861 P.2d 884 (Mont. 1993), 91-289, State v. Cowan

Docket Nº91-289.
Citation861 P.2d 884, 260 Mont. 510
Opinion Judge[8] CHIEF JUSTICE TURNAGE DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT.
Party NameSTATE of Montana, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Joe Junior COWAN, Defendant and Appellant.
Attorney[7] For Defendant and Appellant: Margaret L. Borg and William Boggs, Missoula. For Plaintiff and Respondent: Marc Racicot, Attorney General; Barbara Harris, Assistant Attorney General, Helena; Robert L. Deschamps III, County Attorney, Missoula.
Case DateOctober 06, 1993
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Montana

Page 884

861 P.2d 884 (Mont. 1993)

260 Mont. 510

STATE of Montana, Plaintiff and Respondent,

v.

Joe Junior COWAN, Defendant and Appellant.

No. 91-289.

Supreme Court of Montana.

October 6, 1993

Rehearing Denied Nov. 4, 1993.

Submitted April 4, 1993.

APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, In and for the County of Missoula, The Honorable Ed McLean, Judge presiding.

Page 885

[260 Mont. 511] Margaret L. Borg and William Boggs, Missoula, for defendant and appellant.

Marc Racicot, Atty. Gen., Barbara Harris, Asst. Atty. Gen., Helena, Robert L. Deschamps III, County Atty., Missoula, for plaintiff and respondent.

TURNAGE, Chief Justice.

The District Court for the Fourth Judicial District, Missoula County, sitting as the trier of fact, convicted Joe Junior Cowan of aggravated burglary and attempted deliberate homicide. He appeals. We affirm.

The issues are:

1. Did the State prove the mental element of the crimes of attempted deliberate homicide and aggravated burglary beyond a reasonable doubt?

2. Do the Montana statutes governing the presentation of evidence of mental disease or defect in effect establish a conclusive or unrebuttable presumption of criminal intent in contravention of the doctrine enunciated in Sandstrom v. Montana, 442 U.S. 510, 99 S.Ct. 2450, 61 L.Ed.2d 39 (1979)?

3. Does sentencing and confining Cowan to prison violate the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution because of his mental condition?

[260 Mont. 512] On April 23 or 24, 1990, Joe Junior Cowan broke into a United States Forest Service cabin at the Lolo Work Center, eighteen miles west of Lolo, Montana. When the occupant of the cabin came home on the evening of the 24th, it was clear to her that someone had been in her cabin eating her food, watching her television, and generally making himself at home. She called "911" and locked her doors before Cowan again broke in and assaulted her with a tree-planting tool called a hodag.

Sheriff's deputies responding to the victim's phone call apprehended Cowan at the Work Center. He had in his possession a backpack containing some of the victim's belongings. He did not resist arrest. The victim was found semi-conscious on the floor of her kitchen. She survived, despite injuries including a punctured lung, broken ribs, a broken scapula, a dislocated shoulder, and a skull fracture.

Cowan has been diagnosed as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, a serious mental disorder. Prior to trial, he was evaluated by psychiatrists and found competent to stand trial.

Cowan waived his right to a jury trial. At his bench trial, he argued that he did not act deliberately in committing these offenses. He asserts that he was in an acute psychotic episode at the time of the attack and that he was under the delusion that the victim was a robot, not a human being. Mental health professionals testified for both Cowan and the State on this issue. The court found Cowan guilty as charged.

At Cowan's sentencing hearing, the court heard argument about whether he should be confined in a prison or a mental institution. The court ordered him committed to the custody of the Montana Department of Institutions "for placement in a facility deemed appropriate to [his] need for treatment and society's need for protection from [him]."

I

Did the State prove the mental element of the crimes of attempted deliberate homicide and aggravated burglary beyond a reasonable doubt?

Our standard of review is whether, viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact

Page 886

could have found Cowan guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of the crimes with which he was charged. State v. Bower (1992), 254 Mont. 1, 6, 833 P.2d 1106, 1110. The charge of attempted deliberate homicide required [260 Mont. 513] proof that Cowan purposely or knowingly attempted to cause the death of another human being. Sections 45-4-103 and 45-5-102, MCA. The aggravated burglary charge required proof that he knowingly entered or remained in an occupied structure with the purpose to commit an offense and was armed with a weapon. Section 45-6-204(2)(a), MCA. Cowan concedes the conduct elements of both offenses. He challenges the finding that he acted knowingly or purposely.

