State v. Torres, No. 90-1928

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtLAVORATO; NEUMAN
Citation495 N.W.2d 678
Docket NumberNo. 90-1928
Decision Date17 February 1993
PartiesSTATE of Iowa, Appellee, v. Jimmy TORRES, Jr., Appellant.

Page 678

495 N.W.2d 678
STATE of Iowa, Appellee,
v.
Jimmy TORRES, Jr., Appellant.
No. 90-1928.
Supreme Court of Iowa.
Feb. 17, 1993.

Linda Del Gallo, State Appellate Defender, and Andi S. Lipman, Asst. State Appellate Defender, for appellant.

Page 679

Bonnie J. Campbell, Atty. Gen., Ann E. Brenden, Asst. Atty. Gen., and Allan W. Vanderhart, County Atty., for appellee.

Considered en banc.

LAVORATO, Justice.

This tragic case comes to us on further review from the court of appeals. The defendant was convicted after a bench trial of involuntary manslaughter for the death of his wife. See Iowa Code § 707.5(2) (1989). She bled to death after falling on a piece of glass from a lamp the defendant had swept to the floor just moments before.

The court of appeals, like the district court, found sufficient evidence that the defendant's behavior in breaking the lamp was reckless. Because we disagree, we vacate the decision of the court of appeals, we reverse the district court's judgment of conviction, and we remand for entry of a judgment of acquittal.

Brenda and Jimmy Torres, Jr., were married on February 14, 1989. They shared their home in Independence with Jimmy's sixteen-year-old uncle, Steve Torres, and Brenda's ailing father, Herbert Cusick.

On Friday, February 2, 1990, Jimmy picked Steve up from a doctor's appointment. The pair went to Wal-Mart to pick out a wedding anniversary gift for Brenda. Jimmy and Steve then stopped at Kentucky Fried Chicken, purchased dinner, and returned home. There, Jimmy gave Brenda her presents, and the trio ate dinner. Brenda was very pleased with her gifts--a gold necklace and bracelet.

Because this was Brenda's bowling night, Brenda, Jimmy, and Steve later went to the bowling alley. Brenda showed off her gifts to her bowling friends. Jimmy drank beer; Brenda preferred gin and tonics.

Over the course of the evening, Brenda consumed enough alcohol to become intoxicated. She did not bowl well and her mood changed accordingly. Her speech became slurred and she began speaking in a loud tone of voice.

When Brenda finished bowling at about 9:30 p.m., Jimmy was playing cards with friends. Brenda took a seat at a nearby table; she drank and talked with a friend for about an hour and a half.

Jimmy continued playing cards. Brenda moved to a booth behind Jimmy and began chatting with another friend. The more Brenda drank, the more she complained about her life in general. Eventually Brenda's friend left. At this point Brenda put her head down on the table and fell asleep.

About 2 a.m., Jimmy, Brenda, and Steve left the bowling alley and headed for home in the family van. Jimmy drove. As they were exiting the van and entering the house, Brenda remarked that a new girl had been watching Jimmy all evening. Jimmy let the comment pass.

After the three went into the house, Brenda immediately went upstairs. Jimmy stayed downstairs with Steve and watched television with him for a few minutes. He hoped Brenda would "cool off" if left alone. Jimmy then went upstairs, leaving Steve to watch television.

Jimmy found Brenda sitting on the side of their bed facing the doorway. She was clad in her underwear and her bowling shirt. Jimmy sat next to Brenda and tried to talk to her. Brenda again brought up the girl at the bowling alley.

Jimmy told Brenda that she was "seeing things." Brenda slapped Jimmy. He responded in kind. During the altercation he beat her about the face and head and tore her shirt and bra from her body, leaving her in her underpants. He then turned to the nightstand between the waterbed and the doorway and, with a sweeping motion, cleared everything off the top of it. Among the things that went crashing to the floor was a large glass lamp and a telephone. The lamp shattered, littering the floor and doorway with large and small pieces of glass. Jimmy said he was leaving and walked out the bedroom door, kicking the large broken lamp as he left.

Brenda then cried out to Jimmy that "she was cut." Jimmy turned back and saw Brenda lying on her side somewhere between the bed and the doorway. Blood

Page 680

was gushing profusely from a cut in her left groin area. Unknown to Jimmy and Brenda, her wound was mortal. In the fall she had severed her left femoral artery and vein.

Jimmy put his arm around Brenda and helped her back to the bed. He tried to stop Brenda from thrashing around. He put a pillow over the wound, applying pressure in an attempt to stop the bleeding.

Jimmy pleaded with Brenda to lie still. Eventually she told Jimmy she thought she was dying. She asked for a cold rag because she felt hot.

Jimmy ran downstairs and moistened a kitchen towel. He ran back to Brenda, placing the cold towel on her cheeks and forehead. By now Brenda was unable to speak, making only gurgling sounds. Jimmy ran back downstairs and called 911. He told Steve that Brenda was hurt, and to send whoever responded to the call directly upstairs. Jimmy then returned to Brenda's side.

An Independence police officer was the first to arrive on the scene. He found Jimmy still swabbing Brenda's face. Jimmy begged him to find a pulse because Jimmy could not. The officer was also unsuccessful, but he assured Jimmy that help was on the way and that everything would be all right.

By now a second officer arrived and checked Brenda for a pulse. He found none, but assured Jimmy that emergency medical personnel would be there shortly.

