CEDAR RAPIDS — The Iowa Court of Appeals on Wednesday overturned a Cedar Rapids man conviction of fatally shooting one man and seriously injuring another during a 2017 drug deal, granting him a new trial based on a judge’s error during trial.
The appeals court said 6th Judicial District Chief Judge Patrick Grady shouldn’t have included a jury instruction informing jurors that Quarzone Martin, who claimed self-defense, didn’t report the use of deadly force to authorities and that he got rid of the gun after the shooting.
That instruction was a violation of Martin’s Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, the appeals court held.
A Linn County jury in December 2017 found Martin, 28, guilty of second-degree murder, assault with intent to inflict serious injury, willful injury causing serious injury and going armed with intent. He was originally charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder.
Martin was convicted of fatally shooting Andrew Meeks, 26, and seriously injuring Johnny Moore Jr., 30, both of Cedar Rapids. Testimony showed Martin was armed when he met Meeks and Moore in the Walmart parking lot in southwest Cedar Rapids on July 2, 2017. The three men were all in a vehicle when the shooting occurred.
Moore testified Martin shot them during a drug deal involving Xanax pills. The dispute was over Martin, who was selling the pills, shorting Meeks and Moore on the number of pills.
Moore said Martin got out of the car and then got back in, armed with a gun. Martin shot Meeks, who was in the driver’s seat, and then turned and shot Moore, who was in the back seat.
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Meeks, who still had the car in drive, accelerated after the shots were fired, crashing the car into a guard rail in the parking lot, according to testimony. Martin left before police arrived.
Testimony showed Meeks and Moore were not armed.
During the trial, the defense argued Meeks and Moore tried to rob Martin, and he was forced to defend himself.
Martin also testified he was being beaten by Meeks and that Meeks tried to shove him out of the car and he had to defend himself.
The appeals court ruling stated the Iowa Supreme Court recently ruled that a jury instruction regarding the use of deadly force — and authorizing an inference of guilt in a murder case because the defendant failed to make a report to authorities — “unconstitutionally penalizes the defendant’s silence and is therefore improper to use in all cases.”
Martin’s attorney objected to the jury instruction, which contained the provisions of the 704.2B law, but Grady allowed the instruction.
According to the ruling, a reversal is required unless error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.
The court couldn’t say there wasn’t harmless error in this case because “there is not overwhelming evidence of Martin’s guilt or that he did not act in self-defense.”
Martin was sentenced to up to 50 years in prison.
Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden said Wednesday his office would ask the Iowa Attorney General’s Office to review the appeal and provide clarification on the Iowa Code 704.2B self-defense provision.
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