State v. Ragland, 87-13

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Citation420 N.W.2d 791
Docket NumberNo. 87-13,87-13
PartiesSTATE of Iowa, Appellee, v. Jeffrey K. RAGLAND, Appellant.
Decision Date16 March 1988

Page 791

420 N.W.2d 791
STATE of Iowa, Appellee,
Jeffrey K. RAGLAND, Appellant.
No. 87-13.
Supreme Court of Iowa.
March 16, 1988.

Page 792

Charles L. Harrington, Appellate Defender, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Atty. Gen., Christie J. Scase, Asst. Atty. Gen., and E.A. Westfall, Co. Atty., for appellee.


SCHULTZ, Justice.

This appeal concerns the constitutionality of Iowa's felony-murder rule, Iowa Code § 707.2(2) (1981), when the underlying felony is willful injury, Iowa Code § 708.4. The State charged defendant Jeffrey K. Ragland with first-degree murder for the death of Timothy Sieff, on the alternative grounds that the killing was either done willfully, deliberately and with premeditation or while participating in a forceable felony. Following trial, defendant was convicted of first-degree murder when the jury returned a special verdict of felony-murder. Defendant challenges application of the felony-murder rule, claiming that the underlying felony of willful injury is merged into the murder offense and cannot be used as a distinct offense to elevate the degree of murder. Defendant also claims that a contrary interpretation violates his constitutional rights to due process and equal protection, and that the sentence imposed is cruel and unusual punishment. We affirm the trial court.

On August 16, 1982, the victim was in the parking lot of a Council Bluffs grocery store visiting with friends, when defendant and three of his friends drove into the parking lot. Defendant and his companions left their vehicle and approached the victim's group. One of defendant's companions, Matthew Gill, was carrying a metal tire iron and another companion was carrying two bottles. As defendant's group approached the victim and his companions, defendant made comments about fighting and accused one of the men of having a knife. The victim and his group stated that they did not want to fight. Nevertheless, defendant took off his shirt and said, "Let's do it" or "We're gonna fight." Seconds later, as the victim stepped backwards with his hands raised, Gill swung the tire iron like a baseball bat, striking the victim's jaw and killing him.

After the victim dropped to the ground, the fight continued across the parking lot and into the grocery store. Defendant remained a primary figure and ended up carrying the tire iron into the supermarket while pursuing two of the victim's companions.

Page 793

As the defendant and his friends got into their car to leave, a store employee tried to get the license plate number. Defendant got out of the car and spat on him.

I. Willful injury as underlying felony. Defendant challenges the application of the felony-murder rule to the instant case. He urges that the underlying felony of willful injury cannot be used to support the felony-murder charge under the merger doctrine and the independent felony rule. We do not believe that these arguments are consistent with our legislative scheme.

Murder is committed when "a person kills another person with malice aforethought." Iowa Code § 707.1. A murder becomes first-degree murder when it is committed under any of four sets of circumstances. Id. § 707.2. Pertinent to this case, a murder is in the first degree when committed "while participating in a forcible felony." Id. § 707.2(2). There is no suggestion in our statutes that "forcible felony" was not intended to include the crime of willful injury. See id. §§ 702.11 ("forcible felony" includes "any felonious assault"), 708.4 (willful injury is a class "C" felony).

We have previously rejected contentions similar to those made by the defendant. In State v. Beeman, 315 N.W.2d 770, 777 (Iowa 1982), we stated that the legislature "intended that felonious assaults, including willful injury under section 708.4, be felonies that may serve as the basis of a felony-murder and that the merger doctrine ... not apply to such assaults." Cf. State v. Phams, 342 N.W.2d 792, 795 (Iowa 1983) (willful injury providing basis for felony-murder conviction); State v. Mayberry, 411 N.W.2d 677, 682-83 (Iowa 1987) (evidence of assault with intent to commit sexual abuse sufficient to support finding of felony-murder). We see no reason to retreat from our previous decisions.

II. Due process. Defendant maintains...

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31 cases
  • State v. Ortega, 18225
    • United States
    • New Mexico Supreme Court of New Mexico
    • September 3, 1991
    ...proof of a defendant's participation in an underlying felony and of a murder, with malice, committed during the felony. State v. Ragland, 420 N.W.2d 791, 793 (Iowa 1988). The state does not have to prove, however, that the accused possessed malice aforethought, as long as he participated in......
  • State v. Harrison, 16-1998
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • June 22, 2018
    ...and indirect consequences of his joint criminal conduct with another." Id. at 456. We came to a similar conclusion in State v. Ragland , 420 N.W.2d 791, 794 (Iowa 1988), overruled on other grounds by State v. Heemstra , 721 N.W.2d 549, 558 (Iowa 2006). Ragland and Conner involved claims und......
  • Nguyen v. State, 14–0401.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • March 11, 2016
    ...include State v. Anderson, 517 N.W.2d 208, 214 (Iowa 1994) ; State v. Rhomberg, 516 N.W.2d 803, 805 (Iowa 1994) ; State v. Ragland, 420 N.W.2d 791, 793 (Iowa 1988) ; and State v. Mayberry, 411 N.W.2d 677, 682–83 (Iowa 1987).3 As discussed in detail below, the United States Supreme Court has......
  • State v. Heemstra, 04-0058.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • August 25, 2006
    ...murder because willful injury is, by statute, a "forcible felony." Id. at 776-77. We discussed that theory further in State v. Ragland, 420 N.W.2d 791, 793 (Iowa Murder is committed when "a person kills another person with malice aforethought." Iowa Code § 707.1. A murder becomes first-degr......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
    • United States
    • Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology Vol. 111 No. 3, June 2021
    • June 22, 2021
    ...130 (Cal. 1965); State v. Lankford, 781 P.2d 197, 203 (Idaho 1989); State v. Heemstra, 721 N.W.2d 549, 554 (Iowa 2006); State v. Ragland, 420 N.W.2d 791 (Iowa 1988) (overruled on other grounds); State v. Taylor, 287 N.W.2d 576, 577 (Iowa 1980); State v. Bennett, 503 N.W.2d 42,45 (Iowa Ct. A......

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