Once the emergency medical personnel arrived, Brenda was again checked for a pulse and vital signs. She had neither. Jimmy, who was still at Brenda's bedside, was told that Brenda was dead. She had bled to death. According to the coroner who testified at Jimmy's trial, a person who had suffered a cut that severed the femoral artery and femoral vein would bleed to death within five to seven minutes.

Jimmy became despondent. He started yelling "no" and said he would join Brenda soon. The officers, fearing that Jimmy might jump out the second story window, tried to subdue him. A scuffle ensued. During the scuffle, another lamp like the one that had been broken earlier, was kicked to the floor. It, however, did not break.

It took four officers to eventually subdue Jimmy. Jimmy was then handcuffed, led downstairs, and placed in a chair. Jimmy denied that Brenda was dead and continued asking whether Brenda would be all right. He was eventually taken to the police station where he was held on an open charge of murder.

A scaled drawing of the bedroom and pictures of the scene show four large pieces of glass in the area of the doorway. Three of the pieces were inside the bedroom. A fourth was just outside the bedroom. It was on one of the three pieces inside the bedroom that Brenda had fallen and cut herself. The distance between the bed and the doorway is a little more than four feet.

The State charged Jimmy with involuntary manslaughter. See Iowa Code § 707.5(2). It also charged him with assault causing bodily injury. See Iowa Code §§ 708.1(1), 708.2(1). Following a bench trial, the district court convicted Jimmy of both offenses. After denying Jimmy's posttrial motions, the court sentenced him to a two-year indeterminate term on the manslaughter conviction and to the county jail for 180 days on the assault causing bodily injury conviction. The sentences were to run concurrently.

Following Jimmy's appeal of both convictions, we transferred the case to the court of appeals which affirmed the convictions. Jimmy applied for further review only on the involuntary manslaughter conviction. We granted the application and the case is now before us.

I. Jimmy moved for a judgment of acquittal at the close of the State's case and again at the close of all the evidence. His grounds were that the evidence was not sufficient to sustain a conviction. The district court reserved ruling. Later in its written decision the district court overruled the motions and went on to find Jimmy guilty. On appeal Jimmy challenges the rulings on both motions.

Page 681

The district court's finding of guilt is binding upon us unless we find there was not substantial evidence in the record to support such a finding. State v. Robinson, 288 N.W.2d 337, 338 (Iowa 1980). In determining whether there was substantial evidence, we view the record evidence in the light most favorable to the State. Id. Substantial evidence means such evidence as could convince a rational trier of fact that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Id. at 339.

A reviewing court cannot make a substantial evidence determination if it considers only the evidence supporting guilt. This is so because a rational fact finder cannot render a verdict without taking into consideration all the record evidence. So in determining whether there is substantial evidence, we must consider all the record evidence, not just the evidence...

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56 practice notes
  • State v. Kern, No. 11–1208.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • May 24, 2013
    ...of the evidence is whether there was substantial evidence to support a guilty verdict beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Torres, 495 N.W.2d 678, 681 (Iowa 1993). We view the evidence presented at trial in the light most favorable to the State but consider all the evidence in the record, no......
  • State v. Tipton, No. 15-1515
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • June 23, 2017
    ...2001). In our review, however, we must consider all the evidence in the record, not just the evidence supporting guilt. State v. Torres , 495 N.W.2d 678, 681 (Iowa 1993).C. Discussion. As a starting point, we think there is substantial evidence to support the State's position that Tipton pu......
  • State v. Robinson, No. 12–1323.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • February 6, 2015
    ...A jury verdict finding of guilt will not be disturbed if there is substantial evidence to support the finding. See State v. Torres, 495 N.W.2d 678, 681 (Iowa 1993). We consider all the evidence in the record and not just the evidence supporting the finding of guilt. Id. The record is viewed......
  • State v. Warren, No. 19-0267
    • United States
    • Iowa Supreme Court
    • March 5, 2021
    ...of guilt is binding upon us unless we find there was not substantial evidence in the record to support such a finding." State v. Torres , 495 N.W.2d 678, 681 (Iowa 1993) (en banc). Substantial evidence means "such evidence as could convince a rational trier of fact that the defendant is gui......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
56 cases
  • State v. Kern, No. 11–1208.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • May 24, 2013
    ...of the evidence is whether there was substantial evidence to support a guilty verdict beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Torres, 495 N.W.2d 678, 681 (Iowa 1993). We view the evidence presented at trial in the light most favorable to the State but consider all the evidence in the record, no......
  • State v. Tipton, No. 15-1515
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • June 23, 2017
    ...2001). In our review, however, we must consider all the evidence in the record, not just the evidence supporting guilt. State v. Torres , 495 N.W.2d 678, 681 (Iowa 1993).C. Discussion. As a starting point, we think there is substantial evidence to support the State's position that Tipton pu......
  • State v. Robinson, No. 12–1323.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • February 6, 2015
    ...A jury verdict finding of guilt will not be disturbed if there is substantial evidence to support the finding. See State v. Torres, 495 N.W.2d 678, 681 (Iowa 1993). We consider all the evidence in the record and not just the evidence supporting the finding of guilt. Id. The record is viewed......
  • State v. Warren, No. 19-0267
    • United States
    • Iowa Supreme Court
    • March 5, 2021
    ...of guilt is binding upon us unless we find there was not substantial evidence in the record to support such a finding." State v. Torres , 495 N.W.2d 678, 681 (Iowa 1993) (en banc). Substantial evidence means "such evidence as could convince a rational trier of fact that the defendant is gui......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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