Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
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. Benson

Court of Appeals of Iowa

February 7, 2018

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
OWEN F. BENSON, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Woodbury County, Jeffrey L. Poulson, Judge.

         Owen Benson appeals from his convictions for assault causing bodily injury and child endangerment.

          Priscilla E. Forsyth, Sioux City, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Kevin Cmelik, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Danilson, C.J., and Doyle and Mullins, JJ.

          DANILSON, CHIEF JUDGE.

         Owen Benson appeals from his convictions for assault causing bodily injury and child endangerment, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence his conduct was not legal corporal punishment and the jury instructions given. Finding substantial evidence to support the conviction and no error in the instructions given, we affirm.

         Owen Benson used the two-foot-long handle of a child's broom and struck his fiancée's eight-year-old child's legs with such force that it left bruises, which were visible for several days. After a jury trial, Benson was found guilty of assault causing bodily injury and child endangerment.[1] On appeal, Benson challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain his convictions, claiming his conduct did not constitute an act intended to cause pain or injury or to result in offensive physical contact and was not done with knowledge that he was creating a substantial risk to the child's health or safety, but rather was "legal corporal punishment as allowed by Iowa law." He also contends the trial court erred in instructing the jury concerning the requisite intent for the offenses.

         We review challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence for errors at law. State v. Serrato, 787 N.W.2d 462, 465 (Iowa 2010). "A guilty verdict must be supported by substantial evidence." Id. We consider all the evidence, and "'[s]ubstantial evidence' is that upon which a rational trier of fact could find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt." Id. (citation omitted).

         In Iowa, a parent is allowed to use corporal punishment on their child, "but that right is restricted by moderation and reasonableness." State v. Arnold, 543 N.W.2d 600, 603 (Iowa 1996). If a parent's conduct exceeds the restrictions of moderation and reasonableness, the conduct "becomes criminal." Id. "The proper test is whether, under the particular circumstances, the amount of force used or the means employed by the parent rendered such punishment abusive rather than corrective in character." Id. Whether physical punishment constitutes unreasonable force depends upon the "age, physical condition, and other characteristics of a child as well as with the gravity of the child's misconduct." Id.

         In Arnold, a parent was convicted of child endangerment as a result of forcing his nine-year-old daughter to bend over the arm of a couch and spanking her several times with a leather belt. Id. at 601. The child told her therapist about the punishment three days later and displayed her bruised buttocks. Id. At trial, a child abuse investigator testified, describing the child's injuries. Id. at 601-02. The supreme court upheld the parent's conviction, concluding the jury could determine the "defendant's discipline by striking [the child] with a leather belt in such a manner was unduly severe and harsh." Id. at 604; see also State v. Thompson, No. 16-0443, 2017 WL 1733146, at *2 (Iowa Ct. App. May 3, 2017) (upholding conviction for child endangerment resulting in bodily injury where parent asserted reasonable corporal punishment, noting the jury was entitled to believe the victim's testimony over the defendant's and conclude the force used was unreasonable).

         Here, the evidence shows that in March 2016 Benson lived with his fiancée, Janet Wiener, and Janet's youngest child, S.W. Janet's oldest three children-B.B., age eleven; G.B., age ten; and Z.B., age eight-were also in the residence Wednesdays after school until 6:00 p.m. and every Sunday. On March 6, 2016, the three oldest children were attending a birthday party next door, and S.W. wandered away from home while Wiener thought S.W. was napping. Wiener learned S.W. had been located by law enforcement officers, and she went to pick up the child. Benson was left in charge of the three oldest children.

         When B.B., G.B., and Z.B. returned home from the birthday party, Benson told them to go to their rooms and wait there until their father picked them up. The three children got their backpacks ready, put on their shoes and socks in preparation for their father's arrival, and went outside to wait for him. Benson emerged from the house carrying the handle of a child's broom (at trial, B.B. called it Benson's "whacking stick") and yelled at the three children, who had left the front porch. Benson hit B.B. twice on the buttocks with the broom handle, hit G.B. twice on the buttocks, and then hit Z.B. on the back of his legs. The children cried when Benson hit them, and they told their mother about it when she returned home.

         At trial, Benson asserted he had caught the children defacing their dressers. He told them to go to the porch and they were going to get spanked. Instead of staying on the porch, the children ran off to a neighbor's house. After returning to the porch, all three children were spanked by Benson. Benson testified that he intended to spank Z.B. on the ...


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.