State v. Mayberry, 85-1879

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Citation411 N.W.2d 677
Docket NumberNo. 85-1879,85-1879
PartiesSTATE of Iowa, Appellee, v. James L. MAYBERRY, Appellant.
Decision Date22 July 1987

Page 677

411 N.W.2d 677
STATE of Iowa, Appellee,
James L. MAYBERRY, Appellant.
No. 85-1879.
Supreme Court of Iowa.
July 22, 1987.
Rehearing Denied Sept. 23, 1987.

Page 679

Jerald W. Kinnamon and Jon M. Kinnamon, Cedar Rapids, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Atty. Gen., Pamela Greenman Dahl, Asst. Atty. Gen., and J. Patrick White, Co. Atty., for appellee.


CARTER, Justice.

Defendant, James L. Mayberry, has appealed his conviction of the offense of murder in the first degree in violation of Iowa Code section 707.2 (1985). He challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support the jury's verdict of guilty. In addition, he claims the trial court erred by refusing to grant a bill of particulars, refusing to give requested jury instructions, admitting improper medical opinion evidence, admitting improper rebuttal evidence by the State, and denying a motion for mistrial following a comment by a State witness concerning defendant's failure to take a polygraph examination. Finally, defendant charges that his conviction is tainted because of the ineffective assistance he received from his trial counsel. We consider all of these claims and affirm the judgment of the district court.

Defendant was charged by trial information with killing Julia A. Wise on or about July 2, 1985. The information alleges the killing was perpetrated with malice aforethought and was either premeditated or occurred while defendant was participating in a forcible felony. Evidence adduced at trial indicated that the victim was a twenty-year-old woman who had moved to Iowa City from Springfield, Missouri, a few days prior to her death. She resided in a mobile home in the Hilltop Trailer Court in Iowa City. Her mobile home was located next to that in which Mark Berger, the brother of defendant's wife, resided.

On July 4, 1985, the victim's parents, who lived in Springfield, Missouri, became concerned that their daughter was not answering her telephone during their repeated efforts to contact her. Prompted by this concern, her mother telephoned the manager of the Hilltop Trailer Court and asked him to contact their daughter. Upon going to Julia Wise's mobile home about 1:45 p.m. on July 4, the manager observed her car parked near the unit. When she did not answer his knock on the door, he entered the mobile home and found her nude body on the floor. She had been stabbed to death.

The victim's clothing had been cut from her body. Her glasses were found nearby, and a bruise on her face indicated that the glasses had been jammed against her nose by a forceful blow. A bloody towel, later identified as the victim's property, was later located underneath Mark Berger's mobile home.

Defendant was present at the Berger mobile home later on July 4 when detectives on the Iowa City Police Force canvassed the victim's neighbors. He told the detectives that although he, too, had formerly lived in Springfield, Missouri, he had not known Julia Wise prior to her move to Iowa. He indicated that he had first met her on July 2 while waiting for Mark Berger outside the latter's mobile home. He also volunteered the fact that he had seen the victim alive between 7:00 and 7:30 p.m.

Page 680

on July 2. When questioned about this, he indicated that he had talked to her briefly outside her mobile home and she had given him a glass of water. He stated that he had last seen her when he knocked on her door and handed her the empty glass.

Defendant was questioned further on July 6 by officers of the Iowa City Police Department and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation. On this occasion, he told the officers that, in addition to accepting a glass of water from Julia Wise outside her mobile home, he had entered the mobile home for about ten minutes to assist her with a malfunctioning television set. Defendant stated that this was done at her request after he had told her that he was employed by an electronics firm. When questioned concerning objects he might have touched in the mobile home, he indicated that he might have touched a beer can, a water glass and the television set.

The officers obtained a set of defendant's fingerprints at the time of the July 6 interview. A comparison with the fingerprints found in the victim's mobile home revealed that defendant's fingerprints were present on a green drinking glass, on the front side of the right lens of the victim's eyeglasses found near her body, and on the blade of a kitchen knife found in the mobile home. That knife could not be identified as the murder weapon.

