State v. Davison, 20-0950

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtMANSFIELD, JUSTICE
PartiesSTATE OF IOWA, Appellee, v. CAESAR CHARLES DAVISON, Appellant.
Docket Number20-0950
Decision Date15 April 2022

STATE OF IOWA, Appellee,
v.

CAESAR CHARLES DAVISON, Appellant.

No. 20-0950

Supreme Court of Iowa

April 15, 2022


Submitted October 21, 2021

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Des Moines County, John M. Wright, Judge.

A defendant convicted of assault causing serious injury and conspiracy to commit a forcible felony (murder) appeals the award of $150, 000 restitution and the sentence. AFFIRMED IN PART, REVERSED IN PART, AND REMANDED.

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Martha Lucey, State Appellate Defender, and Maria Ruhtenberg, Assistant Appellate Defender, and Lucee Laursen (argued), law student, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Martha E. Trout (argued), Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

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Mansfield, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Appel, McDonald, and Oxley, JJ., joined, and in which McDermott, J., joined, except as to the discussion of legislative history in part III.A. McDonald, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which Oxley, J., joined. McDermott, J., filed a special concurrence. Waterman, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which Christensen, C.J., joined.

MANSFIELD, JUSTICE

A jury found the defendant guilty of assault causing serious injury and conspiracy to commit murder in connection with a shooting death. The district court later awarded restitution against the defendant under Iowa Code section 910.3B (2017). That law mandates an award of at least $150, 000 restitution when "the offender is convicted of a felony in which the act or acts committed by the offender caused the death of another person." Id. § 910.3B(1). The defendant now argues that the restitution was statutorily and constitutionally impermissible because the offenses of which he was convicted did not include, as an element, causing the death of another person.

We conclude that Iowa Code section 910.3B does not require a jury finding that the defendant caused the death of another person. But the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution is a different matter. The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the Sixth Amendment requires facts that increase the defendant's minimum or maximum punishment to be determined by a jury. Because the $150, 000 restitution is punitive in part, awards of such restitution must be based on jury findings. No jury found that the defendant caused the death of the victim of the shooting. Therefore, we reverse the award of restitution in this case and remand for further proceedings.

I. Facts and Procedural History.

Early in the morning of September 10, 2017, Demarcus Chew rode back with a group of friends from a club in Gulfport, Illinois to his home in Burlington, Iowa. Another group had been at the same club. Members of that other group,

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which included the defendant Caesar Davison, Emmanuel Spann, Antoine Spann, Andre Harris, and Derrick Parker, also left at the same time. The second group was aware that an individual named A.J. Smith had a conflict with the Chew family and had put a bounty on Demarcus Chew's head.

When the car carrying Chew home neared Chew's apartment, a vehicle carrying most of the members of the second group also stopped. Davison and Emmanuel Spann got out of that vehicle, leaving Antoine Spann and Harris behind.[1]

Davison and Emmanuel Spann were out of the vehicle for only seconds or, at most, a couple of minutes. During that time, multiple gunshots were fired. Chew was struck seven times by bullets, once in the head, three times in the chest or abdomen, once in the pelvis, once in the left arm, and once in the left leg. Chew's head wound was "rapidly fatal," according to the medical examiner, but the wounds to Chew's lungs and liver would also have resulted in Chew's death by themselves.

Davison and Emmanuel Spann returned quickly to their vehicle. Antoine Spann was told "to go." When Davison and Emmanuel Spann were asked if they got Chew, Davison responded, "Yeah, it was up close." Davison was also heard saying, "He gone." As Antoine Spann drove away, Emmanuel Spann was seated in the vehicle holding the murder weapon wrapped in a T-shirt. The vehicle made another brief stop so Emmanuel could get out and hide the gun in some bushes.

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On April 2, 2019, the State filed a trial information in the Iowa District Court for Des Moines County charging Davison with first-degree murder, in violation of Iowa Code sections 707.1 and 707.2(1), and conspiracy to commit a forcible felony, murder, in violation of Iowa Code sections 706.1 and 706.3.

The case was heard by a jury beginning on February 11, 2020. On February 20, the jury returned verdicts finding Davison guilty of the lesser included offense of assault causing serious injury, a class "D" felony, in violation of Iowa Code section 708.2(4), and guilty as charged of conspiracy to commit a forcible felony, murder, a class "C" felony.