"Knowingly" and "purposely" are defined at § 45-2-101(33) and (58), MCA:

(33) "Knowingly"--a person acts knowingly with respect to conduct or to a circumstance described by a statute defining an offense when he is aware of his conduct or that the circumstance exists. A person acts knowingly with respect to the result of conduct described by a statute defining an offense when he is aware that it is highly probable that such result will be caused by his conduct. When knowledge of the existence of a particular fact is an element of an offense, such knowledge is established if a person is aware of a high probability of its existence. Equivalent terms such as "knowing" or "with knowledge" have the same meaning.

. . . . .

(58) "Purposely"--a person acts purposely with respect to a result or to conduct described by a statute defining an offense if it is his conscious object to engage in that conduct or to cause that result. When a particular purpose is an element of an offense, the element is established although such purpose is conditional, unless the condition negatives the harm or evil sought to be prevented by the law defining the offense. Equivalent terms such as "purpose" and "with the purpose" have the same meaning.

Cowan contends the most conservative conclusion one could draw from the expert testimony in this case is that it clearly raised a reasonable doubt about whether he acted deliberately in committing the offenses. He cites the evidence that he had suffered for years from a serious mental disorder, paranoid schizophrenia. A psychologist testified on behalf of Cowan that there was "reasonable scientific evidence" that he was suffering an acute psychotic episode at the time of the incident. The psychologist who appeared on behalf of the State testified that "the presence of his disorder ... plus that kind of behavior certainly raised the possibility of psychosis at that time."

However, the expert testimony concerning whether Cowan was in a psychotic episode at the time of the attack was less than unequivocal[260 Mont. 514] . Exaggeration of symptoms was a concern. It was not until his third interview with the State's psychologist that Cowan stated he was under a delusion that the victim was a robot at the time of the attack. Before that, he described her as a "large white woman" who looked stronger than he was.

The experts testified that Cowan's paranoid schizophrenia is episodic and that it waxes and wanes. They testified that they could not determine with certainty whether Cowan was in the midst of a psychotic episode at the time of the attack. Also, the State's expert testified that Cowan's intelligence, motive, and past experiences were sufficient to enable him to falsify symptoms of psychosis. One of Cowan's experts testified that Cowan had a history of "going into places that belonged to other people and just basically hanging around for a while and eating."

The expert witnesses also testified that Cowan had a history of assaults on females and had been through the criminal process before. The psychologist who testified for Cowan admitted that, according to the diagnostic manual he used, malingering should be strongly suspected in certain circumstances, including if the patient is referred in a legal context or if the person has antisocial personality disorders. He also testified that, in answer to a question

Page 887

in a psychological test, Cowan stated that he frequently lies to get out of trouble.

The weight of evidence and the credibility of witnesses are within the province of the trier of fact. State v. Whitcher (1991), 248 Mont. 183, 188, 810 P.2d 751, 754. A factfinder may find credible some, all, or none of the testimony of any witness. State v. LeDuc (1931), 89 Mont. 545, 562, 300 P. 919, 926. As the trier of fact in this case, the court could have, for example, found credible the evidence that Cowan suffers from paranoid schizophrenia but disbelieved that Cowan was in a psychotic state which prevented him from acting knowingly or purposely on April 24, 1990.

Moreover, the issue before the court in the trial phase of this action was not whether Cowan was in a psychotic state, but, as stated above, whether he acted purposely or knowingly. The existence of a mental disease or defect in a person does not necessarily preclude the person from acting purposely or knowingly. State v. Byers (Mont.1993), 261 Mont. 17, 861 P.2d 860, citing State v. Korell (1984), 213 Mont. 316, 690 P.2d 992. The State's expert felt that, on April 24, 1990, Cowan was able to act with purpose or knowledge. Cowan's expert psychiatrist agreed that eyewitness testimony is as important in determining what a person was feeling or thinking at a particular [260 Mont. 515] time as is the testimony of experts. He did not obtain information from eyewitnesses before rendering his opinion, however.

Cowan states that the eyewitness testimony of the victim and the officers who arrested him describes bizarre, senseless, reckless, and terrifying behavior. He refers to his actions of trying to tear the license plates off the victim's car prior to attacking her, approaching the victim even when he could see she had a shotgun pointed at him, and, when the authorities arrived, running from them only to...

