State v. Booker

Docket Number20-1551
Decision Date21 April 2023
Parties STATE of Iowa, Appellee, v. Patrick Henry BOOKER Jr., Appellant.
CourtIowa Supreme Court

Martha J. Lucey (argued), State Appellate Defender, and Stephan J. Japuntich (until withdrawal), for appellant.

Brenna Bird, Attorney General, and Sheryl Soich (argued), Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

OXLEY, Justice.

We are asked to decide whether the prosecutor engaged in purposeful discrimination during jury selection in Patrick Booker's trial for sexual abuse in the third degree when he used a peremptory strike to remove a Black venire member. Upon our review of the record, we conclude the strike was not motivated in substantial part by discriminatory intent—the relevant standard under federal law. The strike at issue here was justified by a valid nonracial basis. The stricken juror expressed his opinion that "both parties" were to blame in describing the sexual assault that landed his cousin in prison for fifty years in a scenario factually similar to the case about to be tried. A prosecutor could have logically been concerned the juror would form a similar opinion about the victim when presented with the facts of this case. The prosecutor's stated concern about the juror's opinion was, at least in this context, a valid, nonracial basis for the peremptory strike.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

The defendant, Patrick Henry Booker Jr. (who is Black), was charged by criminal complaint on May 30, 2019, with first-degree kidnapping and third-degree sexual abuse as a second or subsequent offender.

The charges were based on an incident that occurred at the Dubuque home of C.H. in the late-night to early-morning hours of April 14–15, 2018. C.H. invited (among others) Booker and Andy Cheeks to her home to attend a "tattoo party." As C.H. described, this is an event where "people c[a]me to [her] house to get tattoos or piercings." Booker performed piercings at the party. C.H. planned to have group sex with Booker and Cheeks after the party. When the party ended, Booker began to insist that C.H. have sex with his brother as well; she became uncomfortable and attempted to leave the group. Booker then slammed C.H.’s head against a wall and made her stand by an open window, letting in cold air "for approximately 5 1/2 hours." When C.H. finally got permission from Booker to leave her spot in front of the window she headed back into the bedroom to lie down, but Booker followed her again, tearing off her clothes and, according to C.H., forcing her to have intercourse. Fearing retribution from Booker, C.H. waited several days after the incident before reporting it to the police.

Trial began on September 15, 2020. The jury found Booker not guilty of first-degree kidnapping but guilty of third-degree sexual abuse. The jury also found that Booker had committed a prior sexual offense, which enhanced the penalty for his conviction. See Iowa Code § 902.14 (2018) (making a second or subsequent offense for certain sexual abuse convictions a class "A" felony). On November 23, Booker was sentenced to a mandatory term of life imprisonment.

Booker appealed, and we transferred the case to the court of appeals to address his appellate challenges, including, inter alia: (1) neither the conviction nor the sentencing enhancement was supported by sufficient evidence; (2) the court erroneously overruled a Batson challenge1 to one of the State's peremptory strikes; (3) the court erroneously granted the State's for-cause challenge to another juror; and (4) the court lacked jurisdiction to enter a nunc pro tunc order amending Booker's sentence after he filed his notice of appeal. The court of appeals rejected all of Booker's arguments except his challenge to the court's jurisdiction to enter the nunc pro tunc order, and it remanded for the district court to correct Booker's sentence (by adding the Iowa Code section 903B.1 special sentence to the written disposition) as it had attempted to do through the belated nunc pro tunc order in the first instance.

We granted further review to consider Booker's Batson challenge.

II. Analysis.

"When we grant further review, we may exercise our discretion to let the court of appeals decision stand as the final decision on particular issues." Farnsworth v. State , 982 N.W.2d 128, 135 (Iowa 2022) (quoting State v. Fogg , 936 N.W.2d 664, 667 n.1 (Iowa 2019) ); see State v. Jonas , 904 N.W.2d 566, 568 (Iowa 2017). We do so here with respect to all of Booker's challenges except the two involving the jury selection process and his challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence for his sentencing enhancement, which the court of appeals found was not preserved and therefore did not review. We start with the sentencing enhancement and then address the Batson and for-cause challenges related to the jury selection process.

