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State v. Campbell

Court of Appeals of Iowa

June 7, 2017

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
EDWARD A. CAMPBELL, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Scott County, Henry W. Latham II, Judge.

         Edward Campbell appeals his conviction, judgment, and sentence following a jury trial and verdict finding him guilty of first-degree burglary and second-degree criminal mischief. AFFIRMED.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Mary K. Conroy, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Benjamin Parrott, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Heard by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and Mullins, JJ.

          VAITHESWARAN, Presiding Judge.

         Edward Campbell came to the apartment of acquaintance Durrell Parks, who was watching a movie with his uncle, Atrice Chaptman. Campbell opened the door, entered without Parks' permission, and hit Parks. Chaptman heard the commotion and "football-tackled" and "body-slammed" Campbell, who he had known for several years. Chaptman eventually released Campbell, and Campbell left.

         Minutes later, Chaptman saw Campbell breaking the windows of his vehicle with "some bricks or something." Chaptman called 911.

         Campbell was arrested and charged with (1) first-degree burglary, (2) second-degree criminal mischief, and (3) assault causing bodily injury. An attorney was appointed to represent him.

         In the ensuing months, Campbell filed a plethora of motions, including a belated motion questioning his competency to stand trial and motions to represent himself, one of which was granted. Campbell represented himself through part of the trial, with stand-by counsel present. After trial, the jury found him guilty as charged. The district court imposed sentence, and this appeal followed.[1]

         Campbell contends (1) he was not competent to stand trial and the district court's failure to order a competency evaluation violated his due process rights; (2) the district court should not have concluded he was competent to represent himself; (3) in the alternative, he was denied his constitutional right to self- representation early in the proceedings; (4) the district court erred in admitting hearsay evidence; and (5) the district court violated his due process rights by excluding certain witness testimony.

         I. Competency to Stand Trial

         "The trial of an incompetent defendant in a criminal matter violates the defendant's due process rights . . . ." State v. Lyman, 776 N.W.2d 865, 871 (Iowa 2010) (citing Cooper v. Oklahoma, 517 U.S. 348, 354 (1996)), overruled on other grounds by Alcala v. Marriott Int'l, Inc., 880 N.W.2d 699, 708, n.3 (Iowa 2016). If the defendant "alleges specific facts showing that the defendant is suffering from a mental disorder which prevents the defendant from appreciating the charge, understanding the proceedings, or assisting effectively in the defense, the court shall suspend further proceedings and determine if probable cause exists to sustain the allegations." Iowa Code § 812.3(1) (2015).[2] In addition,

The court may on its own motion schedule a hearing to determine probable cause if the defendant or defendant's attorney has failed or refused to make an application under this section and the court finds that there are specific facts showing that a hearing should be held on that question.


         The competency issue arose as follows. On the third day of trial, Campbell's stand-by attorney filed a "Motion to Determine Competency Pursuant to I.C.A. § 812.3." The district court "suspend[ed] the proceedings" to address the motion. Campbell explained he had not been receiving his "meds at the proper time." He stated he was "struggling from anxiety, " had been "diagnosed with a mental illness, " and was "hearing things [and] seeing things." He asked for a psychological examination to determine if he was competent to stand trial.

         The court found Campbell had "been very competent in handling [his] affairs, " was responding to inquiries and statements made by the judge and prosecutor, and "fully underst[oo]d exactly what [was] happening" on that day and on previous days in the courtroom. The court declined to order a psychological examination.

         Closing arguments ensued. Campbell voiced numerous objections to the State's closing argument and subsequent rebuttal. His argument was lengthy; he addressed the jury instructions, witness credibility, and the relief he was seeking. After the jury found Campbell guilty, he raised his claimed lack of competency again, asserting that he had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was hospitalized for psychiatric issues as a child. He also asserted he had received "bad meds." At sentencing, the district court denied all pending motions.

