State v. Parker

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Citation747 N.W.2d 196
Docket NumberNo. 05-0588.,05-0588.
PartiesSTATE of Iowa, Appellee v. Richard Leroy PARKER, Appellant.
Decision Date08 February 2008

Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Nan Jennisch, Assistant State Appellate Defender, and Richard Leroy Parker, Anamosa, pro se, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Bruce Kempkes, Assistant Attorney General, and Christine O. Corken, Assistant Dubuque County Attorney, for appellee.

CADY, Justice.

In this appeal from a conviction for second-degree robbery as an habitual offender, we review a variety of claims of error at trial and at sentencing. We conclude error occurred at trial, but it did not affect the outcome of the trial and did not otherwise result in the type of prejudice to justify a reversal of the conviction. We vacate the decision of the court of appeals and affirm the district court judgment and sentence.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

Richard Parker was convicted by a jury of second-degree robbery and sentenced as an habitual offender. The crime involved a bank robbery that took place at American Trust and Savings Bank in Dubuque shortly after 3 p.m. on July 14, 2004. The evidence at trial was sufficient to establish that Parker entered the bank, handed a bank teller a note, and demanded money. The teller described Parker as a black man wearing a hat, wig, and latex gloves, with a distinctive mark on his cheek. She gave Parker money from the counter drawer, which he placed in a black bag with green lettering on it.

The branch manager of the bank witnessed the robbery from her office. She observed the robber leave the bank, enter a blue Chevrolet Celebrity four-door sedan, and drive away. She recorded the make, model, and license plate number of the vehicle.

A customer located at the drive-through area of the bank recognized the situation as a robbery and attempted to follow the blue getaway vehicle. His pursuit, however, was short-lived. Just as the customer pulled out of the drive-through area of the bank, a red Chevrolet Blazer pulled out in front of him and impeded his travel. The driver of the red Blazer then removed the keys of the vehicle from the ignition and exited her vehicle. Consequently, the customer's pursuit ended almost as quickly as it began.

A short time later, law enforcement officers stopped a red Blazer driven by Inger Hall-Smith. A package of latex gloves similar to the gloves worn by the robber was found in the vehicle. During the stop Hall-Smith was questioned by an officer about her role in obstructing the pursuit by the customer. Hall-Smith responded by describing the event as a "bank robbery," even though the officer had not referred to the incident as a bank robbery.

Sometime prior to 4 p.m., a Dubuque homeowner was mowing her lawn when Parker drove by in a vehicle matching the description of the getaway car. He stopped to ask for directions out of the subdivision in which the homeowner resided. There was only one road in and out of the subdivision, and the homeowner gave Parker the directions. The homeowner noticed a dark mark on Parker's face.

Shortly before 4 p.m., a man who lived on a farm outside of Dubuque noticed Parker near a disabled blue car on the side of the road near his farm. The car had steam coming from the engine. Parker approached the farmer and asked for a ride. The farmer declined to help. However, another man driving a truck soon came upon the scene and gave Parker a ride into Dubuque. The driver of the truck noticed the man had makeup on his face and carried a black bag with green lettering.

Later that afternoon, police located the blue Celebrity getaway vehicle near the farm outside of Dubuque. They also found a marked $100 bill from American Trust and Savings Bank inside the vehicle.

On the evening of August 26, approximately six weeks following the robbery, Parker appeared unannounced at the Waterloo residence of James Hall, Jr., an attorney and brother of Hall-Smith, the driver of the red Blazer who prevented the witness from pursuing Parker as he drove away from the bank. Hall was acquainted with Parker and was aware his sister had been arrested for her participation in the robbery. Hall had represented Parker in the past regarding some speeding violations.

During the course of the evening of socialization and conversation, Parker detailed his participation in the bank robbery to Hall and apologized for involving Hall's sister. He also told Hall he had committed other bank robberies in the past and had plans to rob a bank in Chicago. Parker also made other incriminating statements.

Parker spent the night at Hall's house. The next day, Hall left his house and informed police that Parker could be found at his residence. He told police that Parker was not his client. Parker was subsequently arrested by police at Hall's residence.