The jury instruction for assault causing serious injury read as follows:

The State must prove all of the following elements of the lesser-included offense of Assault Causing a Serious Injury:
1. On or about September 10, 2017, the defendant committed an assault upon Demarcus Chew.
2. The defendant had the apparent ability to do the act.
3. The defendant's act caused a serious injury to Demarcus Chew.

The instruction for conspiracy to commit a forcible felony read:

As to Count II of the Trial Information, the State must prove all of the following elements of Conspiracy to Commit a Forcible Felony:
1. On or about the 10th day of September, 2017, Caesar Davison agreed with Antoine Spann, Andre Harris, Emmanuel Spann, and Derrick Parker that one or more of them would commit the crime of Murder, a forcible felony, or solicit another to commit the crime of Murder; or attempt to commit the crime of Murder.
2. Caesar Davison entered into the agreement with the intent to promote or facilitate the crime of Murder.
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3. Caesar Davison, or Antoine Spann, Andre Harris, Emmanuel Spann, or Derrick Parker committed an overt act in furtherance of the agreement.

Significantly, neither of those crimes-unlike the murder and lesser-included manslaughter offenses of which Davison was acquitted-required the jury to find that Davison had caused Chew's death.

On March 12, the State filed a statement of pecuniary damages requesting an award of $150, 000 restitution for the benefit of the Chew's estate because Davison had "caused the death of another person." Iowa Code § 910.3B(1). The next day, Davison lodged an objection based on Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), and Southern Union Co. v. United States, 567 U.S. 343 (2012). On July 13, the district court imposed consecutive prison sentences on Davison totaling fifteen years and ordered him to pay $150, 000 in restitution to Chew's family under Iowa Code section 910.3B(1).

Davison appeals his restitution award and sentence. He argues that section 910.3B does not authorize a restitution award unless causing the death of another is an element of an offense for which the defendant was convicted. Alternatively, Davison argues that the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article I, section 9 of the Iowa Constitution require a jury finding beyond a reasonable doubt that he caused the death of another. Finally, Davison claims the district court abused its discretion at sentencing because it was not aware it could sentence him to probation.

We retained Davison's appeal.

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II. Standard of Review.

This court reviews restitution orders for correction of errors at law. State v. Waigand, 953 N.W.2d 689, 694 (Iowa 2021). However, our review is de novo when a constitutional claim is at issue. State v. Izzolena, 609 N.W.2d 541, 545 (Iowa 2000) (en banc). We review the district court's sentence for abuse of discretion. State v. Crooks, 911 N.W.2d 153, 161 (Iowa 2018).

III. Legal Analysis.

A. Does Iowa Code Section 910.3B(1) Apply Only to Defendants Convicted of a Crime in Which an Element Was Causing the Death of Another? Iowa Code section 910.3B(1) states:

In all criminal cases in which the offender is convicted of a felony in which the act or acts committed by the offender caused the death of another person, in addition to the amount determined to be payable and ordered to be paid to a victim for pecuniary damages, as defined under section 910.1, and determined under section 910.3, the court shall also order the offender to pay at least one hundred fifty thousand dollars in restitution to the victim's estate if the victim died testate.

The first issue Davison raises is one of statutory interpretation-does the phrase "a felony in which the act or acts . . . caused the death of another person" mean that the death-causing acts have to be part of the definition of the felony itself or is it sufficient if the defendant is convicted of a felony and the acts that constituted the felony also caused a death? Id. The defendant argues that the correct interpretation requires causing a death to be an element of the felony.[2]

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Our first step in a case of statutory interpretation "is to determine whether the language is ambiguous." State v. Richardson, 890 N.W.2d 609, 616 (Iowa 2017). To determine if a statute is ambiguous, we consider its language in context and consider whether "reasonable minds differ or are uncertain as to the meaning of the statute." Id. (quoting Rhoades v. State, 880 N.W.2d 431, 446 (Iowa 2016)). In our view, the plain text of section 910.3B leaves room for reasonable minds to differ, providing two explicit requirements but limited guidance as to how closely they must connect. It is clear that the statute is intended to apply to defendants convicted of a felony where a felonious act resulted in the death of another, but less clear whether an act causing death must be part of the felony.

The legislature could have...

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