State v. Langley

Decision Date17 May 1978
Docket NumberNo. 61106,61106
Citation265 N.W.2d 718
PartiesSTATE of Iowa, Appellee, v. Allen LANGLEY, Appellant.
CourtIowa Supreme Court

Cone & Tyler, Des Moines, for appellant.

Richard C. Turner, Atty. Gen., Faison T. Sessoms, Jr., Asst. Atty. Gen., and Dan L. Johnston, Polk County Atty., for appellee.



In this appeal defendant Allen Langley raises issues growing out of his conviction of sodomy which the State alleges occurred in the jail of Polk County, Iowa.

Defendant's issues compel us to recite some of the evidence. The jury could find that on December 2, 1976, defendant as well as Richard Knedler, Verlin Brown, Eddie Abney, and Charlie Cobb, among others, were male inmates of the jail. Abney shared a cell with Cobb.

Defendant and Knedler were pugnacious. Defendant picked a fight with Abney and bit him. Following the noon meal, Knedler entered Abney's cell and, after Abney refused to give him "a blow job," began hitting Abney. Defendant also entered the cell and began beating Abney, who was dazed and scared.

Later, defendant and Knedler would not permit Abney to get his evening meal perhaps to conceal his beaten appearance from jailers. After mealtime, defendant again entered Abney's cell and beat him. Abney's nose bled and his eye was swollen. He was afraid to call the jailers because of what defendant and Knedler might do.

Next, defendant and Knedler forced inmate Brown to let Cobb give him a "blow job." Abney testified that then "I heard them hitting, you know, on Brown and telling Brown to go ahead and screw Cobbs," and, "A few minutes later Cobbs came back to the cell and laid down."

Thereafter defendant Langley came into Abney's cell again. Abney testified:

Q. (Prosecutor) And what happened when Mr. Langley came back in? A. Well, he started looking at me, kept on saying, just kept hitting on me and kicking me.

Q. Did anyone else come into the cell? A. Yes, Knedler came back in. . . .

Q. What happened when Mr. Knedler came back in? A. Started hitting on me again.

Q. Then what happened? A. Then they just held well, Langley grabbed my legs at the bottom of the bed and told Cobbs to give me a blow job. . . .

Q. Now when Mr. Cobb was brought over to your bunk, what, if anything, took place in regard to Mr. Cobb and Mr. Langley and Mr. Knedler with yourself? A. Well, he told me to let Cobbs give me a blow job. I said no and just kind of curled up. I pulled my knees up to my chest and that is when Knedler I mean Langley pulled my legs. Knedler was up by my head holding my holding me back and that's when they told Cobbs to open my pants. . . .

Q. (Defense Counsel) Was anyone outside the cell looking in? A. Yes.

Q. Who? Waldron and a bunch of other guys. . . .

Q. (Prosecutor) What did Mr. Cobb do then? A. He took out my penis and started sucking on it and then after that they started hitting on me. . . .

Q. Once that was done, what happened next? A. Well, they started beating on me, Langley and Knedler started beating on me and told me to get up and screw Cobbs in the ass and I said no, I wasn't going to do it, so they kept on beating Cobbs laid there beside me and finally they got me up and made me screw Cobbs in the ass.

Subsequently a grand jury investigated activities in the jail and returned several indictments charging sexual offenses and other misconduct by inmates. In connection with the occasion in question, the grand jury charged defendant with assault with intent to do great bodily injury and with sodomy. In a prior trial on the assault with intent charge, a jury found defendant guilty of the included offense of assault and battery. In the present trial on the second charge, a jury found defendant guilty of sodomy, as alleged. The trial court sentenced defendant accordingly, and defendant appealed.

In this court defendant presents several issues: (1) Did the trial court commit reversible error in sustaining a motion in limine by the State? (2) Is the sodomy statute unconstitutional? and (3) Was defendant twice placed in jeopardy?

I. Motion in Limine. Before trial the State made a motion in limine on several subjects including the following:

Mr. Ramey (Prosecutor): At this time, Your Honor, comes now the State of Iowa and moves the Court through motion in limine to restrict the defense counsel for defendant and his witnesses from discussing or raising the issue in this case whether or not the State's witness, Eddie Abney, has filed or intends to file any lawsuit against Polk County, employees of Polk County, the defendant herein or any other prisoner in the Polk County jail stemming from this very same incident, states to the court that we feel this would be prejudicial toward the jury and of no relevance to this criminal case. . . .

The Court: Well, first, the court feels there is no materiality in this case as to the intent of the witness to file a lawsuit or not to file a lawsuit.

Mr. Cone (Defense Counsel): If the court would permit me to enter a resistance to that part of this motion, I believe it has a very direct bearing in that it gives it certainly gives the victim some incentive to lie. It goes directly to his credibility in his testimony. If convictions are found for sodomitical acts later on in a civil lawsuit, they are certainly going to bolster his case there and I think that it certainly goes to his credibility and should be brought out in the course of this trial.

