State v. Pearson, No. 11–1214.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtAPPEL
Citation836 N.W.2d 88
PartiesSTATE of Iowa, Appellee, v. Desirae Monique PEARSON, Appellant.
Decision Date27 August 2013
Docket NumberNo. 11–1214.

836 N.W.2d 88

STATE of Iowa, Appellee,
v.
Desirae Monique PEARSON, Appellant.

No. 11–1214.

Supreme Court of Iowa.

Aug. 16, 2013.
As Corrected Aug. 27, 2013.



Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and N. Nan Jennisch and David Arthur Adams, Assistant Appellate Defenders, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Elisabeth S. Reynoldson, Assistant Attorney General, Patrick C. Jackson, County

[836 N.W.2d 89]

Attorney, and Tyron T. Rogers, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.


APPEL, Justice.

Seventeen-year-old Desirae Pearson was convicted by a jury of two counts of first-degree robbery and two counts of first-degree burglary for her actions at two separate homes on Thanksgiving night in 2010. The district court sentenced her to serve concurrent sentences for the convictions arising from each transaction—one count of first-degree robbery and one count of first-degree burglary—but ordered those two sentences be served consecutively. Because each first-degree robbery conviction carries a sentence of twenty-five years imprisonment subject to a seventy percent mandatory minimum, Pearson received a fifty-year sentence and will be ineligible for parole until she serves thirty-five years. Pearson argues her sentence is cruel and unusual as applied to her under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution and article I, section 17 of the Iowa Constitution. For the reasons expressed below, we vacate Pearson's sentence and remand the case to the district court for further proceedings.

I. Background Facts and Prior Proceedings.

Pearson was born in August 1993. According to her presentence investigation report, when she was six or seven years old, Pearson was hit by a car and hospitalized for several days. Though subsequent neurological and psychiatric testing did not reveal any particularized concerns, Pearson's parents believed they saw changes in her behavior following the accident, especially with regard to anger management.

Prior to her arrest in the present matter, Pearson arguably had a penchant for simple misdemeanor theft and engaging in physical altercations. In 2002, she entered into an informal adjustment agreement following an allegation of fifth-degree theft.1 In 2003, she was alleged to have engaged in assault and fifth-degree theft, but her case was held open for further review. In 2004, she was alleged to have engaged in an assault, but she was warned and her case was dismissed. In 2006, she received a warning after allegedly engaging in disorderly conduct. She also entered into a second informal adjustment agreement following an allegation of fifth-degree theft. In 2007, she was adjudicated delinquent for disorderly conduct following a fight with a fellow classmate at school. In 2008, she entered into her third informal adjustment agreement following an allegation of assault. Finally, in 2009, she was alleged to have engaged in disorderly conduct, again by fighting, but she was warned and her case was dismissed. Importantly, though Pearson has been the subject of frequent law enforcement intervention, prior to her arrest in the present matter she had only been adjudicated delinquent one time and had never been the subject of an adult criminal proceeding.

At the time of her arrest, Pearson lived with her parents, her two sisters, and her two young nephews. She has two older brothers and two older stepsiblings who lived outside the home. Her father's police record contained two convictions for operating while intoxicated. Her mother's record was clean. Pearson's parents perceived her as one who “is angry and fights,” but indicated she is a “smart girl” they would like to see remain at home to finish high school and have a career. Pearson's parents perceived that Pearson

[836 N.W.2d 90]

has a discipline problem. They resorted to grounding her as a method of punishment.

Prior to her arrest, Pearson was in eleventh grade at the local alternative high school. The presentence investigation report indicated Pearson spent much of her free time “running around with her friends.” She indicated that many of her friends were negative influences, and she claimed they were a significant reason she got into trouble. While Pearson did not acknowledge having a drug problem, she admitted to smoking marijuana daily as well as taking prescription drugs during the year prior to her arrest. Though she does not believe she has an alcohol problem, she admitted to consuming alcohol on the day of her arrest. A predisposition report in a previous juvenile court matter indicated, however, that in 2008 evaluators at the University of Iowa hospitals diagnosed Pearson with mild to moderate child-onset conduct disorder, alcohol abuse, cannabis abuse, mathematic disorder, and a reading disorder.

