885 F.2d 456 (8th Cir. 1989), 88-2041, Snethen v. Nix

Docket Nº:88-2041.
Citation:885 F.2d 456
Party Name:Daniel W. SNETHEN, Appellant, v. Crispus NIX, Appellee.
Case Date:September 15, 1989
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

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885 F.2d 456 (8th Cir. 1989)

Daniel W. SNETHEN, Appellant,


Crispus NIX, Appellee.

No. 88-2041.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

September 15, 1989

Submitted May 10, 1989.

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James P. Cleary, Phoenix, Ariz., for appellant.

Thomas D. McGrane, Des Moines, Iowa, for appellee.

Before JOHN R. GIBSON, Circuit Judge, HEANEY, Senior Circuit Judge, and MAGILL, Circuit Judge.

MAGILL, Circuit Judge.

In 1975, an Iowa district court jury convicted petitioner Daniel W. Snethen of first degree murder. The court sentenced Snethen to life in prison without parole. He later appealed to the Supreme Court of Iowa, sought state post-conviction relief, and petitioned the federal district court 1 for habeas corpus relief, but his conviction was upheld at each level. On appeal, Snethen argues that his detention violates his federal constitutional rights because:

(1) the trial court erred in permitting his examining psychiatrist to testify against him;

(2) the trial court erred in admitting testimony concerning inculpatory statements he made while in custody because he had requested counsel before making them; and

(3) the state failed to produce sufficient evidence that he was sane at the time of the murder.

Finding no violation of Snethen's constitutional rights, we affirm the district court's denial of his habeas petition. 2


In September 1974, Daniel Snethen was in jail in Polk County, Iowa, serving time for a felony charge unrelated to the murder giving rise to this action. One month later, police questioned Snethen's half-brother, Luke Foster, concerning the August 1974 murder of Timothy Hawbaker. 3 When Snethen's mother learned that her sons were suspects in a homicide investigation, she came to the Lucas building, where Luke Foster was being questioned, and told police that "[i]f Danny did this, he will tell me."

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Police brought Snethen to the Lucas building one hour after his mother arrived there. When he was informed of his Miranda rights, he declined to speak without an attorney present. The police then decided to take Snethen back to jail, but his mother asked to speak with him before he was taken away. After their conversation, Snethen's mother invited the police to join them, and Snethen made a series of remarks (which were recorded in shorthand by one of the officers, see infra ) inculpating him in the murder of Timothy Hawbaker. Snethen also reiterated that he did not wish to continue speaking without counsel present. Nevertheless, Snethen signed a statement admitting his involvement in the Hawbaker homicide. The content of Snethen's inculpatory remarks (as recorded in the officer's shorthand) was as follows:

I am involved in this and my brother wasn't and I request an attorney with me throughout.

As far as my brother involved, no. I will tell all details with my attorney with me.

My brother not involved, he left. I was fighting. He left and I was fighting and no [sic] knew what had gone on. He wasn't there at the time the action took place. I am not cutting a brother loose, he left I picked him up later and took back to his car. He walked down the road and took off, he was not involved in anything. He didn't know anything happened. He knew nothing about it.

He did not have anything to do with this. I will say I am a guilty suspect in the case, but I can't admit to any murder or anything. He did not do anything. He left, I got him back and later on took the car and knew something had happened to it.

I will talk through and with an attorney. I am no animal. I have crabs and they won't call a doctor and the whole darn cell has [crabs] and they gave us some medicine to wash with.

I will discuss from the beginning to the end when my attorney is with me.

I will state one thing, there is another suspect involved, but my brother don't know who it is. I took the knife for self protection.

The whole thing was an accident. I didn't mean to happen, it was pure accident.

After [it] happened I threatened Luke if it got out he would have to be done away with. I played on his mind.

State v. Snethen, 245 N.W.2d 308, 312 (Iowa 1976).

After Snethen's indictment for first degree murder, his attorney requested a psychiatric exam to determine whether Snethen was competent to stand trial and whether he had been sane at the time of the alleged murder. Dr. Paul Loeffelholz evaluated Snethen. After the evaluation, Snethen was ruled incompetent in a competency trial and sent to a psychiatric facility for treatment. Dr. Loeffelholz later certified that Snethen had regained competence to stand trial. A jury agreed in a second competency trial, so the date for Snethen's criminal trial was set.

At a suppression hearing prior to his trial, Snethen challenged the admissibility of the inculpatory statements he made in the Lucas building. The court agreed to suppress the written confession, but refused to suppress the shorthand notes recorded by the officer.

During his trial, Snethen relied on the insanity defense. He called a medical expert to testify that Snethen had paranoid/schizophrenic tendencies that may have limited his capacity to understand his actions, but that testimony was contradicted by Dr. Loeffelholz, who concluded that Snethen did have the capacity at the time of the alleged murder to distinguish right from wrong. Dr. Loeffelholz also testified that during his initial evaluation, Snethen made a number of inculpatory statements. Snethen did not object to this testimony. The jury found Snethen guilty of first degree murder and the court sentenced him to life without parole. The conviction and sentence were upheld on direct appeal. State v. Snethen, 245 N.W.2d 308 (Iowa 1976). Snethen was later denied state postconviction relief, Snethen v. State, 308 N.W.2d 11 (Iowa 1981), and federal habeas

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relief, Snethen v. Nix, Civil No. 87-279-B (June 6, 1988).


Snethen's first argument on appeal is that the district court should have granted his habeas petition because the trial court's admission of Dr. Loeffelholz' testimony concerning inculpatory statements Snethen made during his pretrial psychiatric evaluation violated his rights under the fifth, sixth and fourteenth amendments of the United States Constitution. We do not believe that the admission of that testimony entitles Snethen to habeas relief. We express no opinion concerning the merits of this contention because it is procedurally barred. Snethen failed to raise the issue of Dr. Loeffelholz' testimony when he sought postconviction relief. 4 As the district court indicated in its denial of Snethen's petition, Snethen could have overcome the procedural default for federal habeas relief if he demonstrated cause for its occurrence and "actual prejudice" engendered by it, see Wainwright v. Sykes, 433 U.S. 72, 97 S.Ct. 2497, 53 L.Ed.2d 594 (1977), but he made no such demonstration. Consequently, this issue is procedurally barred. 5


Second, Snethen contends that he is entitled to habeas relief because the admission of the inculpatory statements he made to the police in the Lucas building violated his rights under the fifth and fourteenth amendments. We disagree. In Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966), the United States Supreme Court held that the fifth amendment right to counsel attaches...

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