State v. Montgomery

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Citation966 N.W.2d 641
Docket NumberNo. 19-1613,19-1613
Parties STATE of Iowa, Appellee, v. Michael D. MONTGOMERY, Appellant.
Decision Date19 November 2021

966 N.W.2d 641

STATE of Iowa, Appellee,
Michael D. MONTGOMERY, Appellant.

No. 19-1613

Supreme Court of Iowa.

Submitted September 16, 2021
Filed November 19, 2021

Michael J. Jacobsma (argued) of Jacobsma Law Firm, P.C., Orange City, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Sheryl Soich (argued), Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

Waterman, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Christensen, C.J., Mansfield, McDonald, and Oxley, JJ., joined. Appel, J., filed a special concurrence. McDermott, J., filed a separate special concurrence.

WATERMAN, Justice.

In this appeal, we must decide whether to overrule State v. Pearson , 514 N.W.2d 452, 455–56 (Iowa 1994) (en banc), and separately decide whether the district court properly applied the "constitutional rights" exception to the rape shield law, Iowa Rule of Evidence 5.412(b )(1)(C). The jury convicted the defendant of sexual abuse of a child (his granddaughter) but acquitted him of lascivious acts with the same child. The defendant appealed, arguing both crimes should require proof he sought sexual gratification, an element Pearson held is not required to prove sexual abuse. The defendant argues Pearson should be overruled, which would result in the reversal of the sexual abuse conviction as a result of his acquittal on the lascivious acts charges. The State responds that Pearson remains good law and precludes reversal on that ground.

The defendant also argues the district court erred by excluding evidence that another person, a teenager who testified for the State, sexually abused his granddaughter, who simultaneously reported both abusers. The defendant made an offer of proof that the teenager admitted abusing her and that a clinical psychologist would testify his abuse affected her testimony. We transferred the case to the court of appeals, which affirmed his conviction based on Pearson and rule 5.412 while noting the scope of the "constitutional rights" exception to the rape shield law is

966 N.W.2d 646

unclear. We granted the defendant's application for further review.

On our review, we apply stare decisis and decline to overrule Pearson . The legislature codified a sexual gratification element for lascivious acts but not for sexual abuse, which can be proven by sexual contact without a motive of sexual gratification. We reaffirm Pearson and again decline to engraft an additional element the legislature omitted. We therefore reject defendant's arguments based on the allegedly inconsistent verdict. The evidentiary issue presents a closer question. The victim simultaneously reported the abuse by the defendant and the teenager, which involved similar acts and occurred close in time. The defendant should have been allowed to cross-examine his granddaughter and the teenager about their relationship as a source of her age-inappropriate sexual knowledge and their bias or motive to testify against the defendant. Excluding that evidence violated the defendant's rights under the Confrontation and Due Process Clauses and the constitutional rights exception to the rape shield law. For the reasons explained below, we reverse his conviction and remand this case for a new trial.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

In May 2016, when S.V. was eight years old, she confided in a friend that her grandfather Michael Montgomery, age sixty, had touched her inappropriately between her legs at his home in Hospers, Iowa. The friend urged S.V. to tell her mother or another adult. S.V. told her mother, who promptly confronted Montgomery. He became "angry and very defensive." S.V.’s mother did not report the abuse to the police that year because she feared losing custody of her daughter to her ex-husband and because Montgomery was battling stage IV cancer. During the same year, S.V. watched pornography at a friend's house, and her mother also caught her watching pornography at home.

From 2015 to the summer of 2018, S.V. lived with her mother in Sheldon, Iowa, at the home of her mother's boyfriend and his son L.V. Although the adults were unmarried, S.V. regarded L.V. as a "brother." L.V. is four and one half years older than S.V. In the summer of 2016, S.V. told L.V. that Montgomery had been licking her and touching her for a long time in Montgomery's bedroom. In the ensuing months, L.V. began touching S.V. sexually, usually after L.V. let her play on his phone. L.V. sexually abused S.V. on about six occasions, most often in L.V.’s bedroom in Sheldon. The last time L.V. touched S.V. sexually was on May 13, 2018. A few days later, S.V. told her friend that she had been inappropriately touched by Montgomery and by L.V. The friend suggested S.V. tell their school counselor and then walked with S.V. to the guidance office, where S.V. revealed her abuse by both males. The guidance counselor reported the allegations to the Iowa Department of Human Services and called S.V.’s mother to let her know.

