Juveniles' life terms commuted by Branstad
By Mike Wiser - Wcfcourier.com
July 16, 2012
DES MOINES --- Gov. Terry Branstad commuted the
life sentences of 38 juveniles today, giving them mandatory 60-year
prison terms instead.
The governor's action comes in response to last
month's U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Miller v. Alabama where the court
ruled that states could not mandate life sentences without the
possibility of parole for juveniles found guilty of first-degree
The ruling raised the possibility that anyone
sentenced to life without parole before they were 18 would petition
the court for a new trial. By using his commutation powers, the
governor appears to have taken that option off the table.
"During this process, the victims are all too often
forgotten by our justice system, and are forced to re-live the pain of
the tragedies," said Branstad. "These victims have had their loved
ones violently taken away from them. I take this action today to
protect these victims, their loved ones' memories, and to protect the
safety of all Iowans."
Among the 38 juveniles who had their sentences
commuted Monday are two Northeast-area people: Ruthann Veal of
Waterloo and Edgar Concepcion Jr. of Charles City.
Veal stabbed a retired librarian to death in 1993
in Waterloo. Concepcion killed his 3-year-old cousin in Charles City
in 2009. Both received the mandatory sentence of life without parole
when they were convicted.
Supreme Court ruling could allow parole for teen
June 25, 2012
WATERLOO (KWWL) - The US Supreme Court issued a
decision Monday about sentencing handed down to juvenile offenders. It
ruled that mandatory life-without-parole sentences are
unconstitutional for children 17 and under, because it violates the
8th amendment as "cruel and unusual" punishment.
The decision could impact a couple of major cases,
including one tried in Waterloo almost 20 years ago.
Ruth Ann Veal was convicted of the 1993 murder of
Catherine Haynes and sentenced to life-without-parole. While the
Supreme Court ruling is no guarantee Veal could be eligible for
release, it is possible.
And for those who vividly remember Veal's brutal
crime, it's a tough thought to bear.
The 100 block of Lovejoy in Waterloo is now your
typical quiet neighborhood. But nearly two decades ago, it was the
site of a brutal crime.
66-year-old Catherine Haynes was stabbed 23 times
in her Lovejoy Street home. Chris Murphy lived across the street from
Haynes at the time and vividly recalls the ordeal.
"My husband and I were the last ones to see
Catherine alive, except for Veal. It was just so shocking to hear such
an innocent lady to be attacked so brutal," said Murphy.
Just days after the murder, 14-year-old runaway
Ruth Ann Veal was arrested, and then later convicted of killing
Haynes. She was sentenced to life-without-parole.
In 2002, KWWL interviewed a then 23-year-old Veal
at the Mitchellville Correctional Institute for Women.
"You've got to forgive yourself everyday you wake
up," said Veal in 2002.
At the time, Veal also said she felt a
life-without-parole sentence was too harsh for a teenager. But with
the Supreme Court's ruling Monday, Veal's continuing legal fight could
have new hope for parole release.
But Black Hawk County Attorney Tom Ferguson, who
prosecuted the Vcase, says the high court's ruling doesn't guarantee
anything. It only says states can't mandate life-without-parole
sentences for juveniles.
"It's going to be some time before we sort this all
out. It's going to be sorted out through the courts. And, ultimately,
I think will be sorted out somewhat through the legislature when we
get some guidance from the courts on this decision's impact on
juveniles as well as our own Supreme Court's decision on the impact of
life without parole on juveniles," Ferguson said.
For Chris Murphy, it's unfathomable that Veal could
ever be released after what happened on her old street all those years
"I think she'll kill again. So I would hope if she
does come up for parole, she would not get it. But every time she's
eligible, we'd just be holding our breaths, 'Is she going to get it?
Is someone going to give it to her?' Oh my gosh," Murphy said.
Attorneys with the Equal Justice Initiative
representing Ruth Ann Veal did not return our call.
Veal has a status hearing on her case on July 19th.
County Attorney Tom Ferguson expects many of the issues brought
forward with the Supreme Court's ruling will take center stage at that
In addition to the Veal case, the Supreme Court's
ruling could also impact another Iowa teen convicted of murder.
Edgar Concepcion, Jr. was handed two life-sentences
in the 2009 death of his three-year-old cousin. He was 14 when he
killed the girl. In multiple appeals, his attorney's argued that life
without parole for a juvenile was "cruel and unusual" punishment.
High court says Veal can challenge life murder
By Josh Nelson - Wcfcourier.com
February 26, 2010
WATERLOO --- A 17-year-old Waterloo murder case is
headed back to district court following an Iowa Supreme Court ruling.
The court reversed previous decisions regarding an
appeal from Ruthann Veal, who was convicted of first-degree murder in
the 1993 killing of Catherine Haynes of Waterloo. Haynes, 66, was
stabbed 23 times.
The high court issued its decision after hearing
oral arguments in Veal's case last month. Veal, was 14 at the time of
the offense and was tried as an adult.
"We're very pleased that the court has revered the
lower court's decision," said Bryan Stevenson, Veal's attorney.
Stevenson, who is from Montgomery, Ala., is with
the Equal Justice Initiative, which represents minors who have been
sentenced as adults and "condemned to die in prison," according to the
group's Web site.
Veal appealed her conviction in 2008, arguing her
sentence to life without parole as a minor amounted to cruel and
unusual punishment, a violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S.
The Court of Appeals and a district court dismissed
her application, stating it had exceeded the three-year statute of
limitations for relief after conviction.
The high court disagreed, stating that an inmate
may correct an illegal sentence "at any time." State prosecutors also
admitted that Veal's case wasn't governed by the statute of
limitations, according to the ruling.
"What they've essentially said is there's no time
bar to Ruthann's argument," Stevenson said.
Supreme Court justices reversed the lower courts'
rulings mainly on procedural grounds.
The case will be sent back to Black Hawk County
District Court for reconsideration, Stevenson said. He'll continue to
argue the sentencing requirements for minors is unconstitutional.