On November 25, 2010, Pearson and her boyfriend, Devon Lukinich, armed themselves with BB guns that looked like handguns and went on a robbery spree in Burlington and West Burlington. At the time, Pearson was seventeen years and three months old. Lukinich was also approximately seventeen years old. Pearson and Lukinich wore bandanas to conceal their faces and gloves to guard against leaving fingerprints. Pearson also wore a parka with a fur-lined hood pulled over her head.

Around 9:15 p.m., Pearson and Lukinich were allegedly involved in an altercation with a Burlington resident that led to a 911 call. Though Pearson and Lukinich had fled the scene by the time police arrived, the resident relayed information about Pearson's vehicle to police, who then put out the description of the vehicle to officers in the area.

Around 9:45 p.m., Pearson and Lukinich knocked on the door of Zachary Moore. When Moore opened the door, Pearson pointed her BB gun at Moore and told him that he was being robbed. Lukinich then informed Moore that Pearson was not joking and that he would shoot him if Pearson would not. Lukinich told Moore he was looking for the “weed money” as well as two individuals. Moore testified he laid on the floor while the pair took his laptop, television, iPod, a handheld videogame game system, a small global positioning device (GPS), and some cash.

After reconnecting his landline telephone, which had been disconnected by Pearson and Lukinich when they rummaged through his apartment, Moore called the police. When police arrived, Moore found his cell phone with the battery disconnected on his front step. Moore testified he believed Lukinich was in control of the robbery because Lukinich checked the other rooms of Moore's home while Pearson sat on the couch, was the one who unhooked the television, and was the only one who spoke after they entered the apartment.

Pearson and Lukinich returned home to unload their loot.2 The pair lived in the basement of a house owned by Lukinich's mother's boyfriend. Pearson and Lukinich then went to a McDonald's, where they purchased strawberry milk shakes.

Later that night, Pearson and Lukinich entered the home of Joan Wright, an eighty-one-year-old woman, and her son, Ronald Wright. At the time, Joan was in

[836 N.W.2d 91]

bed and Ronald was in the basement. Lukinich climbed through a kitchen window and opened a door for Pearson. Pearson took cash out of a purse that was sitting on the kitchen table. The pair also took three pill bottles containing prescription medication. Lukinich then went into an unoccupied bedroom, while Pearson stood in the hallway just outside the doorway. After hearing noises and seeing the shadows of people she did not recognize, Joan got out of bed to investigate. She saw Lukinich in her son's bedroom, holding Ronald's two shotguns in their cases. Lukinich told Joan to go back to her bedroom, and Pearson told Joan to do as she was told. Lukinich and Pearson then opened their jackets, revealing the BB guns. When Joan yelled to her son that they were being robbed, Lukinich pushed her backward into a doorframe. The force of the blow fractured her shoulder. Lukinich decided to take one of Ronald's shotguns, and the pair left the home. Police responded to the Wrights' home around 11:44 p.m.

Just moments after they left the Wrights' home, police apprehended Pearson and Lukinich in their car. At the time, Pearson was driving. After securing warrants to search the vehicle, police found pill bottles bearing the names of Joan and Ronald. They recovered Ronald's shotgun and cash matching the amount stolen from Moore and Joan. They also discovered two BB guns, BBs, two bandanas, a stocking, and two pairs of gloves. When the officers first viewed the BB guns in the trunk of the vehicle, the officers thought the weapons were real handguns. One of the BB guns bore a strong resemblance to a Glock model 30 handgun and the other to a Taurus PT 1911 handgun.

On May 4, 2011, a jury found Pearson guilty of first-degree robbery and first-degree burglary for her actions at Moore's house. The jury also found her guilty of first-degree robbery and first-degree burglary for her actions at the Wrights' house.3

Roughly two weeks later, Pearson wrote a letter to the district court in which she admitted the facts of each crime in substantially the same way they were presented at trial. According to Pearson, she took some pills, “chilled” at home for a while, and went to her family's house. She and Lukinich then shoplifted two stores before Lukinich suggested they go to an elderly woman's home, presumably for the purpose of committing a theft. While they were hiding in the bushes outside the woman's home, Pearson wrote, Lukinich saw someone in Pearson's car. Pearson stated they yelled at the man and started shooting at his house. They got into the car and, as they pulled away, a man came out of a house with a gun. Lukinich leaned out the window and continued firing shots.