On July 10, defendant was again questioned at the Iowa City Police Department by officers of that department and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation. The officers advised him that they had physical evidence indicating his presence in the mobile home and some contact with the victim. According to the officers, defendant told them that, when he entered the mobile home to examine the television set, Julia Wise had shown him through the mobile home and they had started hugging and kissing in the bedroom area. He stated that he touched her breasts and vaginal area but decided against having sexual intercourse. The officers also claimed that, later in the same interview, defendant told them he had become angered by a remark made by the victim and he had hit her with his open hand, knocking her to the floor. He did not admit to any further acts of violence toward the victim.

In his trial testimony, defendant denied having struck the victim at any time and denied having told the officers that he did so. He explained his fingerprints on the victim's glasses by indicating that at one point when he was fixing the television set she asked him to hand her glasses to her from a nearby countertop.

Dr. Victor Edwards, deputy county medical examiner, viewed the body of the victim at the mobile home on the afternoon of July 4. He directed that the body be moved to Mercy Hospital so that an autopsy could be performed. He estimated, based on his visual observation of the condition of the body and the odors present in the mobile home that death had occurred twenty-four to forty-eight hours prior to the afternoon of July 4. Dr. William J. Powers, a pathologist, performed an autopsy on the victim's body. He identified several knife wounds on the body and concluded that one particular stab wound to the heart was the cause of death. Because of the ninety-degree temperatures which prevailed both inside and outside the mobile home, Dr. Powers could only estimate the time of death. He, like Dr. Edwards, estimated that death had occurred not less than twenty-four hours nor more than forty-eight hours before the late afternoon of July 4.

Peter Jingst and Sharon Patterson, friends of the defendant, testified that they were present at Mark Berger's mobile home at 11:00 p.m. on July 2, that defendant's car was not present at that time, and that Julia Wise's car was not parked at her mobile home. Charles Eckman, a witness for the State, testified that the victim's car was parked by her mobile home at 12:30 a.m. on July 3. Mark Berger's wife testified that she returned from her job at University Hospitals at 1:45 a.m. on July 3. At this time, Julia Wise's car was not present at the mobile home. When she looked out approximately forty-five minutes later the car was still not there.

Page 681

Other evidence offered at trial included testimony from defendant's wife that, upon defendant's return home around 10:40 p.m. on July 2, he connected the plumbing on a newly acquired automatic washing machine and immediately washed the clothes which he had been wearing. This clothing was defendant's work uniform. The evidence indicated that defendant's employer provided a laundry service which defendant ordinarily used for these uniforms. Defendant's wife also testified that she observed a white substance, which she believed to be semen, in the crotch of the pants which were washed. She also noticed that the pocket on the smock shirt of the uniform was torn. Additional facts bearing on the issues presented will be stated in connection with our discussion of the applicable law.

I. Sufficiency of Evidence of Guilt.

The first issue which we consider is defendant's claim that the evidence is insufficient to sustain a finding of guilt under the correct constitutional standard. In making this argument, defendant correctly notes that the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment to the federal constitution protects the accused in a criminal case against conviction "except upon proof beyond a reasonable doubt of every fact necessary to constitute the crime with which he is charged." In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 364, 90 S.Ct. 1068, 1073, 25 L.Ed.2d 368, 375 (1970). The correct test in the application of this requirement is whether, considering all of the record evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, a rational trier of fact could be convinced of defendant's guilt (and all essential elements of guilt) beyond a reasonable doubt. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 318-19, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 2788-89, 61 L.Ed.2d 560, 573 (1979).

Defendant's challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence may be divided into two separate arguments. The first relates solely to the evidence involving the identity of the perpetrator of the crime. The second relates to the sufficiency of the evidence of the elements of first-degree murder under both of the alternative theories presented by the State, i.e., willful, premeditated killing and killing while participating in a forcible felony. We separately consider the arguments involving these two categories of proof.

A. Identity of the perpetrator. Defendant argues there is no direct evidence that he was the perpetrator of the crime and that the circumstantial evidence is entirely inconclusive. His argument in this respect is aided somewhat by the rather imprecise...

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