Stevenson said other states that have similar laws
that subject minors to adult courts allow for parole for at some
Tom Ferguson, Black Hawk County attorney, said he
couldn't comment on the ruling directly because litigation is still
Ferguson said the case heads back to court to hear
the constitutional challenge. No courts dates have been set on that
yet. Ferguson's office will handle the challenge at that time, he
Oral arguments heard in Ruthann Veal appeal
By Charlotte Eby - Wcfcourier.com
January 19, 2010
DES MOINES - A woman serving a life prison term for
a murder she committed at the age of 14 was subject to what her lawyer
said was a cruel and unusual punishment.
The Iowa Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in
the case of Ruthann Veal, convicted of first-degree murder in the
brutal 1993 killing of Catherine Haynes of Waterloo. Haynes, 66, was
stabbed 23 times.
Veal, formerly of Mason City, had been on the run
from a Waterloo detention facility at the time of the murder. She was
tried as an adult and sentenced to life in prison without the
possibility of parole. She is now 31.
Veal's attorney, Bryan Stevenson, said Iowa lowered
the age at which children can be charged as adults before making life
without parole a punishment for crimes such at the one Veal she was
"My own view is that if you had an honest
conversation about that in the Legislature it would not be set at 14.
No state that has taken this up has ever set the minimum age for life
without parole at 14," Stevenson said.
Stevenson, an attorney from Montgomery, Ala., is
with the Equal Justice Initiative. The organization represents
children in a number of states as young as 13 or 14 who Stevenson said
have been condemned to die in prison. The group also has a case
pending before the U.S. Supreme Court involving a 13-year-old from
Florida sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Even people who feel strongly that punishments
should be tough would hesitate on the question of whether a
14-year-old should be placed in an adult prison until they die,
Stevenson noted that Iowa law does not allow
children to drop out of school or operate amusement rides, rooted in
an understanding that even though they can do violent and destructive
things, they are still not fully formed.
"They're going to change. Their judgment's going to
improve. Their impulse control will improve; their sense of
responsibility will improve. And while they can do things that are
tragic and devastating and need to be punished, we shouldn't conclude
that they, like adults, are beyond all hope and redemption," Stevenson
He said even in aggravated crimes, juveniles ought
to have some chance of rehabilitation.
Assistant Iowa Attorney General Thomas Andrews
noted that sentences such as the one handed down to Veal are rare. He
also focused on Veal's record before the murder, calling her a
"violent recidivist" with 11 different placements for escalating
crimes and her attempts to flee from police.
"There was just no dealing with her," Andrews said.
The Iowa Court of Appeals in July turned down
Veal's challenge to her life prison sentence. The Iowa Supreme Court
agreed to hear the case in October.
The court did not rule on the case Tuesday, and is
expected to issue a written ruling.
Woman who killed librarian at age 14 to stay in
July 24, 2009
WATERLOO - The Iowa Court of Appeals has turned
down Ruthann Veal's challenge to her life sentence a 1993 slaying.
Veal was just 14 years old when she ran away from a
juvenile group home and allegedly killed Catherine Haynes, a
66-year-old retired librarian, at the woman's Waterloo home.
Veal filed an earlier appeal, which was thrown out
by a district court in 1997.
Then, in 2008, she challenged the matter again,
claiming the life sentence without parole went against her 8th and
14th amendment rights.
A district court judge sided with the state, which
argued Veal's claim was filed too late because it was more than three
years after the 1997 ruling that dismissed her earlier appeal.
Veal's attorney countered that the statute of
limitations didn't apply because a U.S. Supreme Court opinion issued
in 2005 prohibited the death penalty for defendants whose crimes were
committed when they were under age 18.
In the Iowa Court of Appeals ruling, filed
Wednesday, justices said they interpreted the 2005 opinion as applying
only to executions and not life prison sentences.
It also noted the U.S. Supreme Court in a 1988
opinion already had struck down capital punishment for defendants who
committed crimes when they were under 16 years old.
Justices said "well-established law" would have
been available to Veal, who was 14 at the time of the slaying, within
the statute of limitations.
Supreme Court of Iowa
State v. Veal
STATE of Iowa, Appellee, v. Ruthann VEAL, Appellant.
May 21, 1997
Considered by McGIVERIN, C.J., and LARSON, CARTER,
SNELL, and TERNUS, JJ.
Alfredo Parrish and Andrew J. Dunn of Parrish,
Kruidenier, Moss, Dunn & Montgomery, Des Moines, for appellant.Thomas
J. Miller, Attorney General, Thomas S. Tauber, Assistant Attorney
General, Thomas J. Ferguson, County Attorney, and D. Raymond Walton,
Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.
The overall issue in this appeal is whether any of
a number of alleged errors by the trial court requires reversal of
defendant's conviction for first-degree murder in violation of Iowa
Code section 707.2 (1993). Finding no reversible error by the trial
court, we affirm.
I. Background proceedings.
Defendant Ruthann Veal was arrested in June 1993 in
connection with the death of Catherine Haynes in Waterloo, Iowa.
Veal, who was fourteen years old at the time of her arrest, was waived
from juvenile court to criminal adult court and charged by trial
information with first-degree murder under Iowa Code section 707.2.
The facts leading to that charge will be discussed later in connection
with the issues to which they are relevant.
Prior to trial, defendant Veal filed a motion for
change of venue, claiming that she could not receive a fair and
impartial trial in Black Hawk County because of the publicity the case
had generated in that area. The district court overruled the motion,
and the case proceeded to a jury trial.
After a three-week trial, the jury found Veal
guilty of first-degree murder. Veal filed a motion for new trial,
again claiming that the publicity surrounding the case precluded a
fair and impartial trial. In addition, she alleged a number of
errors by the trial court. While that motion was pending, Veal
learned that the trial judge, James C. Bauch, had been present in a
bar with members of the county attorney's staff following the guilty
verdict, and she filed a motion to recuse the trial judge. Judge
Bauch recused himself, and Judge Robert J. Curnan was assigned by the
chief judge of the judicial district to preside over the remaining
proceedings. After a hearing, Judge Curnan overruled Veal's motion
for new trial and sentenced her to serve a life term in prison. See
Iowa Code § 902.1.
