U.S. v. Johnson

Decision Date16 December 2005
Docket NumberNo. CR 01-3046-MWB.,CR 01-3046-MWB.
Citation403 F.Supp.2d 721
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff, v. Angela JOHNSON, Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Iowa

Alfred E. Willett, Terpstra, Epping & Willett, Cedar Rapids, IA, Dean A. Stowers, Rosenberg, Stowers & Morse, Robert R. Rigg, Des Moines, IA, Patrick J. Berrigan, Watson & Dameron, LLP, Kansas City, MO, for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER REGARDING THE DEFENDANT'S MOTIONS IN ARREST OF JUDGMENT AND FOR JUDGMENT OF ACQUITTAL OR NEW TRIAL

BENNETT, Chief Judge.

                TABLE OF CONTENTS
                I.  OVERVIEW ..................................................................736
                 II.  INTRODUCTION ..............................................................741
                      A.  Background ............................................................741
                          1.  Prior prosecutions of Honken ......................................741
                          2.  The disappearance of the witnesses ................................742
                          3.  Discovery of the murder victims' bodies ...........................742
                          4.  The indictments in this case ......................................743
                          5.  Honken's trial ....................................................744
                      B.  Significant Rulings Before And During Johnson's Trial .................745
                      C.  Johnson's Trial .......................................................748
                          1.  The charges at trial ..............................................748
                          2.  Jury selection ....................................................748
                          3.  The "merits phase" ................................................751
                          4.  The "eligibility phase" ...........................................752
                          5.  The "penalty phase" ...............................................753
                      D.  Post-Trial Proceedings ................................................755
                III.  THE MOTION IN ARREST OF JUDGMENT ..........................................757
                      A.  Grounds For The Motion ................................................757
                      B.  Timeliness ............................................................757
                          1.  Arguments of the parties ..........................................757
                          2.  Analysis ..........................................................757
                      C.  Failure To Charge A "Substantive Connection" ..........................759
                          1.  Arguments of the parties ..........................................759
                          2.  Analysis ..........................................................759
                      D.  Failure To Charge A Cognizable "Aiding And Abetting" Offense ..........761
                          1.  Arguments of the parties ..........................................761
                
                2.  Analysis ..........................................................761
                 IV.  THE MOTION FOR JUDGMENT OF ACQUITTAL OR NEW TRIAL .........................763
                      A.  Waiver ................................................................763
                      B.  Applicable Standards ..................................................765
                          1.  Judgment of acquittal .............................................765
                          2.  New trial .........................................................766
                      C.  Allegedly Erroneous Pretrial Rulings ..................................766
                          1.  Ground No. 5: Denial of motions for change of venue ...............767
                              a.  Background ....................................................767
                              b.  Arguments of the parties ......................................768
                              c.  Analysis ......................................................768
                          2.  Ground No. 11: Failure to strike and submission to the jury of
                legally insufficient allegations in Counts 6 through 10 .........770
                              a.  Background ....................................................770
                              b.  Arguments of the parties ......................................770
                              c.  Analysis ......................................................771
                          3.  Ground No. 21: Failure to strike the death penalty after the
                indictment was amended during jury selection ....................772
                              a.  Background ....................................................772
                              b.  Arguments of the parties ......................................772
                              c.  Analysis ......................................................773
                      D.  Alleged Errors During Jury Selection ..................................774
                          1.  Ground No. 7: Rule 24 violates equal protection ...................774
                              a.  Background ....................................................774
                              b.  Arguments of the parties ......................................775
                              c.  Analysis ......................................................775
                          2.  Ground No. 6: Failure to grant Johnson additional peremptory
                challenges ......................................................776
                              a.  Background ....................................................776
                              b.  Arguments of the parties ......................................777
                              c.  Analysis ......................................................777
                          3.  Ground No. 8: Challenges for cause erroneously granted ............779
                              a.  Background ....................................................779
                                    i.  Prospective Juror 533 ...................................779
                                   ii.  Prospective Juror 458 ...................................780
                                  iii.  Prospective Juror 769 ...................................780
                              b.  Arguments of the parties ......................................781
                              c.  Analysis ......................................................781
                                    i.  The standard for an "impartial" juror ...................781
                                   ii.  The standard for erroneous rulings on motions to strike
                jurors ................................................782
                                  iii.  Application of the standards ............................783
                              4.  Ground No. 9: Challenges for cause erroneously denied .........785
                                  a.  Jurors on whom the claim can be based .....................785
                                  b.  Background ................................................787
                                       i.  Prospective Juror 600 ................................787
                                      ii.  Prospective Juror 797 ................................787
                                  c.  Arguments of the parties ..................................788
                                  d.  Analysis ..................................................789
                      E.  Alleged Errors During The "Merits Phase" ..............................789
                           1.  Ground No. 1: Insufficiency of the "merits phase" evidence .......790
                               a.  Arguments of the parties .....................................790
                               b.  Analysis .....................................................793
                                    i.  Insufficiency of the evidence on the "conspiracy
                murder" counts .........................................793
                                   ii.  Insufficiency of the evidence on the "CCE murder"
                counts .................................................796
                
                2.  Ground No. 4: The "merits" verdicts were against the weight of
                the evidence ...................................................797
                           3.  Ground No. 13: The admission of, and argument from, evidence of
                Honken's guilty plea, conviction, and offense details ..........797
                               a.  Background ...................................................798
                               b.  Arguments of the parties .....................................799
                               c.  Analysis .....................................................800
                                     i.  Applicable law .........................................800
                                    ii.  The admission of Honken's 1997 guilty plea and details
                of the offenses ......................................801
                                   iii.  The prosecutor's argument concerning Honken's 1997
                conviction ...........................................804
                           4.  Ground No. 14: The admission of "bad acts" evidence ..............804
                               a.  Background ...................................................805
                               b.  Arguments of the parties .....................................805
                               c.  Analysis .....................................................805
                                     i.  Untimeliness ...........................................805
                                    ii.  Evidence of drug activity after the killings ...........806
                                   iii.  Other challenged evidence ..............................808
                           5.  Ground No. 15: The admission of hearsay ..........................809
                               a.  Background ...................................................810
                               b.  Arguments of the parties .....................................810
                               c.  Analysis .....................................................811
                                    i.  Admissibility of statements of Nicholson and DeGeus .....811
                                   ii.  Admissibility of Honken's 1997 guilty plea ..............814
                           6.  Ground No. 16: The admission of Rick Held's testimony
                concerning Honken's purchase of a firearm ......................815
                               a.  Background ...................................................815
                               b.  Arguments of the parties
...

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