State v. Becker, 10–0631.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtZAGER
Citation818 N.W.2d 135
PartiesSTATE of Iowa, Appellee, v. Mark Daryl BECKER, Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 10–0631.,10–0631.
Decision Date20 July 2012

818 N.W.2d 135

STATE of Iowa, Appellee,
Mark Daryl BECKER, Appellant.

No. 10–0631.

Supreme Court of Iowa.

July 20, 2012.

[818 N.W.2d 137]

Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Martha J. Lucey, Assistant State Appellate Defender, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Darrel L. Mullins, Scott D. Brown, and Andrew B. Prosser, Assistant Attorneys General, Gregory M. Lievens, County Attorney, for appellee.

ZAGER, Justice.

On June 24, 2009, Mark Becker shot and killed Edward Thomas in a temporary high school weight room in Parkersburg, Iowa, in front of numerous high school students participating in summer workouts. Becker was charged with the crime of murder in the first degree in violation of sections 707.1 and 707.2(1) and (2) of the Iowa Code. Becker provided notice that he would be relying on the defense of insanity to the charge. The jury rejected the insanity defense and found Becker guilty of first-degree murder. Following the guilty verdict, the district court sentenced Becker to life in prison without the possibility of parole and ordered him to pay restitution to the victim's estate. He was also ordered to pay restitution for his attorney and expert witness fees. Becker has appealed his conviction and the imposition of expert witness fees. Becker claims the jury was improperly instructed on the insanity defense and that the jury should have been instructed regarding the consequences of a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity. He also claims the restitution order for expert witness fees exceeded the statutory limitations. We transferred the case to the court of appeals which affirmed the conviction and restitution orders. Becker sought further review, which we granted. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the district court.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

Becker was born June 3, 1985. His mother testified that he was an active, friendly child but that he “started to withdraw a little bit” the summer after his freshman year of high school. He was active in sports, and Thomas was his high school football coach. After graduation from high school, he attended Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, for one semester. He left college and lived in various locations over the next several years. During this time, according to his mother's testimony, Becker “continued to be more inward, more depressed, [and] very uncommunicative.”

Becker began living with his parents outside of Parkersburg in July of 2008. In September, his parents awoke one night to Becker yelling. He was swearing at his parents and was acting very violently. At one point, he began hitting the basement walls with a baseball bat. His parents called the sheriff who testified that Becker claimed he had a metaphysical ESP connection with Thomas and that Thomas was sending him messages that were keeping him up at night. Becker was committed to a psychiatric unit the next day. He spent the next week in this facility and was released with a prescription for medication that his mother testified he took sporadically.

Over the next month, Becker began to have more frequent violent episodes. In November, he was arrested for an assault. His mother picked him up from jail, and on the way home, he began swearing at her and hit her while she was driving, breaking her glasses. When she attempted to call her husband, he grabbed her cell phone and broke it in half. As a result,

[818 N.W.2d 138]

Becker was again committed and spent another week in the hospital.

Following his discharge, Becker's parents rented a room for him in Waterloo. However, they were unable to afford the room, and he moved back to their home in February 2009. Becker continued to have difficulties, and his parents called the sheriff's department several times. In April, Cedar Valley Community Support Services became involved to provide support and assistance to Becker. It helped Becker get an apartment and a job in Waterloo. His relationship with his parents began to improve, and he would stop by and visit with them on occasion.

On June 20, Becker knocked at the front door of the residence of Dwight Rogers, a Cedar Falls resident. Though Rogers did not know Becker, Becker asked for Rogers by name. When Rogers asked Becker who he was, Becker responded, “[Y]ou know who the F I am.” Rogers said he did not have a good feeling about the situation, so he closed the door and told his wife to call 911. He reopened the door and saw Becker approaching with a baseball bat. He closed the door again and was attempting to get Becker's license plate number when Becker swung the bat at Rogers's front door, breaking the storm door. The two struggled over the door, but Rogers was able to close it. Becker then broke a picture window and a garage door window before attempting to drive his car through the garage door. Becker left once law enforcement sirens became audible. He then led law enforcement officers on a high-speed chase that ended when he hit a deer.

