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Pitman v. State

Court of Appeals of Iowa

January 9, 2020

ADAM JOHN PITMAN, Applicant-Appellant,
v.
STATE OF IOWA, Respondent-Appellee.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Lee (South) County, Mary Ann Brown, Judge.

         The applicant appeals the district court decision denying his request for postconviction relief from his conviction for first-degree murder.

          Thomas Hurd of Greenberg & Hurd, LLP, Des Moines, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Louis S. Sloven, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee State.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., Doyle, J., and Danilson, S.J. [*]

          DANILSON, SENIOR JUDGE.

         Adam Pitman appeals the district court decision denying his request for postconviction relief from his conviction of first-degree murder. Pitman claims he received ineffective assistance because defense counsel did not present a defense of diminished responsibility. Defense counsel considered the defense and rejected it due to a lack of expert witness support. We conclude Pitman has failed to show he received ineffective assistance of counsel. We affirm the district court's decision denying his request for postconviction relief.

         I. Background Facts & Proceedings

         On August 30, 2011, an officer stopped a vehicle driven by Pitman due to non-functioning taillights. The officer observed Pitman "dumping what appeared to be prescription pills into his mouth." The officer got Pitman to spit out at least some of the pills. Pitman told the officer he had just killed his mother. When officers checked Pitman's home, they found the body of Pitman's mother. Her death was by strangulation.

         Pitman was taken to a hospital for treatment of a potential overdose. Pitman stated he was bipolar and had schizophrenia. He also stated he was a methamphetamine addict. He told hospital staff he recently consumed synthetic marijuana and snorted bath salts. Additionally, he took prescribed medications for anxiety and depression.

         Pitman was charged with murder in the first degree, in violation of Iowa Code section 707.2 (2011). Defense counsel filed notice of the defenses of intoxication, diminished capacity, and insanity. Pitman had an evaluation with Dr. Frank Gersh on November 19, 2011. According to defense counsel, [1] Dr. Gersh submitted a report stating there was no tenable basis for the defenses of diminished capacity or insanity, so defense counsel relied upon the defense of intoxication.

         During the criminal trial, Dr. Paul Perry, a pharmacist, testified Pitman voluntarily snorted bath salts but he became involuntarily intoxicated because he usually used Circle V bath salts, but these were unavailable, so he used Night Lights bath salts, which gave him a much greater affect than he anticipated. Dr. Perry also stated Pitman may have been exposed to a higher dosage of bath salts than he was used to on the day of the murder. Dr. Perry gave the opinion Pitman was unable to form the specific intent to commit the offense based on his use of synthetic marijuana and bath salts.

         Dr. Michael Flaum, a psychiatrist, saw Pitman when he was brought into the hospital on the day of the incident. Dr. Flaum testified Pitman had a history of mental-health problems and substance abuse. Dr. Flaum found Pitman was intoxicated but appeared to understand reality and did not show any signs of delusions or hallucinations. Dr. Flaum was "struck by how freely [Pitman] was admitting those actions. It seemed like someone who was not thinking clearly about the consequences of making those kinds of comments."

         The jury did not accept Pitman's intoxication defense and found him guilty of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to prison for the rest of his life. Pitman's conviction was affirmed on appeal. State v. Pitman, No. 12-1743, 2014 WL 251899, at *12 (Iowa Ct. App. Jan. 23, 2014). We determined there was sufficient ...


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