State ex rel. Fulton v. Scheetz

Decision Date08 April 1969
Docket NumberNo. 53068,53068
Citation166 N.W.2d 874,34 A.L.R.3d 617
PartiesSTATE of Iowa ex rel. Jack M. FULTON, County Attorney, Linn County, Iowa, Appellee, v. Oscar William SCHEETZ, Jr., Appellant.
CourtIowa Supreme Court

R. Fred Dumbaugh, Cedar Rapids, and Samuel M. Fahr, Iowa City, for appellant.

Richard C. Turner, Atty. Gen., David A. Elderkin, Asst. Atty. Gen., and Stephen B. Jackson, Cedar Rapids, Asst. Linn County Atty., for appellee.

SNELL, Justice.

Pursuant to chapter 225A, Code, 1966, the Linn County Attorney filed a petition asking that defendant, Oscar William Scheetz, Jr., be adjudged a criminal sexual psychopath. Defendant answered denying all material allegations. Trial to jury resulted in a verdict finding defendant to be a criminal sexual psychopath. He was thereupon ordered committed to the Mental Health Institute at Independence. From that order of commitment, defendant appeals. We affirm.

Errors relied on for reversal are: (1) failing to dismiss the proceedings on receipt of the medical examiner's report; (2) overruling defendant's motion to dismiss; (3) overruling objections to testimony of police officer relative to his interrogation of defendant; (4) overruling objection by defendant to a hypothetical question put to a doctor; (5) overruling defendant's motion for a directed verdict; (6) giving instructions 4 and 9 with reference to burden of proof; and (7) overruling defendant's motion for a new trial.

These contentions will not be considered in the order assigned.

I. Prior to trial defendant filed a motion to dismiss alleging chapter 225A violates Amendment 14, Constitution of the United States, and Section 1, Article 1, Constitution of Iowa. He claims the Act serves to deny due process and equal protection under the law.

We will uphold the provisions of the Act if such is constitutionally permissible.

Where a statute is fairly subject to differing constructions, one of which will render it constitutional, the other unconstitutional or of doubtful constitutionality, that construction by which it may be upheld will be adopted. Zilm v. Zoning Board of Adjustment, Iowa, 150 N.W.2d 606, 609--610; State v. Ramos, Iowa, 149 N.W.2d 862, 865; Powers and McCullough, 258 Iowa 738, 745--746, 10 N.W.2d 378; and Graham v. Worthington, 259 Iowa 845, 850--851, 146 N.W.2d 626.

In construing statutes, courts may properly consider the evil sought to be remedied and the objects or purposes the legislative enactment seeks to obtain. State v. Ricke, Iowa, 160 N.W.2d 499, 501, and Edge v. Brice, 253 Iowa 710, 718, 113 N.W.2d 755.

The objectives of criminal sexual psychopath statutes are to, (1) protect society by sequestering the deviate so long as he remains a menace to others, and (2) subject him to treatment to the end he may recover from his existing psychopathic condition and be rehabilitated. See 24 A.L.R.2d 350, 351.

Chapter 225A is a humane, valid and proper exercise of the state's police power as a measure of public safety. Cullins v. Crouse (10 Cir.), 348 F.2d 887, 889; People v. Piasecki, 333 Mich. 122, 52 N.W.2d 626, 629--630; State v. Madary, 178 Neb. 383, 133 N.W.2d 583, 587, and Annos. 24 A.L.R.2d 350, 354.

Admittedly there are those who vigorously dispute the wisdom and propriety of such legislation. See 43 Calif.L.Rev. 766, 769; 41 Iowa L.Rev. 523. Treatment has not been universally successful.

However, the judicial branch of government has no power to determine whether legislative Acts are wise or unwise, nor has it the right to declare an Act void unless it is plainly and without doubt repugnant to some provisions of our Federal or State Constitutions. Graham v. Worthington, supra, loc. cit. 259 Iowa 850--851, 146 N.W.2d 626.

