State v. Piper, No. 01-1239.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtTERNUS, Justice.
PartiesSTATE of Iowa, Appellee, v. Donald PIPER, Appellant.
Decision Date11 June 2003
Docket NumberNo. 01-1239.

663 N.W.2d 894

STATE of Iowa, Appellee,
v.
Donald PIPER, Appellant

No. 01-1239.

Supreme Court of Iowa.

June 11, 2003.

Rehearing Denied July 1, 2003.


663 N.W.2d 899
Alfredo Parrish and Tammy Westhoff of Parrish, Kruidenier, Moss, Dunn, Boles & Gribble, L.L.P., Des Moines, for appellant

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Sheryl A. Soich, Assistant Attorney General, John P. Sarcone, County Attorney, and Nan M. Horvat and Steven Foritano, Assistant County Attorneys, for appellee.

663 N.W.2d 900
TERNUS, Justice

The defendant, Donald Piper, appeals from his conviction and sentence for first-degree murder, alleging multiple grounds for reversal. Although we find no basis to reverse his conviction, we conclude the imposition of $150,000 in victim restitution pursuant to Iowa Code section 910.3B (1999) violates the Ex Post Facto Clause, an error conceded by the State. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of conviction, vacate that portion of the sentence imposing a $150,000 obligation for victim restitution, otherwise affirm the defendant's sentence of life imprisonment, and remand for determination of restitution under the statute in effect at the time the offense was committed.

I. General Background.

Patricia Lange was found murdered in her room at the University Park Holiday Inn in West Des Moines on Monday morning, August 23, 1993. She had a gag in her mouth and her hands were bound. Her top and bra had been pushed up to her shoulders and she had nothing on from the waist down except her tennis shoes and socks. It was determined the victim had been strangled with a wire coat hangar.

More than six years later, a match between DNA found at the murder scene and Donald Piper's DNA led authorities to charge the defendant with Lange's murder. See Iowa Code §§ 707.1, .2 (1999) (defining crime of first-degree murder). The trial information, filed in February 2000, alleged Piper killed Lange on August 22 or 23, 1993, with premeditation and malice aforethought or while committing sexual abuse and/or willful injury.

Piper pleaded not guilty and filed notice of an alibi defense. He claimed he was with his wife and other relatives during the weekend of August 21 and 22, and through the night of August 22 to Monday, August 23.

The defendant's first trial ended in a mistrial in October 2000 when it was learned for the first time by his attorney that a portion of a vaginal swab taken from the victim was available for testing. A second trial commenced on April 18, 2001, and ended forty-eight days later on June 4, when the jury found Piper guilty of first-degree murder. After the trial court overruled the defendant's motion for new trial, the court sentenced Piper to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole and ordered him to make restitution to the victim's estate in the amount of $150,000.

Piper's trial was marked by several disagreements between the parties over discovery, numerous evidentiary objections, and various motions, many of which resulted in rulings by the court that are now challenged by the defendant. The initial error assigned by the defendant is the court's failure to grant a mistrial or dismiss the case based on the State's late disclosure of evidence. Piper also claims the court erred in admitting evidence of an extramarital affair he had with a neighbor, and abused its discretion in admitting several exhibits for which there purportedly was an inadequate showing of a proper chain of custody. The defendant also complains of several jury-related errors: (1) the court should have removed a juror; (2) the jury's verdict was coerced; and (3) the court erred in failing to give instructions requested by the defendant. In addition, Piper asserts he was denied a fair trial because the prosecutors engaged in misconduct and due to the cumulative effect of the trial court's errors. Finally, the defendant alleges the court's order of restitution violated the Ex Post Facto Clauses of the United States and Iowa constitutions, an error the State acknowledges. We will

663 N.W.2d 901
discuss additional facts as we address each assignment of error

II. Untimely Disclosure of Evidence.

A. Claimed error and scope of review. The defendant complains of the prosecution's disclosure for the first time during trial of several items of evidence: (1) additional footage and sound in the videotape made of the police investigation of the crime scene; (2) 270 questionnaires returned by potential witnesses; and (3) 54 additional witness statements. Piper claims the court should have granted his motion for mistrial or his motion to dismiss on the basis of these late disclosures.

