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State v. Bynum

Supreme Court of Iowa

January 10, 2020

STATE OF IOWA, Appellee,
v.
EARNEST BYNUM, Appellant.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Linn County, Nicholas Scott, District Associate Judge.

         On review from the Iowa Court of Appeals.

         A defendant appeals his conviction for falsely reporting a criminal act.

          Mark C. Meyer, Cedar Rapids, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Sharon K. Hall, Assistant Attorney General, Jerry Vander Sanden, County Attorney, and Monica C. Slaughter, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.

          CHRISTENSEN, JUSTICE.

         We are asked to determine whether the false report of a criminal act requires definitional instructions for an affirmative defense to the underlying criminal act. After closing arguments, the defendant requested the district court provide an instruction on the exceptions to the underlying criminal act of carrying weapons. The district court denied the defendant's request. The defendant was then convicted of making a false report alleging the occurrence of the criminal act of carrying weapons.

         On direct appeal, the defendant raised numerous issues. The court of appeals affirmed the defendant's conviction. We granted the defendant's application for further review. We exercise our discretion and only address whether the definitional instructions to the criminal act of carrying weapons required inclusion of the statutory exceptions. Upon our review, we conclude substantial evidence did not support the defendant's requested instruction on his hypothetical affirmative defense, and we affirm the decision of the court of appeals and judgment of the district court.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         The Cedar Rapids Police Department received a call on its nonemergency number from an unidentified caller. It was 10:17 p.m. on March 10, 2016, when the caller reported he witnessed a gray Chevrolet Suburban double park across the sidewalk of a Cedar Rapids home. Two males, one carrying a handgun and one carrying a rifle, then exited the Suburban and walked up to the house's front door. According to the caller, the individuals knocked on the front door and entered the house. The caller reportedly did not know who lived at the house and had not previously noticed the Suburban parked there. The unidentified caller did not want to reveal his name, but he did provide Cedar Rapids police with his phone number.

         That same evening, prior to this report, Pamela Haskins was at her Cedar Rapids home. Haskins was with her youngest son, Tamir; her oldest son, Bilal; her granddaughter; and her friend, Judy. Haskins owned a Chevrolet Suburban, which Bilal used as his primary vehicle. That evening, Bilal drove himself and his daughter to Haskins's home. Approximately one hour after Bilal and his daughter arrived, Tamir planned to drive Judy back to her home. When the group stepped out on the front porch, they faced spotlights, police officers with drawn weapons, and orders to put their hands up.

         Tamir was ordered to step off the porch with hands in the air and to walk backwards towards the officers. He was placed on his knees and handcuffed. Each individual was then ordered off the porch. Because Haskins's granddaughter remained in Bilal's arms, he was not ordered to the ground. The officers entered Haskins's home, indicating they were searching for guns. Haskins replied that she did not own any guns, and no guns were found in her house.

         Officer Shannon Aguero of the Cedar Rapids Police Department explained to Haskins the department was acting on a call reporting two men with guns at her address. Officer Aguero showed Haskins the number of the unidentified caller; Haskins immediately recognized the number as belonging to Earnest Bynum.

         Haskins and Bynum knew each other for years. Bynum was Haskins's on-again, off-again boyfriend who lived with Haskins and their son. Haskins also has two older sons, whom Bynum knew. One day prior to the March 10 unidentified caller report, Haskins and Bynum had a disagreement that resulted in Bynum shoving Haskins against the wall. Haskins called the Cedar Rapids Police Department to report the domestic assault that day.

         Officer Aguero made contact with Bynum on March 24. During the interview, Bynum initially denied any knowledge of the phone call, but he later admitted to making the call on the nonemergency line. Bynum indicated to Officer Aguero that he was near Haskins's home when he saw a gray Suburban with a male occupant wave a gun in his direction. Bynum stated he identified the occupant waiving the gun as Haskins's son, Bilal. When Officer Aguero asked Bynum why he did not call in the report at the location it happened, Bynum said that he knew where the vehicle was going and that the occupants were associated with Haskins's home. Bynum stated he called in the report as if it happened at Haskins's home and then proceeded to follow the Suburban to the location he reported. Bynum did not provide the identity of Haskins's son during his call because he did not want to get anyone in trouble and he did not want to be a snitch.

         The State charged Bynum with the crime of false reports. False reports, as outlined in Iowa Code chapter 718, is an offense against the government and it states,

A person who reports or causes to be reported false information to a fire department, a law enforcement authority, or other public safety entity, knowing that the information is false, or who reports the alleged occurrence of a criminal act knowing the act did not occur, commits a simple misdemeanor, unless the alleged criminal act reported is a serious or aggravated misdemeanor or felony, in which case the person commits a serious misdemeanor.

Iowa Code § 718.6(1) (2016). Bynum's trial information was later amended, indicating the underlying criminal act Bynum falsely reported was carrying weapons (Iowa Code section 724.4), burglary (Iowa Code section 713.1), or going armed with intent (Iowa Code section 708.8).