The Court: The court in spite of that possibility is going to sustain the motion in limine with regard to civil lawsuits.

At trial defendant made no offer of proof regarding any actual or contemplated civil litigation, did not ask to take up such a subject with the court at any time during the presentation of the State's evidence or his own evidence, and did not otherwise make a trial record on the subject. At the threshold of this issue we thus have the question whether defendant presents anything for review.

We do not have here the situation of a motion by a defendant to suppress a confession or property seized by officers, when evidence is presented at a hearing on the motion and the court makes a final decision overruling it. Such a ruling is final. State v. Feddersen, 230 N.W.2d 510 (Iowa). Here we have motion in limine made by the State, no evidence is introduced on presentation of the motion to the trial court, counsel argue in generalities to that court without showing what the specific evidence is if any, and the court sustains the motion but does not preclude defendant from presenting the matter for reconsideration when the parties try the case or from then making an offer of proof. Is such a pretrial ruling a final one?

Ordinarily the granting or rejecting of a motion in limine is not reversible error; the error comes, if at all, when the matter is presented at trial and the evidence is then admitted or refused, as the case may be. An exception exists where such a motion is granted on a hearing which is evidentiary in nature, the court is completely advised of the factual situation, and nothing occurs at trial to change the status. We stated in State v. Garrett, 183 N.W.2d 652, 654 (Iowa) It has been said granting or rejecting a motion in limine can never be reversible error. 5 Washburn Law Journal, 232, 233. This court has not insisted on a subsequent record where the motion in limine is granted on hearing which is evidentiary in nature, the court is completely apprised of the factual situation and nothing occurs at trial to change the posture of the parties. Gustafson v. Iowa Power & Light Co., 183 N.W.2d 212 (Iowa 1971) (decided January 19, 1971).

The reason for the principle is that the ruling is not a final one; it is a red flag to counsel that the evidence is not to be brought before the jury unless and until it is separately taken up with the court in the posture of the case at the trial. We explained this rationale of motions in limine in Twyford v. Weber, 220 N.W.2d 919 (Iowa). We then stated at page 923:

In other words, such orders, when the motion is sustained, must be so worded as not to preclude the right of the parties affected thereby to make their record in the absence of the jury, on any material evidentiary matter which they feel entitled to produce in support of their case in view of the record made at that point.

We also stated on the same page:

In the absence of such a subsequent offer on the part of counsel operating under restriction the record on appeal may be so lacking as to not properly present to this court the setting in which the questionable evidence was claimed to be admissible.

We believe this to be true even though, "this court has not insisted on a subsequent record where the motion in limine is granted on hearing which is evidentiary in nature, the court is completely apprised of the factual situation and nothing occurs at trial to change the posture of the parties. * * * (citing authorities)." (Emphasis in the original). State v. Garrett, 183 N.W.2d at 654.

In the present case the trial court's ruling thus had the effect of telling the parties not to bring the matter of civil litigation before the jury at trial unless and until the matter was taken up before the court itself, and the order did not purport to preclude the parties from so taking up the matter with the court. The parties did not have an evidentiary hearing when they presented the motion in limine, and defendant never took up the subject with the court or made an offer of proof at trial. We are left to speculation as to whether evidence even exists of the character in question or, if so, how it would be used with the other evidence in the case. As we said in Twyford at pages 922-923:

The function of a motion in limine is not only to exclude during the voir dire examination and opening statements, reference to anticipated evidence claimed to be objectionable because incompetent, irrelevant,...

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7 cases
  • State v. Woodruff
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • October 9, 1984
    ...attack; the overbreadth attack is obviated by adjudicating the question of constitutionality on an "as applied" basis. State v. Langley, 265 N.W.2d 718, 722 (Iowa 1978). See, e.g., State v. Goodrick, supra; State v. Worthington, 582 S.W.2d 286 (Mo.App.1979). In other words, one who challeng......
  • State v. Mark
    • United States
    • Iowa Supreme Court
    • December 19, 1979 the shoe print evidence. A motion in limine is designed to preclude the premature presentation of evidence. See State v. Langley, 265 N.W.2d 718, 721 (Iowa 1978). It is well established that a ruling on the motion, which only grants or denies protection from prejudicial references to cha......
  • State v. Derby
    • United States
    • Iowa Supreme Court
    • June 3, 2011
    ...testified at trial and an objection was properly made to the evidence during the course of the trial. See, e.g., State v. Langley, 265 N.W.2d 718, 720 (Iowa 1978) (“Ordinarily the granting or rejecting of a motion in limine is not reversible error; the error comes, if at all, when the matte......
  • State v. Senseman, No. 6-160/05-0829 (IA 4/26/2006), 6-160/05-0829
    • United States
    • Iowa Supreme Court
    • April 26, 2006
    ...neither at trial, the case falls under the general rule that orders on motions in limine are not final and reviewable. State v. Langley, 265 N.W.2d 718, 720-21 (Iowa 1978). In granting the State's motion the district court expressly The court reserves the right to change its ruling on said ......
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