We review the court's ruling on these motions for an abuse of discretion. See State v. Dixon, 534 N.W.2d 435, 439 (Iowa 1995) ("A trial judge has considerable discretion to declare a mistrial after a procedural error has occurred during a trial and we will not reverse the court's decision absent a finding of abuse of discretion."); State v. Henderson, 537 N.W.2d 763, 765-66 (Iowa 1995) (noting same standard of review for dismissal ruling under Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 27(1) (now rule 2.33(1)). This court will not find an abuse of discretion "unless the defendant shows that the trial court's discretion was exercised on grounds clearly untenable or clearly unreasonable." Henderson, 537 N.W.2d at 766. An "untenable" reason is one that lacks substantial evidentiary support or rests on an erroneous application of the law. See State v. Rodriquez, 636 N.W.2d 234, 239 (Iowa 2001).

The defendant also claims the State's late disclosures violated his right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment because they prevented him from receiving a fair and impartial trial. See State v. Siemer, 454 N.W.2d 857, 861 (Iowa 1990) (stating "a fair trial by an impartial tribunal is the most essential requirement of due process"). We review this constitutional challenge de novo. Fryer v. State, 325 N.W.2d 400, 407 (Iowa 1982).

B. Procedural background. During jury selection, the State informed the defense it had discovered that the original videotape of the crime scene made by law enforcement during their initial investigation was different in two respects from the copies of the crime scene tape used by the parties during the course of the prosecution. In contrast to the copies possessed by the prosecutors and defense counsel, the newly discovered tape contained sound and additional footage of the investigators "super gluing" the victim's body for fingerprints. (The record shows the prosecutors did not know the original tape had sound or that the fingerprinting had been filmed until the first day of trial.) The audio revealed the investigators using "gallows" humor at the crime scene and was useful to the defense only to the extent it could be employed on cross-examination of the investigators to make them appear insensitive. As for the additional footage showing body fingerprinting, the defense already knew the body had been unsuccessfully fingerprinted, and defense counsel had previously been provided still photographs of the process.

In response to the prosecution's production of the original videotape, the defendant requested a mistrial or dismissal of the charges under Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 27(1) (now rule 2.33(1)), claiming the late disclosure was prejudicial. The State asserted the newly discovered audio was not harmful to the defendant and could actually be used to his advantage in cross-examination of the investigators. As for the additional footage, the State argued it revealed nothing the defense did not already know. The court took the matter under advisement and the trial proceeded.

663 N.W.2d 902
Subsequently, one of the State's witnesses revealed in his testimony that the investigators had sent questionnaires to over 750 hotel guests and employees asking if they had information regarding Lange's death. The defense had been provided only twenty of the responses, although defense counsel always knew, according to the prosecution, that all returned questionnaires were available for his review at the West Des Moines police station. The court ordered the State to immediately make available to the defendant all responses that had been received by the investigators.

Upon learning that 270 questionnaires had been returned, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss, claiming his defense had been hampered. Specifically, he claimed additional discovery was now necessary because one of the responses was from Lange's boyfriend, who had already testified, and another was from a hotel employee who stated she had seen a woman matching Lange's description on August 22, 1993, in the company of other individuals. Piper also renewed his request for a mistrial based on the late disclosure of the original videotape.

The State disputed the defense was prejudiced. It noted that since disclosure of the original tape, prosecutors had made witnesses available for deposition and were willing to provide additional witnesses. The prosecution also pointed out that a purported discrepancy between the boyfriend's testimony and his questionnaire responses was minor and the interview report of the hotel employee who thought she saw the victim on the night of the murder stated that when the employee was shown a picture of Lange, she said she was "quite sure" that was not the woman she had seen.

