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Case No. 18-0677

State of Iowa
v.
Miguel Angel Lorenzo Baltazar

The State seeks further review after the court of appeals reversed the defendant’s first-degree murder conviction and remanded for a new trial. The court of appeals determined the defendant’s trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to erroneous jury instructions on justification. The State contends a person who is engaged in criminal activity has a duty to retreat before using deadly force under the “Stand Your Ground” law. The State further claims the court of appeals has misapplied the presumed-prejudice standard when reviewing ineffective-assistance claims.

County:
Polk
Trial Court Case No.:
FECR307953

Appellee

State of Iowa

Appellant

Miguel Angel Lorenzo Baltazar

Attorneys for Appellee

Kyle P. Hanson

Attorneys for Appellant

Stephan J. Japuntich

Supreme Court

Oral Argument Schedule

15-15-5

Oct 22, 2019 1:00 PM Iowa Supreme Court Courtroom

Briefs

Supreme Court Opinion

Opinion Number:
18-0677
Date Published:
Nov 22, 2019

Court of Appeals

Court of Appeals Opinion

Opinion Number:
18-0677
Date Published:
May 15, 2019
Summary

            Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Scott D. Rosenberg, Judge.  REVERSED AND REMANDED FOR NEW TRIAL.  Considered by Vogel, C.J., Vaitheswaran, J., and Carr, S.J.  Opinion by Vogel, C.J. (11 pages)

            Miguel Angel Lorenzo Baltazar appeals his conviction for murder in the first degree.  He argues his counsel was ineffective for failing to object to jury instructions on his justification defense, and both parties argue the court abused its discretion in allowing only certain character evidence of the decedent.  OPINION HOLDS: Because the 2017 amendments to Chapter 704 of the Iowa Code should have resulted in the jury being instructed without the “alternative course of action” language, we find counsel breached an essential duty in failing to object when the older version of the justification instruction was given, and prejudice resulted.  The evidence presented at trial was sufficient to prove Lorenzo Baltazar acted with the specific intent to kill, and thus we reverse and remand for new trial.  Further, should the issue of the character evidence arise during the new trial, we also find the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing only certain character evidence.

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