Under Code chapter 225A the county attorney may file a verified detailed petition, upon information or belief, against 'any person * * * charged with a public offense' reasonably believed to be a criminal sexual psychopath. Upon the filing of such petition the defendant must be given written notice of the charges against him and thereupon the court 'shall determine whether he shall be medically examined.' Provision is then made for a medical examination of defendant and the filing of a confidential written report by such examiner, a copy of which shall be delivered to defendant or his attorney. If the court finds, upon examination of the petition and medical examiner's report, there is sufficient showing of a mental disorder to which criminal sexual propensities are attributable, trial of the case shall be ordered, but if such showing is not made the case is to be dismissed. It is also required defendant have counsel at every stage of the proceedings and if he has none, the court shall appoint a competent attorney to represent him. He may also be released on bail. Defendant is entitled to a jury trial upon request, and in the conduct of any hearing the examining physician may testify, but his written report, previously filed with the court, is not admissible in evidence. If defendant is adjudged a sexual psychopath the court may commit him to a state hospital for the mentally ill to be there detained until released. Provision is also made for appeal. The staff of the hospital to which defendant may be committed is required to periodically examine defendant and report on his progress to the committing court, at least once each year. A rehearing shall be held in the court of original commitment whenever a written application is presented indicating defendant has, in the opinion of three designated psychiatrists, improved to the extent that 'his release will not be incompatible with the welfare of society.'

That at once demonstrates the Iowa Act serves to supply those procedural safeguards found fatally lacking in Specht v. Patterson, 386 U.S. 605, 610--611, 87 S.Ct. 1209, 1212--1213, 18 L.Ed.2d 326, discussed, infra.

Without question there are those violators of the criminal law whose criminality is attendant upon or related to mental abnormalities. See State v. Arthur, Iowa, 160 N.W.2d 470, and State v. Harkness, Iowa, 160 N.W.2d 324.

Apart from those so classified is another group who, though mentally responsible, are either sociologically or emotionally unable to control their sexual behaviorisms. Those in this category demonstrate a tendency to repeat their antisocial activities to a point of criminality, but should not, by reason thereof, be subjected to penological treatment. While constituting a menace to the peace and safety of others, they are suffering from a psychopathic, or sociopathic, disorder and should resultantly be accorded treatment leading to rehabilitation, not punishment as that term is ordinarily applied in the field of criminal law.

Persons within the class segregated by Code chapter 225A are those preliminarily charged with a public offense who have manifested a mental or emotional inability to control their sexual activities to such a point as to constitute a danger to society.

The state has authority under its police power to restrain the liberty of any person coming within such a class provided such restraint is premised upon a constitutionally proper legislative enactment.

The United States Supreme Court said in Baxstrom v. Herold, 383 U.S. 107, 111, 86 S.Ct. 760, 763, 15 L.Ed.2d 620: 'Equal protection does not require that all persons be dealt with identically, but it does require that a distinction made have some relevance to the purpose for which the classification is made. Walters v. City of St. Louis, 347 U.S. 231, 237, 74 S.Ct. 505, 509, 98 L.Ed. 660. Classification of mentally ill persons as either insane or dangerously insane of course may be a reasonable distinction for purposes of determining the type of custodial or medical care to be given, * * *.'

Procedural steps required by chapter 225A provide due process of law.

II. The statutory definition set forth in section 225A.1 is sufficiently certain to permit practical application within constitutional limitations.

The Act provides: 'All persons charged with a public offense, who are suffering from a mental disorder and are not a proper subject for the schools for the mentally retarded or for commitment as a mentally ill person, having criminal propensities toward the commission of sex offenses, and who may be considered dangerous to others, are hereby declared to be 'criminal sexual psychopaths'.'

The case of People v. Nunn, 46 Cal.2d 460, 296 P.2d 813, 817--818, cert. den. and appeal dismissed 352 U.S. 883, 77 S.Ct. 126, 1 L.Ed.2d 82, involved an accused, a physician, convicted of prescribing narcotics for a person not under his treatment for a pathology and for a person representing himself to be an addict. This was prohibited by statute, 'except in the regular practice of his profession'. Defendant contended the Act was too vague, indefinite and uncertain to give reasonable notice as to conduct thought to be prohibited. In holding such contention devoid of merit the court said: '* * * To comply with the constitutional requirement of due process of law, the crime for which defendant is being prosecuted must be clearly defined, but It is only necessary that the words used in the statute be well enough known to enable those persons within its purview to understand and correctly apply them.' (Emphasis supplied.)

Unavoidably broad, the Iowa Statute is applicable to all persons charged with the commission of a public offense, suffering from a mental disorder, with criminal propensities toward the commission of sex offenses, who may be dangerous to others, specifically excluding mentally retarded or mentally ill persons.

The question posed is not whether section 225A.1 is in precise harmony with those variant interpretations which members of the medical profession may have applied. See People v. Levy, 151 Cal.App.2d 460, 311 P.2d 897, 902.

The problem to be resolved by us is whether the Act here challenged meets constitutionally required standards of...

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