A. Sentencing Enhancement Evidence. We review the sufficiency of the evidence supporting Booker's sentencing enhancement for correction of errors at law. See State v. Reed , 875 N.W.2d 693, 704–05 (Iowa 2016). "[W]e view the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, including all ‘legitimate inferences and presumptions that may fairly and reasonably be deduced from the record evidence.’ " State v. Crawford , 972 N.W.2d 189, 202 (Iowa 2022) (quoting State v. Tipton , 897 N.W.2d 653, 692 (Iowa 2017) ).

Booker's trial was conducted in two phases. In the first phase, the jury found Booker guilty of third-degree sexual abuse under Iowa Code section 709.4(1)(a ). Immediately following that verdict, the trial proceeded to a second phase where the State sought to prove this was Booker's second conviction for an act of sexual abuse in order to enhance his sentence under Iowa Code section 902.14(1). See Iowa R. Crim. P. 2.19(9). To support the enhancement, the State introduced a Cook County, Illinois record of conviction for one "Patrick Booker" and offered the testimony of Andy Cheeks. The jury found Booker had previously been convicted of an act of sexual abuse.

Booker challenges the State's use of the record of conviction from Cook County, arguing that since the record only identifies a "Patrick Booker," rather than his full name, "Patrick Henry Booker Jr.," the State did not present sufficient evidence to prove that the "Patrick Booker" convicted in Cook County was actually him. The court of appeals did not address the merits of Booker's sufficiency claim because he failed to move for a judgment of acquittal.

The court of appeals opinion was filed nearly one month to the day before this court's opinion in State v. Crawford , where we held that filing a motion for judgment of acquittal is not necessary to preserve sufficiency-of-the-evidence challenges for appellate review.

972 N.W.2d at 200–02. Whether Booker filed a separate motion for judgment of acquittal prior to submission to the jury of the enhancement issue is therefore irrelevant, and we reach the merits of his claim.

That said, we hold that Booker's sufficiency claim fails. To supplement the Cook County record of conviction, the State called Andy Cheeks to testify. Cheeks explained that he was a codefendant with Booker in the Cook County case and identified Booker as the same "Patrick Booker" from that case. If the State offered only the Cook County record, Booker's argument that his surname is common enough to question whether the prior record belonged to someone else might have more sway. But here, Cheeks's testimony, if believed, provided the necessary link. See id. at 202 (drawing all inferences in favor of jury's verdict). The State presented sufficient evidence to support the jury's finding that Booker was previously convicted of an act of sexual abuse for purposes of the sentencing enhancement, and imposition of the enhancement is affirmed.

B. Batson Challenge. Booker's first issue with the jury selection process involves the State's use of a peremptory strike to remove Juror 38 from the venire. Booker contends this strike was improperly motivated by racial discrimination in violation of the Equal Protection Clauses of the United States and Iowa Constitutions. U.S. Const. amend. XIV ; Iowa Const. art. I, § 6 ; see Batson v. Kentucky , 476 U.S. 79, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 90 L.Ed.2d 69 (1986).

When a party challenges a peremptory strike as racially discriminatory, Batson ’s burden-shifting framework resolves the challenge through a three-step inquiry: (1) the challenging party (here, Booker) must establish a prima facie case of purposeful racial discrimination in the peremptory strike (i.e., the State's strike of Juror 38); (2) the striking party (here, the State) must proffer a race-neutral explanation for the strike; and finally, (3) the challenging party must carry the ultimate burden of proving purposeful discrimination.2 See State v. Veal , 930 N.W.2d 319, 332 (Iowa 2019) ; see also Batson , 476 U.S. at 96–98, 106 S.Ct. 1712. We conduct a de novo review of the record when making this inquiry, but at step three, "we give ‘a great deal of deference to the district court's evaluation of credibility when determining the true motives of the attorney’ " who made the strike. Veal , 930 N.W.2d at 327 (quoting State v. Mootz , 808 N.W.2d 207, 214 (Iowa 2012) ).

On the first day of voir dire3 (when Juror 38 was not present), the prosecutor alluded to the Black Lives Matter movement, asking whether any of the jurors had "attended, spoke at, or otherwise supported a demonstration in support of Black Lives Matter." Two jurors gave affirmative responses, but the prosecutor did not follow up with them on this line of questioning, instead transitioning to whether any juror got "the majority of their news from Facebook or social media." Black Lives Matter was not raised again after the first day of jury selection.

Juror 38 was questioned during the second day of voir dire. In response to the prosecutor's first line of questioning about whether anyone ever ...

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