Defendant Veal appealed from the district court's
judgment and sentence. Defendant raises several issues on appeal,
contending: (1) the evidence was insufficient as a matter of law to
convict her of first-degree murder; (2) the district court's denial
of her motion for change of venue deprived Veal of her constitutional
right to a fair trial; (3) her constitutional rights were violated by
the trial court's failure to address the prosecutor's alleged
pretextual reasons for his peremptory challenges or strikes to three
black prospective jurors; (4) Veal's right to confront witnesses was
denied when the trial court prohibited cross-examination of three
witnesses regarding their juvenile records; (5) the trial court
abused its discretion when it excluded from evidence the juvenile
records of the three witnesses; (6) the trial court erred in
sustaining the State's motion in limine and overruling defendant's
offers of proof and thus prohibiting Veal from offering as evidence
statements she had made to the police at the time of her arrest and to
another person; (7) the trial court erred in excluding those
statements of defendant once the State allegedly had “opened the door”
to the statements; (8) testimony by a state's witness regarding
Veal's request for counsel violated her constitutional rights; (9)
the trial court erred in allowing Tequisha Parsons to testify for the
State although prosecutors did not disclose to defense counsel the
fact Parsons revised her out-of-court statements two weeks before
testifying; (10) the trial court abused its discretion in restricting
Veal's cross-examination of Parsons and two other witnesses; (11) the
trial court abused its discretion in restricting Veal's closing
argument; (12) the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to
submit to the jury three jury instructions proposed by Veal; (13) the
trial court abused its discretion by instructing the jury concerning
Veal's other criminal acts; (14) Veal was denied her constitutional
right to a trial by a fair tribunal; and (15) the cumulative effect
of the trial court's alleged errors was a denial of Veal's
constitutional right to a fair trial.
II. Standard of review.
The variety of issues in this case requires us to
employ several standards of review depending on the issue being
When the defendant asserts constitutional
violations, our review is de novo. State v. Finnel, 515 N.W.2d 41, 43
In reviewing a claim that the evidence was
insufficient to support the jury's verdict, we must determine whether
there is substantial evidence supporting the verdict. State v. LeGear,
346 N.W.2d 21, 23 (Iowa 1984). Evidence is substantial if it could
convince a rational trier of fact that the defendant is guilty of the
crime charged beyond a reasonable doubt. Id.
A challenge to the district court's denial of a
motion for change of venue requires us to review the record de novo;
we reverse if the trial court abused its discretion. State v. Siemer,
454 N.W.2d 857, 860 (Iowa 1990).
The scope of opening statements lies within the
discretion of the trial court; we review for abuse of discretion. Kester
v. Bruns, 326 N.W.2d 279, 281 (Iowa 1982).
Evidentiary matters are generally left to the trial
court's discretion. State v. Hubka, 480 N.W.2d 867, 868 (Iowa 1992).
Thus, we reverse rulings on such matters only when it is shown that
the trial court abused its discretion. Id.
The trial court must exercise its discretion in
determining the scope of closing arguments; our review is for abuse
of discretion. State v. Melk, 543 N.W.2d 297, 301 (Iowa App.1995).
We review the trial court's rulings with respect to
jury instructions for abuse of discretion. State v. Webb, 516 N.W.2d
824, 831 (Iowa 1994). In addition, reversal is warranted only when
any error is prejudicial. Id.
III. Discussion of the issues.
We turn now to the issues raised on appeal by the
defendant. Because it affords a factual framework for our review, we
begin with a discussion of defendant Veal's challenge to the trial
court's denial of her motion for judgment of acquittal. We then
address her other arguments in general according to the chronology of
A. Trial court's denial of defendant's motion
for judgment of acquittal.
In her motion for judgment of acquittal, made at
the close of the evidence-in accordance with the trial court's
request-rather than at the close of the State's case, defendant Veal
contended that there was insufficient evidence to support a jury
verdict of guilty of first-degree murder. See Iowa R.Crim. P. 18(8).
In particular, she argued that the State's key evidence came from a
witness whose credibility is open to doubt. On appeal, Veal
challenges the trial court's denial of her motion for judgment of
The trial court instructed the jury that the State
had to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, all of the elements in one of
the following alternatives:
1. On or about the 15th/16th day of June, 1993,
Ruthann Veal stabbed Catherine Haynes.
2. Catherine Haynes died as a result of being
3. Ruthann Veal acted with malice aforethought.
4. Ruthann Veal acted willfully, deliberately,
premeditatedly and with a specific intent to kill Catherine Haynes.
1. On or about the 15th/16th day of June, 1993,
Ruthann Veal stabbed Catherine Haynes.
2. Catherine Haynes died as a result of being
3. Ruthann Veal acted with malice aforethought.
4. Ruthann Veal was participating in the offense of
Robbery in the First Degree.
1. On or about the 15th/16th day of June, 1993,
Ruthann Veal stabbed Catherine Haynes.
2. Catherine Haynes died as a result of being
3. Ruthann Veal acted with malice aforethought.
4. Ruthann Veal was participating in the offense of
In reviewing a claim that the evidence was
insufficient to support the jury's verdict, we must determine whether
there is substantial evidence supporting the verdict. LeGear, 346
N.W.2d at 23. Evidence is substantial if it could convince a
rational trier of fact that the defendant is guilty of the crime
charged beyond a reasonable doubt. Id. “ We view the evidence in the
light most favorable to the State, making any legitimate inferences
that may fairly and reasonably be deduced from the evidence.” State
v. Romeo, 542 N.W.2d 543, 545 (Iowa 1996).
A reasonable jury could find the following facts
from the record. Catherine Haynes, age sixty-six, was stabbed to
death at her Waterloo home sometime between 6:00 p.m. on June 15 and
6:00 a.m. on June 16, 1993. During the early evening hours of June
15, witnesses saw a police officer chase Veal, who had run away from a
juvenile home, through a residential neighborhood. Veal, who was six
feet tall and weighed 180 pounds, was wearing green pants, a white
shirt, and hiking boots. She ran through backyards, onto a porch,
and into a garage before the police officer gave up his pursuit.
At about 8:45 or 9:00 p.m., victim Catherine Haynes
visited briefly at a neighbor's house across the street from her own
house. When Haynes returned to her home, her neighbor observed that
although the screen door to Haynes' home was shut, the inside door was
open. Earlier in the evening, the neighbor had noticed that both the
front and back doors to Haynes' home were open.
