Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State v. Harkness

Supreme Court of Iowa

July 18, 1968

STATE of Iowa, Appellee,
Earl E. HARKNESS, Appellant.

Harlan W. Bainter and Thomas F. Bell, Mt. Pleasant, for appellant.

Richard C. Turner, Atty. Gen., David A. Elderkin, Asst. Atty. Gen., and James L. Morrison, County Atty., Mt. Pleasant, for appellee.

MASON, Justice.

This is an appeal from judgment following a jury verdict convicting defendant Earl E. Harkness of second degree murder contrary to section 690.3, Code, 1966.

May 13, 1966, a Henry County grand jury returned an indictment charging defendant with the crime of murder. At arraignment upon defendant's showing he was indigent and unable to afford the services of counsel his present attorneys were appointed by the court to represent him. A plea of not guilty was later entered and on application of his attorneys an order was entered transferring defendant temporarily from the Henry County jail to the psychopathic hospital in Iowa City for purposes of undergoing a private psychiatric examination. He remained at the hospital as a private patient for a period of four weeks. September 2 he entered additional plea of not guilty by reson of insanity.

At the conclusion of all evidence defendant requested two instructions, one incorporated the Durham rule and the other the American Law Institute rule as tests of his insanity. Both were refused and instruction 21 embodying the M'Naghten rule was given by the trial court.

I. Defendant's appeal challenges the adequacy of the current test being used in this state as a guide by which the jury may determine the criminal responsibility of persons charged with crime. He contends M'Naghten's rule as the test for this responsibility should be replaced by either the American Law Institute rule or the Durham rule or both. This contention presents the only question on this appeal.

II. The jury found, and there is no evidence upon the record submitted upon this appeal to dispute the fact, defendant shot and killed Dale Edgington April 18, 1966. He was sentenced to 40 years in the penitentiary at Forst Madison.

Defendant lived in a one-room cabin upon farm ground owned by one Arthur Stevenson. He was not employed by Stevenson, but was simply permitted to live there, from time to time picking up sticks and generally looking after the place. (There were a farm house and other buildings in the vicinity of defendant's cabin.)

Stevenson had hired Dale Edgington (deceased) to do some bulldozing and this involved clearing the land, part of which was proximal to defendant's cabin. Defendant

Page 325

complained to Stevenson that Edgington was running the bulldozer too close to his building, destroying the yard.

Doctor Truax, the psychiatrist who later examined defendant, testified defendant told him he had argued with Edgington about driving the bulldozer too close to the cabin, and asked him to keep it away. Further, Edgington had driven so close he broke the front sidewalk and almost pushed the cabin over.

Sunday, one week prior to April 18, deceased and some of his relatives were out looking over the farm and observed someone peering out a window in the farm house. Deceased explained it was probably 'the old squatter who lived in the cabin.' They proceeded to the farm house, walked in and were confronted by defendant who ordered them from the house.

Monday morning Edgington returned, attempted to start his bulldozer but apparently decided not to because it was too wet and then left.

Defendant grabbed one of his many rifles and walked to the creek to see how much it had rained. While there, he observed Edgington driving toward him rapidly in a pickup truck. Edgington stopped and apparently began kidding defendant about how much it had rained. Defendant felt that he was being rediculed and told Edgington to move away. When Edgington did not, defendant 'became very angry.'

Defendant told Dr. Truax he remembered picking up his rifle, lifting it into a firing position, but did not remember moving the safety or pulling the trigger. The next thing he remembered was being in his cabin 'with the vague feeling that he had killed something.' He claimed a partial amnesia for the period of the shooting itself.

Defendant then drove to Mount Pleasant to the sheriff's office. Finding sheriff and deputy gone, he told the sheriff's wife he thought he was the man the sheriff was looking for, that he had just shot a man.

Defendant had requested the trial court to instruct that if the jury find by a preponderance of the evidence:

'* * * (1) that his act was the product of mental disease or unsoundness, then he is not amendable to legal punishment and your verdict should be not guilty by reason of insanity (the Durham rule).

'* * * (2) that at the time of the killing he was suffering from a mental disease or unsoundness and that because of said mental disease or unsoundness, he lacked substantial capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of law, then he is not amendable to legal punishment and your verdict should be not guilty by reason of insanity (the ALI rule).'

III. The defense relies almost wholly upon the testimony of Dr. Richard Allen Truax, a medical doctor who is presently a resident in psychiatry at the psychopathic hospital at the University of Iowa. Dr. Truax first met defendant June 8, 1966, when he was admitted to psychopathic hospital in Iowa City for purposes of evaluation.

The psychiatric evaluation is based upon the following. Data is compiled to construct a life history; then the patient is given a mental status evaluation to evaluate his intellectual function to see if there is any gross evidence of mental illness. He is observed in a series of interviews as to his emotional responses to the examiner and is given a physical examination. An electroencephalogram (a tracing or linear record of the electric currents generated by the brain) is given as well as a brain scan. Psychological and neurological tests are run. Dr. Truax personally had eight conversations with the patient over a period of approximately five weeks, each lasted 30 to 90 minutes. Finally, the patient is observed during his stay at the hospital to see what sort of person he is on the ward, partially stemming from his conversation and interrelationship with other people on the ward.