According to Pearson, Lukinich then suggested going to another house where marijuana was located. Pearson indicated that Lukinich told her to knock on the door, that she told the person who answered the door (Moore) “to...

To continue reading

Request your trial
53 practice notes
  • Willbanks v. Mo. Dep't of Corr., No. SC 95395
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • July 11, 2017
    ...P.3d at 458.Iowa is also instructive. The Iowa Supreme Court released a trio of opinions applying Graham and Miller : State v. Pearson, 836 N.W.2d 88 (Iowa 2013) , State v. Ragland, 836 N.W.2d 107( Iowa 2013) , 522 S.W.3d 255and State v. Null, 836 N.W.2d 41(Iowa 2013). Pearson is the most f......
  • State v. Taylor G., No. 19222.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • March 17, 2015
    ...those three cases. See State v. Ragland, 836 N.W.2d 107, 109–10 (Iowa 2013) (unconstitutional sixty year sentence); State v. Pearson, 836 N.W.2d 88, 96 (Iowa 2013) (unconstitutional thirty-five year sentence); State v. Null, 836 N.W.2d 41, 45 (Iowa 2013) (unconstitutional fifty-two year sen......
  • State v. Williams-Bey, AC 37430
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • August 23, 2016
    ...concluded that a sentence with a thirty-five year parole ineligibility period imposed on a juvenile violates Miller. State v. Pearson, 836 N.W.2d 88, 96 (Iowa 2013). Although Pearson involved a nonhomicide conviction, we note that our Supreme Court has favorably cited the Iowa Supreme Court......
  • State v. Lyle, No. 11-1339
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • July 18, 2014
    ...seePage 6Ragland, 836 N.W.2d at 121, but also to a "lengthy term-of-years sentence," Null, 836 N.W.2d at 72; see also State v. Pearson, 836 N.W.2d 88, 96-97 (Iowa 2013). The court of appeals affirmed the sentence. Lyle sought further review and asserted the decision of the court of appeals ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
53 cases
  • Willbanks v. Mo. Dep't of Corr., No. SC 95395
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • July 11, 2017
    ...P.3d at 458.Iowa is also instructive. The Iowa Supreme Court released a trio of opinions applying Graham and Miller : State v. Pearson, 836 N.W.2d 88 (Iowa 2013) , State v. Ragland, 836 N.W.2d 107( Iowa 2013) , 522 S.W.3d 255and State v. Null, 836 N.W.2d 41(Iowa 2013). Pearson is the most f......
  • State v. Taylor G., No. 19222.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • March 17, 2015
    ...those three cases. See State v. Ragland, 836 N.W.2d 107, 109–10 (Iowa 2013) (unconstitutional sixty year sentence); State v. Pearson, 836 N.W.2d 88, 96 (Iowa 2013) (unconstitutional thirty-five year sentence); State v. Null, 836 N.W.2d 41, 45 (Iowa 2013) (unconstitutional fifty-two year sen......
  • State v. Williams-Bey, AC 37430
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • August 23, 2016
    ...concluded that a sentence with a thirty-five year parole ineligibility period imposed on a juvenile violates Miller. State v. Pearson, 836 N.W.2d 88, 96 (Iowa 2013). Although Pearson involved a nonhomicide conviction, we note that our Supreme Court has favorably cited the Iowa Supreme Court......
  • State v. Lyle, No. 11-1339
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • July 18, 2014
    ...seePage 6Ragland, 836 N.W.2d at 121, but also to a "lengthy term-of-years sentence," Null, 836 N.W.2d at 72; see also State v. Pearson, 836 N.W.2d 88, 96-97 (Iowa 2013). The court of appeals affirmed the sentence. Lyle sought further review and asserted the decision of the court of appeals ......
  • 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