         On appeal, Campbell again asserts he "was not competent to stand trial." In his view, the district court (1) had a duty to order a competency hearing sua sponte, (2) should have suspended proceedings and ordered a competency evaluation after his mid-trial motion to determine competency, and (3) should have ordered an evaluation after a verdict was reached but prior to sentencing. Our review is de novo. Lyman, 776 N.W.2d at 873.

          The record evinces odd, disruptive, and sometimes irrational behaviors on Campbell's part. But these types of behaviors do not necessarily equate with incompetency to stand trial. See Edwards, 507 N.W.2d at 395-97 (describing a defendant's disruptive and aggressive behavior and concluding he was competent to stand trial); see also State v. Rhodes, No. 11-0812, 2012 WL 5536685, at *7 (Iowa Ct. App. Nov. 15, 2012) (concluding a defendant's strange behavior was a result of "her unwillingness to accept the fact she was being prosecuted and the fact the court had jurisdiction over her"). As noted, Campbell had to establish he had a mental disorder that prevented him "from appreciating the charge, understanding the proceedings, or assisting effectively in the defense." Iowa Code § 812.3; accord Rieflin, 558 N.W.2d at 152-53; Edwards, 507 N.W.2d at 395. His behaviors reflected quite the opposite: a calculated strategy to delay or derail the proceedings. See Lyman, 776 N.W.2d at 874 ("We presume a defendant is competent to stand trial, " and the defendant carries the burden to prove otherwise by a preponderance of the evidence).

         For example, at a hearing on pending motions, Campbell asked the court whether the prosecutor was the devil, a question that might have triggered alarm bells if heard out of context. However, the question came after an exchange in which Campbell (1) said he was competent to represent himself, (2) cogently discussed prior legal proceedings in which he was involved, (3) requested evidentiary depositions, (4) raised a previously-filed motion for change of venue, (5) mentioned the maximum sentence on one of the charges, (6) criticized the court for not overseeing the county attorney's office, and (7) asked the court about the rejection of a conflict-of-interest claim.

          The claimed conflict of interest he asserted underscores Campbell's ability to understand the proceedings and mount a defense. Campbell filed pretrial motions accusing the prosecutor of sexually abusing and harassing him. Without any formal legal training, Campbell explained the prosecutor should not have been assigned to this case in light of his prior relationship with her, a relationship the prosecutor vehemently denied. He also asserted the assignment amounted to "a big conflict." He recognized an allegation of this nature, if proven, could stall the proceedings.

         Campbell's colloquy with the court on his request to represent himself also highlighted his ability to appreciate the charges, understand the proceedings, and not merely assist in his defense, but execute his defense. He knew the penalties associated with the offenses, understood the duties he would assume if his request for self-representation were granted, and as discussed below, expressed uncommon knowledge of the law and legal process. Cf. Edwards, 507 N.W.2d at 396 ("[I]t is plain to us that Edwards appreciated the seriousness of the charge and understood the proceedings. He left no doubt that he was going to take an active role in his defense and in no uncertain terms explained why.").

         We acknowledge some references to Campbell's history of mental illness. For example, at a pretrial conference, Campbell asserted: "Sir, I'm not understanding what's going on right now and I haven't been taking my medicine, " and he additionally stated: "Like I told you, I haven't been taking my medicine. I'm sick, sir, and I don't know what's going on." Yet, Campbell also attested, "I've gotten recommendation from independent counsel to refuse psych, " stated he previously had a psychological evaluation, which concluded he was competent to stand trial, and noted that he had not been taking a particular medicine but the medication was only for anxiety, not "because of mental, " and he had his anxiety "under control." See Rieflin, 558 N.W.2d at 153 ("A history of mental illness, standing alone, does not mean the defendant is incompetent."); cf. Edwards, 507 N.W.2d at 398 (stating defendant "knows he has a mental impairment and uses it to . . . extricate himself from legal difficulties"). As the State observed, "What appears irrational in the abstract may prove wily with the proper frame of reference." Campbell's discerning comment that "[t]his is not a tactic, Your Honor, ...

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