Prior to trial, Parker filed a motion with the district court to exclude from evidence at trial the incriminating statements made to Hall. Parker claimed he formed an attorney-client relationship with Hall and all the statements made to Hall were privileged communications. The district court held a hearing on the motion. Parker testified to the discussions with Hall and further testified that Hall said he would look into the status of the robbery investigation. Hall testified the two men talked and socialized well into the evening, drank alcoholic beverages, and even used illegal drugs. Hall said Parker never asked him to be his lawyer after he arrived at the house and he never had any conversation with Parker that could have led Parker to believe that Hall was representing him. He further testified he told Parker he was not getting involved in the matter and that Parker knew he was not his attorney. The district court determined no attorney-client relationship existed and denied the motion to exclude Hall as a witness.

At trial, the various witnesses to the facts and circumstances surrounding the robbery testified. The bank teller, the homeowner who was mowing the lawn, and the Good Samaritan truck driver all positively identified Parker. Hall also testified to the incriminating statements made by Parker.

Parker testified in his defense and advanced an alibi defense. He claimed he was in Chicago visiting his family on the day of the bank robbery. Parker also testified during direct examination, without elaboration, that he had never been charged with the crimes of theft, robbery, or burglary. No family members testified in support of his alibi.

On cross-examination, the State elicited from Parker that he had actually been charged with first-degree burglary in 1993. After Parker explained the offense involved an incident in which he broke the window of a vehicle, the prosecutor asked if he had any other convictions on his record. Following a prompt objection by Parker's attorney, the following exchange occurred:

STATE: I believe it falls clearly within the rules, Your Honor, when there are felony convictions, not to mention the fact that he opened the door by describing that he hadn't been charged with previous particular crimes. I don't believe he can be allowed to mislead the jury otherwise. The rules are very clear, but the procedure is for felony convictions.

THE COURT: I agree. Go ahead.

DEFENSE COUNSEL: Your Honor, then I wish to simply remind the Court of the motions prior to the case, and I wish to remind the Court of the rules of evidence, and particularly, I believe it's 603.

STATE: I believe its Rule 5.609(a)(1).

THE COURT: the Court is well acquainted with that, and you've opened the door and asked him questions pertaining to his prior history. I believe the State has the right to go into that subject, especially if it's a felony or anything related to an untruthful matter.

DEFENSE COUNSEL: Your Honor, my client was asked specific questions.

THE COURT: And gave very specific answers. That opens the door to this inquiry. Go ahead.

DEFENDANT: Okay. Repeat your question.

Q: Could you read the question back please? (Whereupon, the requested portion of the proceeding was read back by the court reporter.) A: Yes.

Q: You have convictions for possession of a schedule I substance? A: Yes. Thirteen years ago, I was charged with, you know, you know, I believe it was aiding and abetting or delivery of a controlled substance, yes.

Q: Delivery of a schedule II controlled substance within a thousand feet of a school and delivery of a schedule II controlled substance; do you recall that, sir? A: I just said I did, yes.

Q: And you were convicted of it? A: Yes, I was.

Q: And you went to prison? A: Yes, I did.

The jury convicted Parker of second-degree robbery. The district court sentenced Parker as an habitual offender after he was found to be an habitual offender at the enhancement phase of the trial.

Parker appealed, and asserted five claims of error: (1) the conversations with Hall should have been excluded as privileged attorney-client communications, (2) the evidence of his prior drug convictions should not have been admitted, (3) his attorney rendered ineffective assistance of counsel, (4) his sentencing as an habitual offender was illegal, and (5) prosecutorial misconduct. We transferred the case to the court of appeals. The court of appeals held the district court abused its discretion by admitting evidence of defendant's prior drug convictions and remanded for a new trial. The court of appeals did not address Parker's other claims of error. The State sought, and we granted, further review.

II. Standards of Review.

We review each issue presented according to its appropriate standard. Regarding the admission of the prior crimes evidence,

[t]his court "generally review[s] evidentiary rulings for abuse of discretion." Williams v. Hedican, 561 N.W.2d 817, 822 (Iowa 1997); accord State v. Bugely, 562 N.W.2d 173, 177 (Iowa 1997) (applying abuse of discretion standard in reviewing admission of...

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