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Iowa man’s prison sentence upheld in “stand your ground” case in which he opened gunfire in busy pedestrian mall, killing one

DES MOINES – An Iowa man’s long prison sentence was upheld by the state supreme court in a “stand your ground case” in which he opened gunfire in busy pedestrian mall, killing a man.

Court records show that:

A bitter dispute between two groups resulted in an individual from one group pulling out his handgun and firing five shots on a busy pedestrian mall in Iowa City. The shots killed one person from the other group and left two others seriously injured. The individual – Lamar Wilson, now age 26 – was charged with one count of murder and two counts of attempted murder. Following a jury trial, where his principal defense was justification, the individual was acquitted of the most serious charges and convicted of the lesser included offenses of voluntary manslaughter (one count) and assault with intent to cause serious injury (two counts).

At approximately 1:15 a.m. on Sunday, August 27, 2017, a feud between two rival groups culminated in the fatal shooting of Kaleek Jones on the pedestrian mall in downtown Iowa City. One group was from Iowa City; the other was from Cedar Rapids.

Earlier that day, Daquan “Cutthroat” Jefferson, part of the Iowa City group, had been killed in a car accident following a police chase. News of his passing reached Donte Taylor, a member of the Cedar Rapids group that held deep-seated animosity toward Jefferson. Taylor accordingly posted his satisfaction with the news of Jefferson’s untimely death on Facebook. This led to an online argument between Taylor and Jefferson’s family.

That afternoon, friends and family of Jefferson paid tribute to him at the Iowa City home of Lamar Wilson, the defendant. Meanwhile, members of the Cedar Rapids group gathered in their hometown to watch a pay-per-view boxing match. When the match was over, the group— consisting of Taylor, Maxwell Woods, Xavier Hicks, D’Andre Hicks, Jones, and two others—drove to Iowa City and decided to go to the pedestrian mall. Taylor, Woods, and one other member of the group had firearms.

Jefferson’s friends and family—including the defendant—were now gathered at the pedestrian mall as well. The defendant had a handgun in his jacket, for which he had a permit. Several women from that Iowa City group approached the Cedar Rapids group. They were upset and asked if anyone in the Cedar Rapids group had said “f*** Cutthroat” on Facebook. No one in the Cedar Rapids group admitted to doing so.

Jones, however, spoke with the women and seemed to calm them down. After he gave them a hug, the women returned to the rest of the Iowa City group on the other side of the pedestrian mall.

Shortly thereafter, the Cedar Rapids group walked back through the breezeway of the pedestrian mall and crossed paths with the Iowa City group. The defendant asked several members of the Cedar Rapids group if they had said “f*** Cutthroat.” Suddenly, the defendant pulled his gun and fired five times into the group from Cedar Rapids as the members of that group started running. Each of the defendant’s shots struck someone. D’Andre Hicks was shot three times, twice in the leg and once in the abdomen. Xavier Hicks was shot once in the chest. Both of them survived. Jones, however, was not so fortunate. He was shot once in the back with the bullet lodging in his spinal cord at the base of his skull. Several days later, he died in the hospital. None of the three victims were armed.

The defendant was promptly apprehended by Iowa City police officers, and his handgun was retrieved from the ground near him. Wilson reported to the officers that he pulled out his gun and discharged it only after observing one member of the Cedar Rapids group flash a gun. Yet Wilson admitted that the members of the Cedar Rapids group did not verbally threaten him, but rather “subliminally” threatened him. Wilson also admitted to firing the first shots, claiming he did so because he felt threatened.

Taylor, the person whom Wilson claimed to have seen flashing a gun, later testified he drew his gun only after Wilson pulled out his own gun. It is undisputed that Taylor never fired his gun.

Wilson also told police he had seen D’Andre Hicks with his hand in his pocket on a gun, but no trial witness supported Wilson’s claim that D’Andre Hicks actually had a gun. When D’Andre Hicks was found on the ground near the scene of the shooting after having collapsed from his wounds, he was unarmed.

One member of the Cedar Rapids group, Woods, fired his gun twice while running away from the defendant. He fired “up high,” however, and neither of his shots hit anyone.

On September 7, Wilson was charged by trial information in the Iowa District Court for Johnson County with one count of murder in the first degree, two counts of attempted murder, and three counts of intimidation with a dangerous weapon. The State later amended the trial information, withdrawing two of the intimidation counts and adding one count of gang participation.

On September 18, Wilson filed a notice of the affirmative defenses of “Self-Defense, Defense of others, Defense against a forcible felony, Defense of property, and the right to ‘stand your ground.’ ”

On October 20, Wilson filed a notice of statutory immunity and a motion to dismiss the case based on Iowa Code section 704.13.2 The motion stated, “[H]aving acted reasonably and with justification to repel deadly force with like force, Defendant requests this Honorable Court GRANT Lamar Wilson’s demand for immunity and dismiss this matter with prejudice because there is no crime perpetrated by him at all.”

Iowa Code section 704.13 provides, a person who is justified in using reasonable force against an aggressor in defense of oneself, another person, or property pursuant to section 704.4 is immune from criminal or civil liability for all damages incurred by the aggressor pursuant to the application of reasonable force.

On November 3, the district court denied Wilson’s motion to dismiss, ruling that “the case shall proceed to a jury trial, and the Court will postpone its ruling on Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss until the jury has returned its verdict.” In other words, the issue of immunity would be decided at the conclusion of the trial based on the “court’s interpretation and consideration of the evidence,” allowing a jury verdict to be reached while still allowing the court to “issue its own ruling” on Wilson’s immunity.

Venue for trial purposes was changed to Polk County.

The presentation of evidence began on January 25. Wilson did not testify or otherwise put on a defense. The district court’s marshaling instructions for each offense required the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that “[t]he defendant did not act with justification.”

During deliberations, the jury submitted one question: “What is the rule for stand your ground? Does it apply to this case. If so, what does it stand for?” The court responded in writing, “The applicable law regarding justification (self-defense) is incorporated in Jury Instruction Nos. 40, 41, 42, and 43. Please re-read these instructions carefully.”

The jury found Wilson guilty of one count of voluntary manslaughter, a lesser included offense of first-degree murder; two counts of assault with intent to cause serious injury, a lesser included offense of attempted murder; and one count of intimidation with a dangerous weapon.

On March 30, Wilson was sentenced consecutively to ten years in prison for voluntary manslaughter, two two-year terms for the assaults, and ten years in prison for intimidation with a dangerous weapon. Wilson was also ordered to pay fines, surcharges, costs, and restitution. The district court also imposed a mandatory minimum of five years on the intimidation count.

Wilson appealed.

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that defendants in Iowa are not immune from prosecution under the stand your ground law, and that Wilson was not justified in firing his weapon at the crowd that included the victims.

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