On May 16, S.V. was physically examined by a nurse and interviewed by a forensic interviewer at the MercyOne Child Advocacy Center (CAC) in Sioux City. The CAC nurse observed that S.V.’s physical exam was normal, which is not uncommon for sexual abuse because vaginal tissue heals quickly. S.V. disclosed she had been sexually abused by L.V. and also by Montgomery. In the CAC interview, S.V. reported that Montgomery licked her and fingered her. He would make her grab his private part and sometimes she woke up to him kissing her. She reported that L.V. initially only kissed her. Then, L.V. began licking and fingering her and making

966 N.W.2d 647

her grab his private part. S.V. suggested that L.V. started sexually touching her because she told him about what Montgomery did. S.V. said she felt bad for telling on her "brother" and was worried that her mom would be mad or L.V. would tell first and get her in trouble. L.V. admitted to his sexual contacts with S.V. and was charged with sexual abuse in delinquency proceedings.

In a videotaped police interview, Montgomery acknowledged that S.V. sometimes slept in his bed with him and his wife Brenda. Montgomery admitted to police that on one occasion, he was taking a shower and S.V. came in, took her clothes off, and joined him in the shower. He told her to leave, and when she remained, he left the shower. He also admitted that on another occasion, S.V. grabbed his hand while they were in his bed and placed his hand on her groin. He immediately pulled his hand away and told her that was inappropriate. When S.V. again grabbed his hand and placed it on her groin, Montgomery kicked her out of his bedroom. When asked if S.V. was clothed, Montgomery responded that he was wearing clothes without answering with respect to S.V. When the detective followed up to again ask if S.V. was clothed, Montgomery said he did not remember whether S.V. was wearing clothes at that time. According to Brenda, the grandchildren only watched movies with them in their bed two or three times, and she remained in the bed.

After his police interview, a friend of Montgomery's confronted him about S.V.’s allegations. Montgomery responded that he "didn't do anything that [S.V.] didn't initiate first" and "why would he do anything with [S.V.] when he has Brenda."

In September, the State charged Montgomery with sexual abuse in the second degree, in violation of Iowa Code sections 709.1, 709.3(1)(b ), and 903B.1 (2015), and lascivious acts with a child for permitting or causing a child to fondle, in violation of Iowa Code sections 709.1, 709.8(1)(a ), 709.8(1)(b ), 709.8(2)(a ), and 903B.1. The State alleged Montgomery's criminal acts occurred in 2015 or 2016.1 Montgomery pled not guilty, and the case proceeded to trial.

Before trial, Montgomery timely moved to admit evidence under Iowa Rule of Evidence 5.412 and filed an offer of proof. Montgomery argued that under Iowa's rape shield law, he should be permitted to present evidence of L.V.’s sexual abuse of S.V. as necessary for his "constitutional right to offer a defense to the charges made against him." He contended the evidence demonstrates that S.V. may have made up the allegations against Montgomery to protect L.V. The State resisted, arguing a defendant lacks a constitutional right to present irrelevant information. Montgomery further argued the evidence should come in to refute the nurse's testimony about an injury without physical symptoms; the State responded that the nurse made no finding of a physical injury.

The district court made a preliminary ruling excluding the evidence. The court found that evidence of L.V.’s improper conduct did not fall within the exceptions in rule 5.412 to rebut physical evidence, prove consent, or protect the defendant's constitutional rights, and found that the probative value of the evidence "does not outweigh the substantial danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of issues, misleading of the jury, and invasion of complainant's privacy which [Iowa's] and other rape

966 N.W.2d 648

shield laws are designed to prevent." At trial, Montgomery renewed his motion to admit the evidence and made another offer of proof supported by an expert psychologist who opined L.V.’s abuse affected S.V.’s memories. The district court excluded the evidence.

The State...

To continue reading

Request your trial
14 cases
  • State v. Trane
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 6 Enero 2023
    ...its discretion, and which requires deference to the district court's resolution of the disputed factual issue. See State v. Montgomery, 966 N.W.2d 641, 649 (Iowa 2021) ("We review rulings on the admissibility of evidence under the rape shield law, Iowa Rule of Evidence 5.412, for abuse of d......
  • Upon the Petition Miller v. & Concerning Karri Ann Miller (In re Miller)
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 19 Noviembre 2021
    ...of section 411.13 in O'Connor . The 1996 amendments to section 411.13 do not explicitly classify certain pensions as marital property 966 N.W.2d 641 or separate property. The legislature's inclusion that marital property orders can execute, garnish, or attach to all chapter 411 benefits doe......
  • State v. Lucore
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Iowa
    • 25 Enero 2023
    ...19, 27 (Iowa 2022). While the presence of inconsistent verdicts is a question of law, we review that issue de novo. State v. Montgomery, 966 N.W.2d 641, 649 (Iowa 2021). This is because the issue "can be approached only with due regard to important constitutional concepts." State v. Halstea......
  • State v. Torres
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 7 Abril 2023
    ...on (1) the custodial interrogation claim under the Fifth 9 Amendment and (2) the sufficiency of the evidence. See State v. Montgomery, 966 N.W.2d 641, 649 (Iowa 2021). "When a defendant challenges a district court's denial of a motion to suppress based upon the deprivation of a state or fed......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT