State v. Badgett, No. 52753

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtLARSON
Citation167 N.W.2d 680
PartiesSTATE of Iowa, Appellee, v. Phyllis J. BADGETT, Appellant.
Decision Date06 May 1969
Docket NumberNo. 52753

Page 680

167 N.W.2d 680
STATE of Iowa, Appellee,
v.
Phyllis J. BADGETT, Appellant.
No. 52753.
Supreme Court of Iowa.
May 6, 1969.

Page 682

Morris & Morris, Des Moines, for appellant.

Richard C. Turner, Atty. Gen., and James R. Martin, Asst. Atty. Gen., and Ray A. Fenton, County Atty., Des Moines, for appellee.

LARSON, Justice.

This criminal proceeding was based upon an indictment returned by the Polk County Grand Jury on March 9, 1967, in which defendant Phyllis Jean Badgett was charged with the crime of murder as defined in sections 690.1 and 690.2 of the 1966 Code. Defendant entered a plea of not guilty and, following trial by jury, was convicted of second degree murder on May 18, 1967. On June 5, 1967, the court sentenced defendant to a term of not to exceed twenty-five (25) years in the Women's Reformatory in Rockwell City, Iowa. She appeals. We affirm.

The record disclosed that a party commencing in the early afternoon of Sunday, December 19, 1966, was held at 841--16th Street, Des Moines, to celebrate the birthday of the decedent, William Badgett. During the course of the party there was drinking and gambling. At one point early in the evening defendant's husband came to her and asked for money. She testified that she gave him $60 or $70, whereupon he returned to his gambling. Some 30 or 40 minutes later he again asked her for money. She told him that she had given him all their money and that she had no more. This angered him. He threatened her and took her set of keys to that building, which was across the street from their residence.

Defendant testified this treatment so upset her that she went over to their apartment at 840--16th Street. About 15 or 20 minutes later she returned to the party, but was denied admittance by decedent. Returning to their home she cleaned up, changed clothes, and went back to the party. Finding everyone had gone, she obtained a jacket from their home and started out on foot to find her husband. She first went to Claudine Redman's home on 12th Street, about 11 blocks away. It was then after midnight. She carried a paring knife in her jacket. He was not there and, after a conversation of some 20 minutes with Claudine in which she admitted saying, 'Him and that gambling and drinking, sometimes he makes me so and I could kill him' or something to that effect, she left and went to the home of another friend, Mrs. Bumpus, on 13th Street. After determining he was not there, she left for home by taxicab. Finding no one at home, she changed to a car and walked about three blocks to the Edna Lewis house at 13th and Center Streets. There she found her husband and asked him to come home. After some persuasion by defendant and their friends, they left for home in a friend's automobile. They stopped at 841--16th Street and went inside briefly. Decedent, without defendant, went to their apartment and she followed a few minutes later. Defendant testified that as she went in the inside door decedent said, 'Bitch, you better give me my money', and then struck her with his fist knocking her down. An argument developed, during the course of which he asked her for his 'safe papers', a list of how to open various types of safes. She refused to produce them. Thereafter they fought 'all over the bedroom.' She further testified decedent told her, 'If you don't give me my money, I'm going to kill you', and she said she was sure he would carry out his threats and became afraid. After knocking her down again, she said he started choking her and she hollered for help. A neighbor lady heard this call but did not interfere. Somehow, defendant said, she got ahold of a knife that way lying on the dresser and stabbed him with it in an effort to get a release from his grasp. She claims she did not realize he was badly hurt until he stood up and she saw blood coming from his mouth. Then

Page 683

she ran across the street and asked her friends to send for an ambulance. Police arrived and she was taken into custody when it appeared her husband was dead.

The appellant assigns five errors, contending the trial court erred (1) in refusing to allow defendant's witness, Margaret Gatewood, to testify to certain instances of physical violence by decedent directed at defendant, in that it was essential to defendant's case, (2) in refusing to allow defendant to testify as to decedent's reputation, actual character, and criminal record, (3) in refusing to admit defendant's Exhibit 'A' consisting of the 'safe papers' testified to by defendant, (4) in not finding as a matter of law that the prosecution failed to overcome the burden of proof in self-defense, and (5) in submitting Instruction No. 12 relating to decedent's physical characteristics, but failing to instruct as to his character and reputation. Consideration thereof will not be restricted to that order. The matters complained of in assignments (1) and (2) are somewhat obscure, but we shall attempt to consider these complaints together.

