from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Richard G.
Blane (competency) and Paul D. Scott (trial), Judges.
defendant appeals his conviction for murder in the second
REVERSED AND REMANDED. Angela L. Campbell of Dickey &
Campbell Law Firm PLC, Des Moines, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, Timothy M. Hau, Assistant
Attorney General, and Kelli A. Huser, Assistant Attorney
General, for appellee.
by Doyle, P.J., and Tabor and McDonald, JJ. Blane, S.J.,
takes no part.
undisputed Norman Wadsworth killed Darlene Crook. What he
disputes on appeal is whether he did so with malice
aforethought and whether he was competent to stand trial.
Wadsworth also contends his trial counsel was ineffective in
not raising an insanity defense. Finally, he argues the
district court erred in admitting autopsy photographs and
evidence of a prior harassment conviction into the record.
de novo review, we find Wadsworth did not have the ability,
at the time of trial, to assist his attorneys in his defense.
Accordingly, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.
We also find the evidence presented at trial was sufficient
for the jury to reach a verdict of second-degree murder.
Facts and Prior Proceedings
Wadsworth suffered from schizophrenia for decades and
received no treatment. He had a contentious relationship with
the manager at his apartment complex, Darlene Crook, who he
believed was part of a government conspiracy to kill him.
Eventually, Wadsworth was evicted from his apartment. After
being homeless for several months, Wadsworth tried to take a
bus to a motel. He boarded the wrong bus and ended up just
three blocks from his old apartment complex. He walked to
Crook's office and attacked her with a knife. Crook died
of blood loss from the seventy-one distinct wounds inflicted
resident of the apartment complex heard the commotion and
restrained Wadsworth until police could respond. Speaking
with police officers, Wadsworth admitted he knew he was
killing Crook, had contemplated doing so for some time, and
entered the apartment complex for that reason. Wadsworth said
competing voices inside his head were telling him to either
stab or not stab Crook. He believed Crook could hear the
voices too. The State charged Wadsworth with first-degree
attorneys moved for a hearing to determine their client's
competency to stand trial. At the hearing, the defense
presented the testimony of psychologist Alan Goldstein, and
the State countered with the testimony of psychiatrist
Michael Taylor. The district court found Wadsworth competent,
and the charges proceeded to a jury trial. The jury found
Wadsworth guilty of murder in the second degree. On appeal,
Wadsworth argues he was not capable of assisting in his
defense, insufficient evidence supported the verdict, trial
counsel was ineffective for not raising an affirmative
defense of insanity, and the autopsy photographs and evidence
of his harassment conviction were unfairly prejudicial.
Sufficiency of the Evidence for Murder in the Second
we ultimately conclude Wadsworth was not competent, we must
first address the sufficiency of the evidence for the
conviction. We do this because if the evidence was
insufficient, Wadsworth would be entitled to acquittal on the
murder charge and double jeopardy would bar retrial. See
United States v. Gonzalez-Sanchez, 825 F.2d 572, 588
n.56 (1st Cir. 1987) ("The double jeopardy clause does
not prevent the retrial of a defendant after his conviction
has been reversed on appeal unless the reversal was grounded
on the insufficiency of the evidence at trial. . . . Even if
the appellate court finds alternative grounds for reversal,
it must consider the defendant's challenge to this
sufficiency of the evidence to ensure that the prohibition
against double jeopardy is upheld.").
contends the record does not contain sufficient evidence of
malice aforethought to support the verdict of murder in the
second degree. The jury was instructed malice
aforethought is an element of murder in the first and second
degree. See Iowa Code §§ 707.2, 707.3.
First-degree murder requires an additional element that the
defendant "acted willfully, deliberately, premeditatedly
and with a specific intent to kill Darlene Crook."
See Iowa Code § 707.2.
review challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence for
errors at law. See State v. Hansen, 750 N.W.2d 111,
112 (Iowa 2008). We will uphold the jury's verdict if it
is supported by substantial evidence. State v.
Rooney, 862 N.W.2d 367, 371 (Iowa 2015). We view the
evidence in the light most favorable to the State,
"including all reasonable inferences that may be fairly
drawn from the evidence." State v. Sanford, 814
N.W.2d 611, 615 (Iowa 2012). We will deem the evidence
sufficient if it could convince a rational jury the defendant
was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Rooney, at
371. Evidence is not substantial if it raises only suspicion,
speculation, or conjecture. State v. Howse, 875
N.W.2d 684, 688 (Iowa 2016).
convict on second-degree murder, the instructions required
the jury to find (1) Wadsworth stabbed Darlene Crook; (2)
Crook died as a result of being stabbed; and (3) Wadsworth
acted with malice aforethought. Wadsworth challenges only the
third element. The court instructed the jury:
"Malice" is a state of mind which leads one to
intentionally do a wrongful act to the injury of another or
in disregard for the rights of another out of actual hatred,
or with an evil or unlawful purpose. It may be established by
evidence of actual hatred, or by proof of a deliberate or
fixed intent to do injury. It may be found from the acts and
conduct of the defendant, and the means used in doing the
wrongful and injurious act.
court further instructed, "'Malice aforethought'
is a fixed purpose or design to do some physical harm to
another which exists before the act is committed. It does not
have to exist for any particular length of time." The
jury may properly consider the "fierceness and atrocity
of the attack, the circumstances under which it was made, the
nature and extent of the injury inflicted, the condition of
the body and wearing apparel, the deadly ...