Page 326

Basically, the life history is as follows. Early in life defendant engaged in farming, the junk business and later worked as a night watchman, as well as a part-time construction worker. He had a tendency to avoid people and lived by himself. His sister and brother more or less left him alone while he was working on the home farm. He preferred to work as a night watchman where he was alone, not around other people who disturbed him. After his mother died, he spent all of his free time in a shack out in the country away from people, avoiding people, seeming to question their motives and not wanting to get involved with them. Dr. Truax stated, 'This aspect was part of an overall pattern permeating his life history. He learned to leave his brother alone as in doing so things would go pretty much okay. However, one time he did assault his brother with a hammer, and took an ax after a neighbor.'

Defendant's brother Ival testified about the defendant's attempt to assault him with a hammer until his mother intervened and called the sheriff. Also, 'as to Earl's disposition and temper, he don't brother nobody as long as nobody bothers him. When somebody bothers him, he gets pretty mad. I wouldn't know what all he would do when he gets mad.'

'Q. Based upon your observation of Earl during the time he lived in that community and your overall experience with him during your early life and early and middle life particularly observing him when he was under stress, would you have an opinion as to his mental condition? A. Yes.

'Q. What is your opinion, Mr. Harkness? A. Well, he would get violently mad. I would say there was some mental disorder there when he gets so mad.'

Defendant was found to be in good physical health. His neurological examination revealed some early organic brain damage.

Observations of defendant's behavior at the hospital revealed the following. 'He remained aloof from other people. He seemed to be suspicious of them. * * * Basically, he would tend to withdraw from activities. He would be friendly on approach, but he would withdraw from people as soon as he could. He stayed by himself.'

Dr. Truax related the following from conversation had with defendant during interviews. 'When he first arrived, I questioned him concerning the murder, and as he would relate the details of his encounter with the deceased, he became very angry, his face was flushed, his blood pressure went up. * * *. Mr. Harkness felt the deceased was ridiculing him and told him to move away. He didn't. Mr. Harkness said he became very angry. He does not remember exactly what the argument was about. * * * He has been consistent in his history as he has given it to me over quite a few hours of talking. This consistency, of course, is an indication that he is telling the truth.'

Dr. Truax then stated the conclusions from the psychiatric evaluation and correlated them with facts already divulged in the life history. While Dr. Truax is himself not a board psychiatrist, he was at all times concerned during the evaluation under the supervision of Dr. Noyes, a board psychiatrist, and in conference with Dr. Paul Huston, director of the hospital. Also Dr. Truax testified his views represent substantially those of the medical staff at the hospital.

'Our medical findings and conclusions concerning Mr. Harkness were that we were dealing with an eccentric, suspicious, reclusive individual who easily felt other people were out to annoy him and that he would have to defend himself from them. * * *

'Our diagnosis of Mr. Harkness' condition is that he has a paranoid personality. Individuals who suffer from a paranoid personality have many of the traits of a schizoid personality coupled with an exquisite sensitivity in inter-personal relations, and with a conspicuous tendency to

Page 327

utilize a projection mechanism expressed by suspiciousness, envy, extreme jealousy and stubbornness. * * * When we speak of projection, this is a method where a person attributes his own thoughts and actions to sources outside of himself. For example, a man may be extremely angry, but he does not think in terms of the 'I' am angry. He thinks 'other people are angry at me, those people out there are angry at me.' This is not something that an individual can control himself, not to any significant degree. In this case, Mr. Harkness' condition is not treatable to any significant degree. If he were to be placed in a similar situation again most likely the same thing would happen again. There is no medical treatment that will cure this parnoid personality that Mr. Harkness has.

'* * *

'We cannot say for certain whether or not Mr. Harkness was in the mental state that he was aware of the nature and consequences of his act or not.

'He has a suspicious personality. When stressed by somebody or something that would be a minor stress to somebody else, he could easily imagine that things were happening that were not happening, and then not be able to remember this episode, but we have no proof that this happened. You see, Mr. Harkness is a man that is not totally sane or totally insane. If he is stressed enough he loses control of his thought processes. * * *

'Q. Now, Dr. Truax, based on a reasonable medical certainty and concerning the mental illness or defect which you described Mr. Harkness as having did he lack substantial capacity either to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of law on April 16, 1966, at the time of the alleged crime? A. On this question I cannot honestly say if he had substantial capacity or not. * * * I could venture an opinion, but it would be an opinion only and it would not be an opinion that would be firm enough so that I think I should give it.

'* * *

Cross-examination brought the following testimony.

'Q. Do you have any proof that Earl Harkness has not been malingering, proof, you may have an opinion or belief, but proof? A. I have proof to the reasonable medical certainty of 85--90%.

'Toward law and order, basically Mr. Harkness seems to be a man who believes in law and order and tries to comply with it, and it has been because he is so stressed by being around other people that he gets away from people. He cannot handle his hostility. He can't handle closeness with them. He gets away from them rather than get in trouble. In this case he felt surrounded apparently by this man. He was in around the shack, but the man was also around there, and it was just too much for him.

'* * *

'We suspect defendant has cerebral arteriosclerosis with reasonable medical certainty based upon the findings of the psychological test in the fact that his blood pressure would rise to such tremendous levels with only a little bit of stress being placed upon him. Now, just what the results of this impediment to the flow of blood to his brain are we really can't say. Certainly there are other people that have cerebral vascular disease that don't commit murder. I do not wish to make that connection here. * * *

'* * *

'Q. Doctor, do you know what the defendant's attitude is toward shooting another human being? A. He regards killing another human being as wrong. However, although he will say this, his emotions are confused to the point where he doesn't feel toward another human being like the rest of us feel. He was able at times for instance to laugh about the situation he was in and about what he had done. His way of feeling toward other people is distorted, but yet he knows that in a legal sense it is wrong to murder somebody. He

Page 328

knows now as he looks back on it he shouldn't ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.