Between 10:00 and 11:00 p.m., a number of
long-distance telephone calls were placed from Haynes' residence to
the residences of friends and relatives of defendant Veal. These
friends and relatives of Veal testified that they did not know
At 11:45 p.m. a woman called the Yellow Cab Company
to request that a cab pick up a person at Haynes' address. The
ultimate destination for the cab indicated by the caller was to be the
address of a person who knew defendant Veal but not Haynes. When the
cab driver arrived at Haynes' house, a woman leaned out the door, so
that only her head and shoulders were visible, and told the driver the
cab was no longer needed. The cab driver later picked Veal's picture
out of a police photographic lineup as the woman he saw at Haynes'
Defendant Veal spent the rest of that night and the
following two days in various locations in Waterloo, Cedar Rapids, and
Iowa City. At about midnight on June 15, Veal drove around in
Haynes' car near a Waterloo convenience store, showed several young
people that she had some credit cards, and offered to pay their way if
they accompanied her to Cedar Rapids. Veal drove to Cedar Rapids and
back to Waterloo and then drove to Cedar Rapids a second time with
Tarik Tate and Tequisha Parsons. The three arrived at the Cedar
Rapids home of Elizabeth Richardson, Tate's grandmother, at about 6:00
or 6:30 a.m. on June 16. Veal and Parsons remained in the car for
several minutes while Tate went into Richardson's house. According
Me and Ruthann was sitting there and she told me
that she did something bad. And I wanted to know what she did bad
and she told me that the credit cards and the car was stolen. And I
was like-I asked her how she got the credit cards and the car and she
told me she killed someone or she killed a lady. And I asked her
how'd you kill her and she said she stabbed her and I was like oh.
And she told me that she was getting ruthless.
Veal, Parsons, and Tate stayed at Richardson's
house until that afternoon, when they decided to go shopping with a
fourth person. Veal drove the group to Iowa City in Haynes' car.
After using Haynes' credit card to buy clothes and shoes for herself
and the others, Veal saw a security guard at a shopping mall and
decided to leave Iowa City.
After returning to Cedar Rapids, defendant Veal
told Parsons that she needed to get rid of the car and parked it about
a block away from Richardson's house. At Richardson's house, Veal
and Parsons changed into clothes they had bought in Iowa City, and
then Veal, Parsons, and Tate walked back toward the car. Veal hid
the clothes she had been wearing earlier-the green slacks and white
shirt-in a bush.
Haynes' body was discovered at her Waterloo home
that afternoon. She was wearing the same clothes she had worn when
she visited with her neighbors the previous evening. She apparently
had struggled with her murderer and had been stabbed twenty-three
times. Tests indicated Haynes had died between 6:00 p.m. on June 15
and 6:00 a.m. on June 16.
During the afternoon of the next day, June 17,
while walking with Parsons near Richardson's Cedar Rapids house,
defendant Veal threw Haynes' credit cards and car keys into a trash
Police investigators later found physical evidence
linking Veal to the murder. In Haynes' house, investigators found
Veal's fingerprint on a table and a false fingernail, which had been
attached to one of Veal's fingers, near Haynes' body in an upstairs
hall. A footprint found in an upstairs bedroom matched those made by
Veal's shoes. Veal's clothes and person provided further evidence.
Her white shirt and green pants were stained with human blood,
although witnesses had seen no such stains at 6:00 p.m. on June 15.
Veal's shoes had bloodstains that were consistent with Haynes' blood
but inconsistent with Veal's blood. A medical examination on June 18
disclosed that Veal's arms had bruises that were one to five days old,
supporting the theory that she had been involved in a recent struggle.
Annette and Tonja Sexton, acquaintances of Veal, testified that they
had not seen bruises on Veal's arms when she visited with them at
about 6:00 p.m. on June 15.
Defendant Veal points to inconsistencies in witness
Parsons' statements to police. In separate statements, Parsons gave
different information to police about such matters as her name, where
she was from, her acquaintance with Veal, and the timing of Veal's
alleged confession to Parsons. Veal claims that Parsons' false
statements regarding those matters cast serious doubt on Parsons'
account of what Veal told her about Haynes' murder.
Veal further contends that there is considerable
evidence supporting her defense that persons other than Veal committed
the murder. Neighbors of Haynes testified that they heard voices and
noises outside at about 3:00 a.m. or 4:00 a.m. on June 16. The cab
driver's description of Veal did not match her height or weight, and a
package of cigarettes found in Haynes' home was a different brand than
those smoked by Veal.
Our review of the record, however, convinces us
that there is substantial evidence supporting each of the elements for
first-degree murder as set forth in the court's instructions to the
jury. The evidence placing defendant Veal in Haynes' house at the
time of the murder, Veal's possession and use of Haynes' car and
credit cards, the bloodstains on Veal's clothing and shoes, and the
bruises on Veal's arms support Parsons' account that Veal told her she
had committed the murder. A reasonable jury could conclude beyond a
reasonable doubt that Veal murdered Haynes and that she stole and used
Haynes' car and credit cards thereafter.
Veal does not point to any particular essential
element of the crime that was not supported by substantial evidence.
Moreover, the inconsistencies in Parsons'
statements and the testimony relied upon by Veal do not render that
incriminating evidence less compelling. Parsons' inconsistent
statements did not concern matters material to this case, but rather
were related to her status as a runaway from a group home. Parsons'
testimony therefore was not so impossible, absurd, and
self-contradictory that the jury could not give it weight. See State
v. Smith, 508 N.W.2d 101, 102-03 (Iowa App.1993). Similarly, the
other evidence highlighted by Veal does not undermine the physical
evidence and testimony linking her to the murder. The cab driver's
assessment of the size of the woman he saw at Haynes' house was based
on his view of her head and shoulders as she leaned out the door.
The testimony about voices and noises in Haynes' neighborhood and the
brand of cigarettes found in Haynes' house simply is not sufficient to
overcome, as a matter of law, the strong evidence against Veal.
We conclude that substantial evidence supports the
jury's verdict of guilty and the trial court did not err in overruling
defendant Veal's motion for judgment of acquittal.
B. Defendant's motion for change of venue.
Defendant Veal claims that because of the extensive
publicity attending this case, the trial court's denial of her motion
for change of venue deprived her of her right, under the Sixth and
Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and article I,
sections 9 and 10 of the Iowa Constitution, to a fair trial. We
review the court's ruling de novo to determine whether it acted within
the scope of its discretion. Siemer, 454 N.W.2d at 860.