         This matter proceeded to trial on January 8, 2018. Bynum presented scant evidence concerning the exceptions to carrying weapons. After closing arguments, Bynum requested the jury instructions include the exceptions[1] to the underlying criminal act of carrying weapons. When asked by the district court to specify which exception, Bynum requested the court include possession of a legally issued permit. The district court denied Bynum's request. It indicated the definition of carrying weapons was sufficient and that, in the case of a false report, Bynum would not know whether the exception applied at the time of his report. The district court then instructed the jury, in part, as follows:

JURY INSTRUCTION NO. 13
The State must prove . . . the following elements of False Reports:
1. On or about the March 10, 2016, the defendant reported information to law enforcement authority concerning the alleged occurrence of a criminal act.
2. When reporting the alleged criminal act the defendant knew, as defined in Instruction 18, [[2] the information was false.
3. The defendant reported the crime of Carrying Weapons, Burglary, or Going Armed with Intent.
If the State has proved all of the elements, the defendant is guilty of False Reports alleging the crime of Carrying Weapons, Burglary, or Going Armed with Intent. If only the first two elements are met then the defendant is guilty of False Reports. If the State has failed to prove either of the first two elements, the defendant if not guilty.
JURY INSTRUCTION NO. 14
Carrying Weapons is defined as: A person who goes armed with a firearm concealed on or about the person, or who, within the limits of any city, goes armed with a pistol or revolver, or any loaded firearm of any kind, whether concealed or not, or who knowingly carries or transports in a vehicle a pistol or revolver.
. . . .
JURY INSTRUCTION NO. 17
It is not necessary for the State to prove all the elements beyond a reasonable doubt for the crimes of Carrying Weapons, Burglary, or Going Armed with Intent.

         The matter was submitted to the jury for deliberations. The jury returned a verdict finding Bynum guilty of falsely reporting the alleged criminal act of carrying weapons. Judgment finding Bynum guilty of this offense was entered, and the district court sentenced Bynum to 365 days in jail, with all but fourteen days suspended.

         Bynum appealed his judgment and sentence arguing, among other things, "The jury should have been instructed not to presume that a person who is seen in public in possession of a firearm is committing a crime."[3] We transferred the case to the court of appeals, and the district court's judgment was affirmed. Regarding the jury instruction issue, the court of appeals concluded the district court did not err in failing to give Bynum's requested instruction because it addressed a statutory exception rather than an element of the underlying crime.

         We granted Bynum's application for further review.

         II. Error Preservation.

         Bynum presents two arguments regarding exceptions to the underlying criminal act of carrying weapons. First, Bynum argues the district court erred as a matter of law when it refused to provide his requested instruction. That argument was preserved when it was raised and decided by the district court. See Lamasters v. State, 821 N.W.2d 856, 862 (Iowa 2012). Second, Bynum argues the failure to provide his requested instruction "violated his right to a fair trial and due process of law." The State argues Bynum did not preserve a due process or other constitutional claim. We agree. "It is a fundamental doctrine of appellate review that issues must ordinarily be both raised and decided by the district court before we decide them on appeal." Id. (quoting Meier v. Senecaut, 641 N.W.2d 532, 537 (Iowa 2002)). This doctrine applies with equal force to constitutional issues. See Taft v. Iowa Dist. Ct., 828 N.W.2d 309, 322 (Iowa 2013) ("Even issues implicating constitutional rights must be presented to and ruled upon by the district court in order to preserve error for appeal."); State v. Biddle, 652 N.W.2d 191, 203 (Iowa 2002) (noting error preservation rule "applies with equal strength to constitutional issues"); Garwick v. Iowa Dep't of Transp., 611 N.W.2d 286, 288 (Iowa 2000) (en banc) ("Issues not raised before the district court, including constitutional issues, cannot be raised for the first time on appeal." (quoting State v. McCright, 569 N.W.2d 605, 607 (Iowa 1997))). Bynum did not raise his constitutional argument during the jury instruction discussion or by motion, and it does not appear the district court considered that argument. See Stammeyer v. Div. of Narcotics Enf't, 721 N.W.2d 541, 548 (Iowa 2006) ("If the court does not rule on an issue and neither party files a motion requesting the district court to do so, there is nothing before us to review."). Because Bynum's constitutional arguments were not preserved for our review, we restrict our discussion to his first argument: whether the district court erroneously refused to provide his requested instruction.

         III. Standard of Review.

         "We have the discretion, when we grant a further review application, to review any issue raised on appeal." State v. Lorenzo Baltazar, 935 N.W.2d 862, 868 (Iowa 2019); see State v. Effler, 769 N.W.2d 880, 883 (Iowa 2009) ("[E]fficient use of judicial resources will sometimes prompt our court to rely on the disposition made by the court of appeals on some issues and address only those issues that merit additional consideration."). We exercise that discretion here and only address the issue of whether the district court erred by refusing Bynum's requested ...


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