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15 practice notes
  • 861 P.2d 860 (Mont. 1993), 91-406, State v. Byers
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • 6 Octubre 1993
    ...violate defendant's right to due process. For the reasons stated in my dissent to the majority's opinion in State v. Cowan (Mont.1993), 260 Mont. 510, 861 P.2d 884, I conclude that Montana's abolition of the insanity defense in 1979 violated defendant's right to due process of law guarantee......
  • Mental disorder and criminal law.
    • United States
    • Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology Vol. 101 Nbr. 3, June 2011
    • 22 Junio 2011
    ...W. HINCKLEY, JR. (2d ed. 2008). (138) State v. Bethel, 66 P.3d 840 (Kan. 2003); Utah v. Mace, 921 P.2d 1372 (Utah 1996); State v. Cowan, 861 P.2d 884 (Mont. 1993); State v. Winn, 828 P.2d 879 (Idaho 1992). Nevada also abolished the defense, but the Nevada Supreme Court held that abolition w......
  • 902 P.2d 510 (Mont. 1995), 94-210, State v. Santos
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • 24 Agosto 1995
    ...There is no constitutional right to an insanity defense as expressed in the instructions proposed by Santos. See, State v. Cowan (1993), 260 Mont. 510, 861 P.2d 884, cert. denied, 511 U.S. 1005, 114 S.Ct. 1371, 128 L.Ed.2d 48 (1994); State v. Byers (1993), 261 Mont. 17, 861 P.2d 860, cert. ......
  • 66 J. Kan. Bar Assn. May, 38 (1997). FAREWELL TO INSANITY A RETURN TO MENS REA.
    • United States
    • Kansas Bar Journal Nbr. 1997, January 1997
    • 1 Enero 1997
    ...(Idaho 1990); State v. Korell, 690 P.2d 992 (Mont. 1984); State v. Herrera, 895 P.2d 359 (Utah 1995). [FN44]. Montana v. Cowen, 861 P.2d 884 (Mt. 1993), cert denied _ U.S. _, 114 S.Ct. 1371, 128 L.Ed. 48 [FN45]. Simon, R. and Aaronson, D., The Insanity Defense, New ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
13 cases
  • 861 P.2d 860 (Mont. 1993), 91-406, State v. Byers
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • 6 Octubre 1993
    ...violate defendant's right to due process. For the reasons stated in my dissent to the majority's opinion in State v. Cowan (Mont.1993), 260 Mont. 510, 861 P.2d 884, I conclude that Montana's abolition of the insanity defense in 1979 violated defendant's right to due process of law guarantee......
  • 902 P.2d 510 (Mont. 1995), 94-210, State v. Santos
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • 24 Agosto 1995
    ...There is no constitutional right to an insanity defense as expressed in the instructions proposed by Santos. See, State v. Cowan (1993), 260 Mont. 510, 861 P.2d 884, cert. denied, 511 U.S. 1005, 114 S.Ct. 1371, 128 L.Ed.2d 48 (1994); State v. Byers (1993), 261 Mont. 17, 861 P.2d 860, cert. ......
  • 148 F.3d 812 (7th Cir. 1998), 97-3156, Milner v. Apfel
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • 30 Junio 1998
    ...is afforded the defense of demonstrating that he lacked the requisite mens rea because of mental illness); State of Montana v. Cowan, 260 Mont. 510, 861 P.2d 884, 889 (1993) (same), cert. denied, 511 U.S. 1005, 114 S.Ct. 1371, 128 L.Ed.2d 48 (1994); State of Idaho v. Searcy, 118 Idaho 632, ......
  • 190 P.3d 1104 (Mont. 2008), DA 07-0397, State v. Meckler
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • 5 Agosto 2008
    ...prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found Meckler guilty of aggravated assault beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Cowan, 260 Mont. 510, 512, 861 P.2d 884, 885-86 (1993) (citing State v. Bower, 254 Mont. 1, 6, 833 P.2d 1106, 1110 DISCUSSION ¶ 10 A conviction for the offense o......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
  • Mental disorder and criminal law.
    • United States
    • Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology Vol. 101 Nbr. 3, June 2011
    • 22 Junio 2011
    ...W. HINCKLEY, JR. (2d ed. 2008). (138) State v. Bethel, 66 P.3d 840 (Kan. 2003); Utah v. Mace, 921 P.2d 1372 (Utah 1996); State v. Cowan, 861 P.2d 884 (Mont. 1993); State v. Winn, 828 P.2d 879 (Idaho 1992). Nevada also abolished the defense, but the Nevada Supreme Court held that abolition w......
  • 66 J. Kan. Bar Assn. May, 38 (1997). FAREWELL TO INSANITY A RETURN TO MENS REA.
    • United States
    • Kansas Bar Journal Nbr. 1997, January 1997
    • 1 Enero 1997
    ...(Idaho 1990); State v. Korell, 690 P.2d 992 (Mont. 1984); State v. Herrera, 895 P.2d 359 (Utah 1995). [FN44]. Montana v. Cowen, 861 P.2d 884 (Mt. 1993), cert denied _ U.S. _, 114 S.Ct. 1371, 128 L.Ed. 48 [FN45]. Simon, R. and Aaronson, D., The Insanity Defense, New ......

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