from the Iowa District Court for Lee (South) County, Mary Ann
applicant appeals the district court decision denying his
request for postconviction relief from his conviction for
Hurd of Greenberg & Hurd, LLP, Des Moines, for appellant.
J. Miller, Attorney General, and Louis S. Sloven, Assistant
Attorney General, for appellee State.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., Doyle, J., and Danilson,
DANILSON, SENIOR JUDGE.
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
Background Facts & Proceedings
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.
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.
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,
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.
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.
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."
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 ...