In reviewing that contention concerning a change of
venue, we consider Iowa Rule of Criminal Procedure 10(10)(b), which
provides that the district court may transfer venue of a case to
another county, upon motion of the defendant, “[i]f the court is
satisfied ․ that such degree of prejudice exists in the county in
which the trial is to be had that there is a substantial likelihood a
fair and impartial trial cannot be preserved” with a jury from that
county. A defendant seeking reversal on the basis of jury prejudice
must show: (1) the publicity attending the trial was “so pervasive
and inflammatory that prejudice must be presumed,” or (2) the jury was
actually prejudiced. Siemer, 454 N.W.2d at 860.
In order to determine whether the publicity in this
case was so pervasive and inflammatory that jury prejudice must be
presumed, we examine the tone and accuracy of the articles or
broadcasts, the passage of time between publication and the date of
trial, and the impact of the publicity on the jurors' ability to
render an impartial verdict. See id. at 860; State v. Walters, 426
N.W.2d 136, 139 (Iowa 1988). While the publicity surrounding Haynes'
murder certainly was pervasive, the record shows that it was generally
factual and informative in tone and accurate. Almost a year passed
between the initial publicity in connection with the murder and the
start of defendant Veal's trial. Much of the publicity in the
intervening time was related to procedural matters. Exhaustive voir
dire of the prospective jurors led to the removal of those persons who
had a fixed opinion of Veal's guilt. Thus, we do not believe that
jury prejudice can be presumed here.
Similarly, there is no evidence of actual prejudice
on the part of the jury. Of the twelve members of the jury, two had
never heard of the case, nine had heard of the case but had not formed
an opinion, and one had formed an opinion but stated he could set it
aside and decide the case on the basis of the evidence.
Having considered all the arguments made by
defendant concerning this assignment, we find no error in the trial
court's denial of Veal's motion for change of venue under the
provisions of rule 10(10)(b), the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments of
the United States Constitution, and article I, sections 9 and 10 of
the Iowa Constitution.
C. Peremptory strikes of three black prospective
Veal, who is black, argues that her right to equal
protection of the law, guaranteed by the Sixth and Fourteenth
Amendments of the United States Constitution and article I, section 10
of the Iowa Constitution, was denied by the prosecutor's peremptory
strikes removing three black prospective jurors from the jury panel.
Our review of this constitutional claim is de novo. Finnel, 515
N.W.2d at 43.
The United States Supreme Court has set forth,
under the Equal Protection Clause, a three-part analysis for
determining whether peremptory challenges or strikes 1
have been exercised impermissibly on the basis of race. Batson v.
Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 96-98, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 1723-24, 90 L.Ed.2d 69,
87-89 (1986). First, the defendant must establish a prima facie case
of purposeful discrimination by showing that he or she is a member of
a cognizable racial group and that the prosecutor has used peremptory
challenges to remove prospective jurors of the defendant's race,
raising an inference that such exclusion is discriminatory. Id. at
96, 106 S.Ct. at 1723, 90 L.Ed.2d at 87-88. Second, the burden
shifts to the State to articulate a race-neutral reason for
challenging the jurors. Id. at 97, 106 S.Ct. at 1723, 90 L.Ed.2d at
88. Finally, the trial court must determine whether the defendant
has established purposeful discrimination. Id. at 98, 106 S.Ct. at
1724, 90 L.Ed.2d at 88-89. In other words, the court must decide
whether to believe the prosecutor's explanation for the peremptory
challenges. United States v. Perez, 35 F.3d 632, 636 (1st Cir.1994).
The trial court's decision in this regard is accorded great
deference on appeal. Id.
In this case, the controversy centers on the third
part of the analysis. The panel of thirty-two potential jurors that
had been passed for cause included six black jurors. The State then
struck seven white jurors and three black jurors, and defendant Veal
struck ten white prospective jurors, so that the actual jury that
decided the case included nine white jurors and three black jurors.
After the prosecutor proffered race-neutral reasons for striking three
of the six black prospective jurors, the trial court overruled Veal's
objections, on equal protection grounds, to the strikes. On appeal,
Veal argues that the trial court failed to perform the third step of
the Batson analysis because it did not make express findings as to any
discriminatory intent by the State. She further argues that the
facially neutral explanations given for the strikes by the prosecutor
While it is preferable for trial courts to make
express findings in connection with Batson challenges, failure to do
so is not necessarily fatal to the court's ruling. See United States
v. Jenkins, 52 F.3d 743, 746-47 (8th Cir.1995) (concluding that even
though trial court made no express findings regarding credibility of
explanations, it implicitly found those reasons believable); Perez,
35 F.3d at 636-37 (determining that lack of express findings was not
grounds for reversal). We believe that in this case, the trial court
impliedly found the prosecution's explanation credible when it
overruled Veal's objections.
Moreover, there is nothing in the record to
indicate that the State's peremptory strikes of the three black
prospective jurors were exercised in a discriminatory manner. The
prosecutor struck one of the black jurors because she showed no
interest in the case or other community events. We note that the
prosecutor struck white prospective jurors who displayed a similar
attitude. Lack of interest is a legitimate reason for a peremptory
challenge, especially in a long and complex trial. Jenkins, 52 F.3d
at 747. The second black prospective juror was struck, as was a
white prospective juror, because he expressed the view that Veal could
not receive a fair trial. He also stated that he had referred
persons to Veal's attorney when they had problems. The third black
prospective juror was struck because she failed to disclose, even
though asked by the prosecutor, that her husband had been prosecuted
twice and sent to prison once by the county attorney's office.
Concern that a juror may be partial, or hostile, to one party surely
lies within the scope of permissible reasons for peremptory strikes.
We find no constitutional violation here.
D. Rulings on evidentiary matters and closing
Defendant Veal challenges the trial court's rulings
on a number of evidentiary matters and on the scope of her closing
argument. We generally review such matters for abuse of discretion.
See Hubka, 480 N.W.2d at 868 (evidentiary matters); Kester, 326
N.W.2d at 281 (scope of closing arguments).
1. Under Iowa Rule of Evidence 609(d), evidence of
juvenile adjudications generally is not admissible at trial. The
trial court therefore refused to allow Veal to impeach three
witnesses, Tequisha Parsons, Leighton Manning, and Quovadis Marshall,
with evidence of juvenile adjudications for third-degree theft and
burglary. Because Veal asserts the court's ruling violated her
constitutional right to confront witnesses, we review this claim de
novo. See Finnel, 515 N.W.2d at 43.