Two days later, the trial court overruled the defendant's motion for mistrial and motion to dismiss based on the late production of the original videotape. In an effort to avoid any prejudice to the defense, however, the court ruled (1) the defendant could conduct additional discovery related to the newly revealed matters at the State's expense, and (2) upon the defendant's request, the court would grant periodic recesses during trial. The State was ordered to make its witnesses available to be deposed or redeposed.

The trial proceeded and, on its fifteenth...

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128 practice notes
  • Goodwin v. Iowa Dist. Court, No. 18-0737
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • December 20, 2019
    ...These principles should apply here. The majority knows these principles exist, but attempt to evade them by citing State v. Piper, 663 N.W.2d 894, 913-14 (Iowa 2003), overruled by State v. Hanes, 790 N.W.2d 545, 551 (Iowa 2010), and Conkey v. Hoak Motors, Inc., 637 N.W.2d 170, 173 (Iowa 200......
  • State v. Smith, No. 19-2011
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • April 9, 2021
    ...evidence. Id. We review a dismissal in the furtherance of justice under rule 2.33(1) for abuse of discretion. State v. Piper , 663 N.W.2d 894, 901 (Iowa 2003), overruled on other grounds by State v. Hanes , 790 N.W.2d 545, 551 (Iowa 2010).III. Legal Analysis.A. Speedy Indictment. Iowa Rule ......
  • Alcala v. Marriott Int'l, Inc., No. 14–1058.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • June 10, 2016
    ...360, 363 (Iowa 2005). However, this distinction is relatively recent, growing primarily out of a 2003 decision. See State v. Piper, 663 N.W.2d 894, 914 (Iowa 2003), overruled on other grounds by State v. Hanes, 790 N.W.2d 545, 551 (Iowa 2010). In Piper, we stated “review of alleged instruct......
  • State v. Christensen, No. 17-0085
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • June 7, 2019
    ...to grant him a new trial based upon prosecutorial misconduct. See State v. Graves , 668 N.W.2d 860, 867 (Iowa 2003) ; State v. Piper , 663 N.W.2d 894, 913 (Iowa 2003), overruled on other grounds by State v. Hanes , 790 N.W.2d 545, 551 (Iowa 2010). Christensen argues prosecutorial misconduct......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
128 cases
  • Goodwin v. Iowa Dist. Court, No. 18-0737
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • December 20, 2019
    ...These principles should apply here. The majority knows these principles exist, but attempt to evade them by citing State v. Piper, 663 N.W.2d 894, 913-14 (Iowa 2003), overruled by State v. Hanes, 790 N.W.2d 545, 551 (Iowa 2010), and Conkey v. Hoak Motors, Inc., 637 N.W.2d 170, 173 (Iowa 200......
  • State v. Smith, No. 19-2011
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • April 9, 2021
    ...evidence. Id. We review a dismissal in the furtherance of justice under rule 2.33(1) for abuse of discretion. State v. Piper , 663 N.W.2d 894, 901 (Iowa 2003), overruled on other grounds by State v. Hanes , 790 N.W.2d 545, 551 (Iowa 2010).III. Legal Analysis.A. Speedy Indictment. Iowa Rule ......
  • Alcala v. Marriott Int'l, Inc., No. 14–1058.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • June 10, 2016
    ...360, 363 (Iowa 2005). However, this distinction is relatively recent, growing primarily out of a 2003 decision. See State v. Piper, 663 N.W.2d 894, 914 (Iowa 2003), overruled on other grounds by State v. Hanes, 790 N.W.2d 545, 551 (Iowa 2010). In Piper, we stated “review of alleged instruct......
  • State v. Christensen, No. 17-0085
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • June 7, 2019
    ...to grant him a new trial based upon prosecutorial misconduct. See State v. Graves , 668 N.W.2d 860, 867 (Iowa 2003) ; State v. Piper , 663 N.W.2d 894, 913 (Iowa 2003), overruled on other grounds by State v. Hanes , 790 N.W.2d 545, 551 (Iowa 2010). Christensen argues prosecutorial misconduct......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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