premeditated-murder alternative. He argues the evidence was insufficient to support a finding of guilt under the felony-murder-by-kidnapping alternative.

         Kidnapping was defined for the jury as:

[A] person confining another person or removing a person from one place to another, knowing that the person who confines or removes the other person has neither the authority nor consent of the other to do so; provided that the person does so with the intent to secretly confine the other person. A person is confined when his freedom to move about is substantially restricted by force, threat, or deception. The person may be confined either in the place where the restriction began or in place to which he has been removed. No minimum time of confinement or distance of removal is required. It must be more than slight. In this case the confinement or removal must have significance apart from the murder of [K.J.] In determining whether confinement or removal exists, you may consider whether (1) the risk of harm to [K.J.] was substantially increased, (2) the risk of detection was significantly reduced, or (3) escape was made significantly easier.

         "Secretly confine" was defined for the jury as "more than restricting the movement of [K.J.]" The phrase requires "an intent to conceal or hide [K.J.] to prevent his discovery." Sanders-Galvez asserts "there was no showing of removal or confinement beyond that associated with the murder."

         A jury could have found the following facts. K.J. went to Hy-Vee the evening of his death. Sanders-Galvez and his co-defendant entered Hy-Vee while K.J. was inside.[1] As K.J. began to leave, Sanders-Galvez "look[ed] in [his] direction." A minute later, Sanders-Galvez checked out at the cash register. Three minutes later, he and the co-defendant left the store and got into a red Impala. Meanwhile, K.J. began walking towards his friend A.W.'s house a block-and-a-half away. As K.J. "walk[ed] across the parking lot," "the red Impala [came] in behind him." When K.J. arrived at A.W.'s house, he told her he "was scared" because "Lumni"-a nickname for Sanders-Galvez-"was following him."[2] A.W. asked K.J. "if he wanted a ride home or if he wanted to stay a little longer or if he wanted to go out the back door." K.J. said no to all the options. A.W. looked out her bedroom window and "[s]ort of" ...

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