I. Self-defense is a doctrine of necessity which seeks to excuse or justify a homicide. State v. Haffa, 246 Iowa 1275, 1288, 71 N.W.2d 35, 43, certiorari denied 350 U.S. 914, 76 S.Ct. 198, 100 L.Ed. 801; State v. Sedig, 235 Iowa 609, 16 N.W.2d 247, and cases cited therein.

Whether the facts disclosed are sufficient to justify a killing in self-defense is usually a question of law for the trial court, but whether such facts exist is generally a question for the jury. If there is substantial evidence to support the claim, the case should be submitted to the jury. State v. Anderson, 239 Iowa 1118, 1125, 33 N.W.2d 1, 6; State v. Hammer, 246 Iowa 392, 395, 66 N.W.2d 490, 492; State v. Haffa, supra; 41 C.J.S. Homicide § 344, page 108.

To justify homicide on the ground that it was committed in self-defense, four elements must be present: (1) the slayer must not be the aggressor in provoking or continuing the difficulty that resulted in the homicide; (2) he must retreat as far as is reasonable and safe before taking his adversary's life, except in his home or place of business; (3) he must actually and honestly believe he is in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm and that the action he takes is necessary for self-preservation--this danger need not be real, but only thought to be real in the slayer's mind, acting as a reasonable prudent person under the circumstances; (4) he must have reasonable grounds for such relief. State v. Parker, Iowa, 151 N.W.2d 505, 511; State v. Haffa, supra; State v. Holder, 237 Iowa 72, 20 N.W.2d 909; State v. Sedig, supra; State v. Johnson, 223 Iowa 962, 967, 274 N.W. 41, 44; 26 Am.Jur., Homicide, section 140.

Of course, the burden is upon the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused did not act in self-defense. State v. Haffa, supra; State v. Sedig, supra. See also 40 Am.Jur.2d, Homicide, section 249. However, this does not alter the State's burden in any criminal matter to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the crime charged had been committed. Our problem is, does the evidence, viewed in a light most favorable to the State, require submission of these issues to the jury?

The State contends there was substantial evidence which tended to prove that defendant was the aggressor in provoking and continuing the difficulty that resulted in the homicide, that she did not do everything possible to avoid this conflict, that she did not honestly believe she was in imminent danger, and that she was not afraid of her husband.

On the other hand, appellant contends the evidence established as a matter of law that she did act in self-defense, that the State's evidence was not sufficient to overcome that defense, and that her motion for a directed verdict should have been sustained.

Page 684

II. In considering a claim of insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction, we of course must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the State. State v. Wesson, Iowa, 149 N.W.2d 190, 192, and citations. It is not our function to decide disputed fact questions in such cases. That is the function of the jury. State v. Horrell, Iowa, 151 N.W.2d 526, 528; State v. Wimbush, Iowa, 150 N.W.2d 653; State v. Frink, 255 Iowa 59, 64, 120 N.W.2d 432, 435, and citations; State v. Haffa, supra, 246 Iowa 1275, 71 N.W.2d 35; State v. Hammer, supra, 246 Iowa 392, 395, 66 N.W.2d 490, 492.

In State v. Hammer, supra, we said at page 396 of 246 Iowa, page 492 of 66 N.W.2d: 'It is only when the State's witnesses so contradict themselves as to destroy entirely the probative effect of their testimony we can say a question of law is generated.'

It is not necessary that the State prove by direct evidence that the accused did not act in self-defense; circumstantial evidence is sufficient. State v. Haffa, supra; State v. Sedig, supra, 235 Iowa 609, 16 N.W.2d 247; State v. Burzette, 208 Iowa 818, 222 N.W. 394.