Restrictions on cross-examination run afoul of the
Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment of the United States
Constitution if the prohibited questioning would have given a
reasonable jury a significantly different impression of the witness'
credibility. United States v. Diaz, 26 F.3d 1533, 1539-40 (11th
Cir.1994). Under that test, we do not believe the trial court erred
in prohibiting cross-examination on the subject of the juvenile
adjudications. Veal engaged in extensive impeachment of Parsons on
the basis of other evidence and used the impeachment evidence in
closing argument. Jurors would not have received a significantly
different impression of Parsons' credibility if evidence of her
juvenile record had been admitted. Similarly, evidence of Manning's
adult felony conviction was admitted, so that knowledge of his
juvenile record would not have given jurors a significantly different
impression of his credibility. Marshall did not testify to any
disputed matters; impeachment of his credibility would have added
nothing to Veal's defense.
Precluding cross-examination on the subject of the
juvenile records did not violate the Confrontation Clause.
2. Veal also argues that the trial court abused its
discretion in excluding the evidence of the witnesses' juvenile
adjudications. The trial court may, in a criminal case, admit
evidence of juvenile adjudications if it is satisfied such evidence is
necessary for a fair determination of the defendant's guilt or
innocence. Iowa R. Evid. 609(d). As noted in subdivision III-D-1
above, admission of such evidence would have added nothing to Veal's
defense. We find no abuse of discretion in relation to this issue.
3. Defendant Veal contends that the following
pretrial statements by Veal to various persons should have been
admitted into evidence at trial. While Veal was at the Cedar Rapids
home of Elizabeth Richardson on June 17, a television newscast
reported the murder of Haynes in Waterloo and the use of her credit
cards by a group of young people in Iowa City. Richardson testified
in a deposition that when she asked Veal what was going on, Veal
responded that she “did not know that they were going to kill that old
lady” and that people had given her some things to get rid of. When
Veal was arrested, she asked who she was supposed to have murdered;
after police responded to her question, she said that she knew the
victim, had been to her house to use the phone, and couldn't murder
The trial court sustained the State's motion in
limine with regard to those statements. Defendant Veal made offers
of proof concerning the statements, and the trial court sustained the
State's objections to defendant's offers. Veal argues, under a
number of evidentiary rules, that witnesses should have been allowed
to testify about her out-of-court statements. To the extent that
Veal raises a constitutional challenge, our review is de novo. Finnel,
515 N.W.2d at 43.
a. Defendant Veal points out that a hearsay
statement may be admissible as an excited utterance under Iowa Rule of
Evidence 803(2). However, the statement must relate “to a startling
event or condition made while the declarant was under the stress of
excitement caused by the event or condition.” Iowa R. Evid. 803(2)
(emphasis added). In this case, Veal's statements were related to
the murder, not to what she points to as startling events-Richardson's
questions or the arrest. Furthermore, Veal's statements were not
spontaneous, as required for the excited utterance exception. See
State v. Watts, 441 N.W.2d 395, 398 (Iowa App.1989). The statements
also were made approximately one and a half days after the murder.
b. Veal claims that her statements are admissible
as admissions by a party-opponent under Iowa Rule of Evidence
801(d)(2)(A). We reject this argument; such statements are
admissible only when offered against the party who made the
statements. See Iowa R. Evid. 801(d)(2). Veal made the statements
and was offering them into evidence.
c. Similarly, we do not accept Veal's argument that
because they exposed her to criminal liability, Veal's statements are
admissible under Iowa Rule of Evidence 804(b)(3) as statements against
interest. We do not believe that statements admitting to a lesser
offense are against interest when offered to defend against a more
serious criminal charge. See United States v. Evans, 635 F.2d 1124,
1125 (4th Cir.1980). In addition, Veal's statements lack the
corroborating circumstances required by Iowa Rule of Evidence
d. There was testimony at trial that Veal and
Parsons left Richardson's house after the newscast reporting Haynes'
murder. Veal contends that because her statements to Richardson were
not admitted into evidence, the jury was led to infer that Veal fled
Richardson's house because of the television news report. We
disagree. We can find no evidence in the record that would lead to
such an inference. There was no testimony before the jury concerning
the conversation between Veal and Richardson, nor was there any
indication that Veal heard the news report. We find no merit in
Veal's argument on this point.
e. Finally, Veal contends that the trial court's
prohibition of her statements denied her right to present a defense
and therefore violated her right to due process, presumably under the
Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and
article I, sections 9 and 10 of the Iowa Constitution. In State v.
Traywick, 468 N.W.2d 452, 455 (Iowa 1991), we noted that such an
argument conceivably could implicate all rulings at the trial. Rules
of evidence are formulated for the very purpose of assuring fair
trials; we believe that subjecting all evidentiary rulings to the
augmented standard for due process claims would blur the careful
distinctions inherent in those rules. Thus, we concluded in Traywick
that “[a]n allegedly erroneous ruling ․ must go to the heart of the
case in order to be considered of such magnitude as to implicate the
due process clause.” Traywick, 468 N.W.2d at 455. Here, because a
reasonable jury could not have reached a different verdict based on
the statements Veal sought to introduce, the ruling excluding the
statements does not achieve that status.
We find no abuse of discretion or constitutional
error in the trial court's rulings on the State's motion in limine or
Veal's offer of proof.
4. In his opening statement, the prosecutor
referred to the fact that Richardson saw the television newscast on
June 17 about Haynes' murder and wanted Veal and Parsons out of her
house. He also stated that there was no evidence that anyone besides
Veal was in Haynes' house at the time in question. Defendant Veal
claims that the prosecutor opened the door to Veal's use of her
statements, described in subdivision III-D-3 above, in defendant's
opening statement. Thus, she argues that the trial court erred in
restricting defense counsel's opening statement concerning statements
Veal supposedly had made to Richardson and the police.
