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State v. Walker

Supreme Court of Iowa

November 22, 2019

STATE OF IOWA, Appellee,
v.
LAWRENCE EUGENE WALKER, Appellant.

         On review from the Iowa Court of Appeals.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, John D. Telleen (trial) and Patrick A. McElyea (sentencing), Judges.

         Lawrence Walker appeals his conviction for sexual abuse in the second degree and lascivious acts with a child. DECISION OF COURT OF APPEALS AND JUDGMENT OF DISTRICT COURT AFFIRMED.

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

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Timothy M. Hau, Assistant Attorney General, Mike Walton, County Attorney, and Kimberly Shepherd, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.

          McDONALD, JUSTICE.

         Following a jury trial, Lawrence Walker was convicted of sexual abuse in the second degree, in violation of Iowa Code section 709.3 (2016), and lascivious acts with a child, in violation of Iowa Code section 709.8(1)(a) and (c). In this direct appeal, Walker raises three evidentiary issues. The first relates to the exclusion of evidence. The second relates to the allegedly erroneous admission of certain hearsay testimony. The third also relates to the allegedly erroneous admission of certain hearsay testimony, but the third issue is raised within the framework of a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel.

         I.

         The offense conduct occurred in June 2016. On the night at issue, Walker babysat his four-year-old niece, E.W., her eight-year-old brother, J.W., and another child. At some point in the evening, Walker took E.W. upstairs to her parents' bedroom. He cuddled in bed with her. He removed her underwear, removed his pants, put her on his lap, bounced her up and down, and rubbed the child's genitals with his hand.

         The next day E.W. made statements to her mother that prompted an emergency room visit. At the emergency room, sexual assault nurse examiner Elsa Durr-Baxter interviewed E.W. and E.W.'s mother separately. E.W.'s statements to Durr-Baxter inculpated Walker for sexual abuse of E.W. Durr-Baxter conducted a physical and forensic examination of E.W. Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) tests of the samples showed the presence of a sperm cell in E.W.'s external anal swab and foreign DNA in the crotch of E.W.'s underwear and on her back. The samples were too weak for reliable comparison to an individual for matching purposes.

         Durr-Baxter referred E.W. to Dr. Barbara Harre, a physician at the Child Protection Response Center. A little more than two weeks after the night at issue, Dr. Harre met with E.W. and her mother. Dr. Harre interviewed them separately. Dr. Harre conducted a medical exam of E.W. During the exam, E.W. made statements inculpating Walker for sexual abuse. Dr. Harre testified she asked E.W. if there had been anything about Walker that made her uncomfortable. E.W. stated, "Larry doing this" and then made a bouncing motion. E.W. stated Walker's underwear was off and he took her underwear off. Dr. Harre testified E.W. said she was "on his crotch" at that time. Dr. Harre asked E.W. if Walker touched her on other parts of her body. E.W. indicated Walker touched her with his fingers between her legs and it hurt.

         Approximately a week after E.W's appointment with Dr. Harre, Detective Maureen Hammes conducted a video-recorded interview with Walker. Walker initially denied any wrongdoing, but then he admitted to the offense conduct. Walker admitted to taking E.W. upstairs and laying in bed with her. He said he took off her panties and took off his pants. He said he "cuddled with her." He later admitted he put E.W. on his lap while in the bed. He admitted to rubbing his hand against E.W.'s vagina. Walker was arrested and charged thereafter.

         The jury found Walker guilty as charged, and Walker timely filed this appeal. The court of appeals affirmed Walker's convictions, and we granted Walker's application for further review.

         II.

         A.

         We turn to Walker's first evidentiary challenge. At trial, Walker sought to admit evidence concerning the victim's eight-year-old brother, J.W. Specifically, Walker wanted to introduce into evidence statements the parents allegedly made that J.W. may have been a victim of sexual abuse. According to defense counsel, the mother also stated that she observed J.W. "engaged in staring at E.W.'s body," that she wanted the siblings clothed when they were together, and that she "found it necessary to separate" them. Walker contended the evidence was relevant to show E.W. learned age-inappropriate sexual information from J.W. or J.W.- rather than Walker-was the abuser. The State moved in limine to exclude the evidence. The district court granted the State's motion, concluding the evidence was not ...


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