Becker was arrested and taken to the Butler County Sheriff's Office. He was booked and interviewed and then sent to a psychiatric unit in Waterloo for evaluation. Law enforcement requested they be notified before Becker was released. He was evaluated on June 21, and the next day he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and given medication. On June 23, Becker requested he be released as he felt that he was better. A nurse indicated to Becker's doctor “that he seem[ed] to be doing much better,” and following this conversation, Becker's doctor agreed to discharge him. Becker's service coordinator with Cedar Valley Community Support Services agreed to pick Becker up, and the doctor discharged him with prescriptions for medication. The sheriff was not notified.

Becker's keys had been taken by the police, so the service coordinator opened his apartment for him and made plans to get his prescriptions filled the next day. About 9:30 that evening, however, Becker called his parents from a Waterloo Burger King and asked to be picked up so he could spend the night with them. They agreed, and Becker's mother came to Waterloo to pick him up. At that time, she felt that Becker seemed to be doing better than he had in quite some time.

Becker woke his father up at 4:30 a.m. on June 24, and they had coffee together. Becker's mother woke up around 5:00 a.m. and spoke with him for a few minutes. Becker's mother and father then left for work. Later they planned to pick up his prescriptions and check with the sheriff about getting Becker's keys back.

Sometime that morning, Becker pried open a gun cabinet in his parents' basement. He took a .22 caliber revolver and practiced shooting the gun at a birdhouse in his parents' yard. He later told officials that after his practice session he knew he would have to get close to Thomas in order to be sure that he hit him. Becker then reloaded the gun and found a spare set of keys for one his parents' cars and drove to Aplington. He knocked on the door of a residence and asked for Thomas by name. He was told Thomas did not live at that house. Becker then drove to Parkersburg

[818 N.W.2d 139]

where he asked a few people where he might find Thomas. Becker told one of these people that he needed to find Thomas because he was working with him on a tornado relief project. He was directed to the elementary school where he was told Thomas might be teaching driver's education.

Upon arrival at the elementary school, Becker left the gun in the car. He asked a family friend who worked as a custodian at the school where Thomas was. The custodian called a custodian at the high school who told him Thomas was in the weight room. This information was relayed to Becker who, after some small talk, returned to his car and drove to the weight room.

Since the high school in Parkersburg had been damaged by a tornado, a makeshift weight room had been set up in a bus barn. Becker arrived at the weight room at about 7:45 a.m. Initially, he left the gun in the car. According to witnesses, he stuck his head in the door of the bus barn and looked around and left. Becker then retrieved the gun from his car and put it in the pocket of his coveralls.1 He reentered the weight room, approached Thomas, took out the gun, and shot Thomas six times in the head, chest and leg. He proceeded to kick and stomp on Thomas, yelling, “Fuck you, old man.” He then left the weight room screaming that he had killed Satan and telling people to go get his carcass. Thomas died from his injuries.

Becker drove away from the high school towards his parents' home. Witnesses had already reported the shooting and described the car Becker was driving. Since the car was registered to Becker's father, Sheriff Johnson headed to Becker's parents' home. As the sheriff approached the Becker residence, he could see a vehicle approaching. The vehicle turned in behind Johnson. The car followed Johnson into the driveway. Johnson accelerated, turned his vehicle at an angle for cover, and drew his weapon. As the car approached, Johnson saw an arm come out of the window. The driver was holding a handgun out of the window by the trigger guard. The vehicle stopped; Johnson ordered him to drop the gun; and Becker complied. Becker stepped out of the car and said, “I'm done, I'm done.” Becker was handcuffed and taken into custody. He was interviewed by agents from the Division of Criminal Investigations and admitted shooting Thomas.

Becker was charged with first-degree murder by trial information on June 30, 2009. He provided notice of an insanity defense on July 13. Trial commenced on February 12, 2010. The State presented numerous witnesses who identified Becker as the shooter. The defense called numerous witnesses to testify to Becker's history of mental problems and his behavior in the days leading up to the shooting. The defense then called two psychiatrists who offered expert testimony that at the time of the shootings Becker was suffering from paranoid...

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