We do not believe the prosecutor's remarks opened
the door in the manner Veal suggests. The prosecutor did not refer
to statements made by either Richardson or Veal, nor did he stray into
inadmissible evidence when he argued that no one else was in Haynes'
house. There was no abuse of discretion in connection with this
5. At trial, a police officer improperly testified
for the State that on June 25, while police investigators were
executing a search warrant on Veal to take cast impressions of her
fingers, Veal asked to contact her attorney. See State v. Kyseth,
240 N.W.2d 671, 674 (Iowa 1976). The trial court sustained Veal's
objection to the testimony and directed the jury to disregard the
officer's statement. The court denied Veal's later motion for a
mistrial based on the officer's improper testimony. On appeal, Veal
argues that the officer's testimony was prejudicial and violated her
rights under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States
Constitution and article I, section 9 of the Iowa Constitution.
Because a constitutional right is involved, we review the issue de
novo to determine whether the trial court abused its discretion. Finnel,
515 N.W.2d at 43; State v. Wade, 467 N.W.2d 283, 285 (Iowa 1991).
In assessing whether a mistrial is necessary, we
[g]enerally, trial court's quick action in striking
the improper response and cautioning the jury to disregard it,
coupled, when necessary, with some type of general cautionary
instruction, will prevent any prejudice. A defendant who asserts
these actions were insufficient bears the heavy burden of
demonstrating a clear abuse of discretion on the part of trial court.
Wade, 467 N.W.2d at 285 (quoting State v. Brown,
397 N.W.2d 689, 699 (Iowa 1986)). Here, after the officer gave the
improper response, the trial court warned the jury not to consider the
statement. When the court instructed the jury at the close of the
evidence, it again cautioned the jury not to consider testimony it had
been told to disregard. We believe the court's action was sufficient
to prevent prejudice to Veal; upon our de novo review, we find no
abuse of discretion in the court's refusal to declare a mistrial.
6. In preparation for trial, defendant Veal filed a
motion to produce requesting all information encompassed by Brady v.
Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 87, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 1196-97, 10 L.Ed.2d 215, 218
(1963) (holding that “suppression by the prosecution of evidence
favorable to an accused upon request violates due process where the
evidence is material either to guilt or to punishment, irrespective of
the good faith or bad faith of the prosecution”). The Brady rule
includes evidence which may be used to impeach a witness' credibility.
Romeo, 542 N.W.2d at 551. The district court sustained Veal's
motion with regard to the requested Brady material. Shortly after
the trial began, the State learned that its witness, Tequisha Parsons,
had earlier lied to police and in her deposition about her name, age,
background, and the timing of Veal's alleged confession to Parsons.
However, the State failed to provide this information to Veal until
Parsons testified at trial.
Veal moved to exclude Parsons' testimony. The
trial court overruled the motion but granted Veal a one-day
continuance in order to re-depose Parsons and other witnesses. Veal
argues on appeal that the prosecution suppressed the information about
Parsons' false statements and thus that the court's ruling deprived
her of her right, under the Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments to
the United States Constitution and article I, sections 9 and 10 of the
Iowa Constitution, to due process and a fair trial. We review this
constitutional issue de novo. Id.
To establish a Brady violation, a defendant must
prove: (1) the prosecution suppressed evidence; (2) the evidence was
favorable to the defendant; and (3) the evidence was material to the
issue of guilt. Id.; Cornell v. State, 430 N.W.2d 384, 385 (Iowa
1988). We focus on the first and third prongs of this test.
The State argues that defendant Veal has not proven
the first element-that the prosecution suppressed evidence in this
case-because Veal was able to use the evidence effectively at trial.
Evidence is not considered “suppressed” if the defense is able to take
advantage of it at trial. Cornell, 430 N.W.2d at 385. We agree that
Veal was able to employ the information to her advantage. Because
the undisclosed information related to Parsons' credibility, it was
valuable impeachment evidence. The record shows that Veal used the
material extensively for impeachment purposes at trial. Parsons'
statements, however, revealed no inconsistencies on substantive
matters regarding Veal's guilt or innocence, so Veal's lack of earlier
access to the information did not impede the development of her trial
Even if the information were “suppressed” under
Brady, Veal fails to satisfy the third element of the test for a Brady
violation. Evidence is material when there is a “reasonable
probability” that disclosure would have changed the result of the
proceeding. Romeo, 542 N.W.2d at 551. A defendant can establish a
reasonable probability of a different result by showing the
suppression “undermines confidence in the outcome of the trial.” Id.
(quoting Kyles v. Whitley, 514 U.S. 419, 434, 115 S.Ct. 1555, 1566,
131 L.Ed.2d 490, 506 (1995) and United States v. Bagley, 473 U.S. 667,
678, 105 S.Ct. 3375, 3381, 87 L.Ed.2d 481, 491 (1985)). Because the
inconsistencies in Parsons' statements did not involve substantive
evidence concerning Veal's guilt or innocence, and Veal was able to
make full use of the statements to impeach Parsons' credibility, Veal
has not shown a reasonable probability that earlier disclosure of the
information would have led to a different result. We conclude that
the State's failure to earlier disclose the information did not
constitute a Brady violation.
Finding no constitutional violation, we next
determine whether the trial court abused its discretion by granting a
continuance to Veal rather than prohibiting Parsons' testimony. When
a party fails to comply with a discovery order, the court may “order
such party to permit the discovery or inspection, grant a continuance,
or prohibit the party from introducing any evidence not disclosed, or
it may enter such other order as it deems just under the
circumstances.” Iowa R.Crim. P. 13(6)(c). In choosing a sanction,
the trial court must consider: “(1) the circumstances surrounding the
violation; (2) the prejudice, if any, resulting from the violation;
(3) the feasibility of curing any prejudice; and (4) any other
relevant consideration.” Brown, 397 N.W.2d at 698.
In this case, the violation involved impeachment
evidence rather than evidence directly bearing on Veal's innocence or
guilt, so the risk of prejudice to Veal was not significant.
Granting a continuance allowed Veal to re-depose Parsons and other
witnesses so that Veal could profit fully from the impeachment value
of the evidence. Thus, we do not believe the trial court abused its
discretion in refusing to preclude Parsons' testimony.
Our conclusion that Parsons' testimony was not
improperly admitted does not signify our endorsement of the
prosecution's handling of this matter. We condemn, in the strongest
possible terms, the State's failure to earlier disclose to defendant
the information regarding the inaccuracies in Parsons' statements.
Rather, we base our resolution of this issue on our belief that
Parsons was thoroughly impeached by Veal's counsel, so that the jury
was able to properly evaluate Parsons' testimony regarding substantive
We find no error here.
7. The trial court limited defendant Veal's
cross-examination of Parsons and a police officer. In addition to
various other matters, Veal sought to question Parsons about the fact
that Parsons and Tarik Tate were the parents of a child. Veal also
tried to question the police officer about his pre-testimony
consultations with the prosecutor. Veal claims the trial court
abused its discretion in precluding such cross-examination.
In order to assure the defendant's right to
cross-examine witnesses, the trial court should not exercise its
discretion in such a way as “to exclude matters vital and proper to
the defense of one accused.” State v. Damme, 522 N.W.2d 321, 324-25
(Iowa App.1994). We do not believe the testimony Veal sought to
elicit before the jury fairly can be characterized as “vital and
proper” to her defense. Veal does not specify, and we do not
discern, how testimony about Parsons' baby would be relevant. See
Iowa R. Evid. 402. In addition, such testimony could be considered
unfairly prejudicial. See id. 403. The testimony about any
consultation between the police officer and the prosecutor was
irrelevant and could mislead the jury to infer that the consultation
We do not believe the trial court abused its
discretion in restricting Veal's cross-examination of Parsons and the
8. In her closing argument, defendant Veal argued
about remarks made by the prosecutor in his opening statement and
about the State's failure to earlier disclose the inconsistencies in
Parsons' statements. Veal contends the trial court abused its
discretion in sustaining the State's objections to these arguments.
Closing arguments serve to aid the jury in
analyzing the evidence. Melk, 543 N.W.2d at 301. In exercising its
discretion with regard to closing arguments, the trial court should
allow counsel latitude to the extent that comments and arguments are
related to the legal issues and the evidence. Id.
In this case, Veal's arguments deviated from the
evidence and permissible inferences to be drawn therefrom. Without
unduly extending this opinion, we do not believe the trial court's
rulings exceeded the scope of its discretion.
E. Jury instructions.
Defendant Veal challenges the trial court's failure
to give three proposed jury instructions requested by Veal. She also
claims the court erred in giving a jury instruction concerning her
other wrongful acts. We review for abuse of discretion. Webb, 516
N.W.2d at 831. Reversal is warranted only if an error is
1. Veal requested three instructions in connection
with Parsons' prior false statements to the police and in her
deposition. She argues that the court must instruct fully on all
material issues, State v. Miller, 359 N.W.2d 508, 512 (Iowa App.1984),
and that the court's general instructions were insufficient with
regard to Parsons' false statements. However, the trial court gave
other instructions concerning Parsons' credibility and her
inconsistent statements. “A trial court is ․ not required to instruct
in the language of requested instructions so long as the topic is
covered.” State v. Bolinger, 460 N.W.2d 877, 880 (Iowa App.1990).
We believe the trial court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to
give the three instructions requested by Veal.
2. Based on the conclusion that defendant Veal's
use of Haynes' car and credit cards should be categorized as “other
crimes, wrongs, or acts” under Iowa Rule of Evidence 404(b), the trial
court instructed the jury that it could consider such acts only if
they “were committed in the same or similar manner as the crime
charged” and only “for the purpose of establishing motive, intent,
absence of mistake or accident, common scheme or identity of a person
Without determining whether the court erred in
giving that instruction, we conclude that any error did not result in
prejudice to Veal. Evidence immediately surrounding an offense is
admissible in order “to show the complete story of the crime” even
when it shows the commission of another crime. Walters, 426 N.W.2d at
140-41. Thus, the court's instruction actually narrowed the jury's
use of the evidence and favored Veal. There is no error here.
F. Trial by a fair tribunal.
After the trial ended, the presiding judge (Judge
Bauch) went out for a drink at a bar where the prosecutors and
investigators happened to be present. The judge spoke briefly with
the prosecutors and investigators about the trial. In connection
with her motion for new trial alleging several errors, Veal asked
Judge Bauch to recuse himself from further proceedings. The judge
did so. Judge Curnan was appointed to proceed with the case. Judge
Curnan reviewed a transcript of the trial, heard arguments, and ruled
on Veal's motion for new trial.
Defendant Veal now argues that the court (Judge
Bauch) exhibited partiality toward the State and asserts that various
discretionary rulings were questionable, especially in light of the
judge's post-trial social contact and conversation with the
prosecution. Therefore, according to Veal, she was denied her right
to a trial by a fair tribunal under the Fifth and Fourteenth
Amendments of the United States Constitution and article I, section 9
of the Iowa Constitution. Because this claim implicates
constitutional rights, our review is de novo. Romeo, 542 N.W.2d at
Veal points to three specific issues in connection
with her claim of partiality: (1) the trial court's ruling on Veal's
motion for change of venue; (2) the court's allowance of Parsons'
testimony; and (3) the court's refusal to allow witnesses to testify
about Veal's statements to Richardson and police officers. We have
fully considered these issues in connection with subdivisions B, D-3,
D-4, and D-6 above and have found no error.
In addition, we do not agree with Veal's assertion
that the trial court gave more deference and assistance to the State
throughout the trial. Our careful review of the record does not
reveal the partiality Veal claims. We also note that in recusing
himself, the trial judge stated that he did “not bear the slightest
modicum of extra judicial bias or prejudice against the defendant” but
acted out of concern for any appearance of impropriety.
We strongly disapprove of Judge Bauch's post-trial
contact with the prosecutors and investigators. We have emphasized
“that judges have a special public responsibility as judicial
officers.” In re Inquiry Concerning Eads, 362 N.W.2d 541, 551 (Iowa
1985). Preserving public confidence in the judiciary requires judges
to avoid the sort of meeting that took place after the verdict in this
case. Nevertheless, our review convinces us that the court conducted
the trial in an impartial manner.
G. Cumulative errors.
Defendant Veal's final contention is that the
cumulative effect of the alleged errors was so prejudicial to her that
she was denied a fair trial. Because we have found no errors in
connection with the other issues raised by Veal, we reject this claim.
We affirm the judgment of the district court
finding Veal guilty of first-degree murder as charged.
1. In a
class “A” felony murder case, the State and defendant shall each
strike ten prospective jurors. Iowa R.Crim. P. 17(9).
McGIVERIN, Chief Justice.