After careful review of the record and transcript filed herein, we are satisfied there was sufficient evidence, direct and circumstantial, for jury submission on the issues of guilt and self-defense, and that it fully sustains the verdict rendered. Although defendant offered an explanation for the damaging circumstances revealed, such as her reason for carrying a knife while out alone at night in that neighborhood, she admitted that she threatened to kill her husband that night, that she preferred knives as weapons, and that she carried one in her jacket as she sought him.

It further appears defendant was greatly disturbed by decedent's treatment of her at the party and that she left it and went to their apartment on two occasions, that she was disturbed by information that her husband was leaving her for another woman, and that she, being a strong 190-pound woman, had been able to take care of herself in fights with him over the years. In addition, the knife used in this fracas had been left in a convenient place in the bedroom and, after she had used it to stab her husband two or...

To continue reading

Request your trial
29 practice notes
  • State v. Jacoby, No. 59756
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • December 21, 1977
    ...violent, aggressive or turbulent character of a homicide victim cannot be established by proof of specific acts. State v. Badgett, 167 N.W.2d 680, 686 (Iowa 1969); State v. Norton, supra, 227 Iowa at 16, 286 N.W. at 478; State v. Wallack, 193 Iowa 941, 943, 188 N.W. 131, 133 (1922); State v......
  • State v. Millett
    • United States
    • Supreme Judicial Court of Maine (US)
    • February 9, 1971
    ...P.2d 193, 200; State v. Wilson (1944) 113 Vt. 524, 37 A.2d 400; State v. Barrett (1970) Vt., 266 A.2d 441; State v. Badgett (1969) Iowa, 167 N.W.2d 680; People v. Johnson (1968) 13 Mich.App. 69, 163 N.W.2d 688; State v. Holt (1968) Mo., 434 S.W.2d 576; Wharton's Criminal Evidence (12th Ed.)......
  • State v. Brown, No. 53046
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • November 12, 1969
    ...777, 781--782; State v. Cornelius, Iowa, 165 N.W.2d 810, 811; State v. Hunley, Iowa, 167 N.W.2d 645, 649; and State v. Badgett, Iowa, 167 N.W.2d 680, I. Friday morning December 8, 1967, defendant and her 13-year-old son Clifford were distributing new directories for the Page 154 telephone c......
  • State v. Fuhrmann, No. 59256
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • September 21, 1977
    ...these permits. Trial court has considerable discretion in determining the admissibility of demonstrative evidence. State v. Badgett, 167 N.W.2d 680, 688 (Iowa 1969). On the record in this case we do not believe trial court would have abused its discretion in overruling the objections to the......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
29 cases
  • State v. Jacoby, No. 59756
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • December 21, 1977
    ...violent, aggressive or turbulent character of a homicide victim cannot be established by proof of specific acts. State v. Badgett, 167 N.W.2d 680, 686 (Iowa 1969); State v. Norton, supra, 227 Iowa at 16, 286 N.W. at 478; State v. Wallack, 193 Iowa 941, 943, 188 N.W. 131, 133 (1922); State v......
  • State v. Millett
    • United States
    • Supreme Judicial Court of Maine (US)
    • February 9, 1971
    ...P.2d 193, 200; State v. Wilson (1944) 113 Vt. 524, 37 A.2d 400; State v. Barrett (1970) Vt., 266 A.2d 441; State v. Badgett (1969) Iowa, 167 N.W.2d 680; People v. Johnson (1968) 13 Mich.App. 69, 163 N.W.2d 688; State v. Holt (1968) Mo., 434 S.W.2d 576; Wharton's Criminal Evidence (12th Ed.)......
  • State v. Brown, No. 53046
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • November 12, 1969
    ...777, 781--782; State v. Cornelius, Iowa, 165 N.W.2d 810, 811; State v. Hunley, Iowa, 167 N.W.2d 645, 649; and State v. Badgett, Iowa, 167 N.W.2d 680, I. Friday morning December 8, 1967, defendant and her 13-year-old son Clifford were distributing new directories for the Page 154 telephone c......
  • State v. Fuhrmann, No. 59256
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • September 21, 1977
    ...these permits. Trial court has considerable discretion in determining the admissibility of demonstrative evidence. State v. Badgett, 167 N.W.2d 680, 688 (Iowa 1969). On the record in this case we do not believe trial court would have abused its discretion in overruling the objections to the......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT