State v. Collins

Decision Date13 May 1981
Docket NumberNo. 64190,64190
PartiesSTATE of Iowa, Appellee, v. James George COLLINS, Appellant.
CourtIowa Supreme Court

Martha Shepard, Des Moines, for appellant.

Thomas J. Miller, Atty. Gen., John P. Messina, Asst. Atty. Gen., and Dan Johnston, Polk County Attorney, for appellee.


HARRIS, Justice.

In defending against a first-degree robbery charge (sections 711.1 and 711.2, The Code 1981) defendant requested instructions on the effect of his intoxication and also on his defense of diminished responsibility. The trial court instructed on intoxication but refused to also instruct on diminished responsibility. Following his conviction, defendant brought this appeal on the basis of the refusal. We affirm the trial court.

Defendant's activity which gave rise to the charge is not disputed. In the early morning hours of June 30, 1979, he entered an all-night grocery store in Des Moines. The night clerk became suspicious when defendant collected things from around the store and placed them on the front counter. When no other customers remained in the store defendant pulled a gun and pointed it at the head of the night clerk. He demanded the clerk turn off the lights, open the cash register, package the groceries, and, ultimately, open the safe. Except for opening the safe all demands were met. After telling the night clerk to remain in the back room defendant took the groceries and money and left. Defendant was followed from the scene by a friend of the night clerk who chanced to enter the store as defendant was leaving.

The clerk called police who apprehended and arrested defendant. After he was charged, defendant filed notice of his intent to rely on the defenses of diminished responsibility and intoxication.

At trial the State showed the foregoing events and then rested. Defense counsel then told the court she would request an instruction on diminished responsibility and, possibly, on intoxication, depending on how the evidence developed.

Defendant's sister, Karen Davenport, testified of defendant's experience with alcohol and other drugs and especially of its severe long term effects on defendant. She also related that defendant had ingested drugs, including alcohol, earlier in the day of the robbery. Karen's husband, Jack Davenport, testified that defendant drank a large quantity of beer on the afternoon and evening of the robbery. The defendant testified that he did not remember any activity between the time he and Jack Davenport had gone fishing earlier the same evening until he was fingerprinted after his arrest.

Under a court order Shahe Zenian, a clinical psychologist, examined defendant while he was awaiting trial. He testified in part:

My diagnosis was based upon my examination findings, and these are listed by order of increasing severity and chronicity. That is to say, the condition which is most likely to resolve is mentioned first and the ones that are least likely to resolve are mentioned last.

First was that I found him to be suffering from alcoholism, primarily by history and the way that he looked on his test findings. There were a lot of similarities between this patient and other people that we know that have been diagnosed as alcoholic.

Secondly, I found him to be drug dependent by history, specifically on the following types of drugs; barbituates, tranquilizers and psychostimulants. And, finally, I felt he was suffering from a personality disorder, specifically a special type that we call passive dependent personality. That constituted my diagnostic findings in this matter.

According to Mr. Zenian the likely effect of taking the quantity of alcohol and other drugs defendant was said to have consumed would be to cause periods of blackout.

On the basis of this evidence defendant requested an instruction on both theories. As noted, the trial court refused to instruct on diminished responsibility but gave the following instruction on intoxication:

The defendant has claimed that at the time and place of the commission of the offense he was intoxicated. The fact that a person is under the influence of intoxicants or drugs does not excuse nor does it aggravate his guilt. However, intoxication may be shown where it is relevant to the person's specific intent at the time of the act charged.

However, even though a person is under the influence of an intoxicant, if he still possesses a mental capacity sufficient to form the intent requisite to the offense charged; or, if he has the intent present in his mind before he falls under the influence of the intoxicant and then commits the act, he will not be absolved of the responsibility for the act. Thus, intoxication is a defense only when it produces a mental disability such as will render the person incapable of forming the intent which is an element of the offenses charged.

In considering the question of the defendant's intoxication, it should be considered along with all the other evidence in the case which bears on the question of intent which is explained in Instruction No. 11.

I. In order to understand the two defenses upon which defendant relies, it is helpful to consider them together with the defense of insanity. The three theories are akin to one another.

The insanity defense, probably the oldest and certainly the broadest of the three, is now codified in section 701.4, The Code. That section provides:

No person shall be convicted of any crime if at the time such crime is committed the person suffers from such a diseased or deranged condition of the mind so as to render the person incapable of knowing the nature and quality of the act he or she is committing or incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong in relation to that act. Insanity need not exist for any specific length of time before or after the commission of the alleged criminal act.

We have said the section codifies the M'Naghten rule, State v. Hamann, 285 N.W.2d 180, 182 (Iowa 1979), and that the words "right" or "wrong," under the test refer to legal, not moral, right or wrong. Id. at 184.

Chapter 701, The Code, provides for special defenses in criminal cases but does not mention the defense of diminished responsibility. Nevertheless, since State v. Gramenz, 256 Iowa 134, 126 N.W.2d 285 (1964), we have recognized the defense as a matter of common law. Committee on Professional Ethics v. Holmes, 271 N.W.2d 702, 703 (Iowa 1978); State v. Jacoby, 260 N.W.2d 828, 836 (Iowa 1977); State v. Barney, 244 N.W.2d 316, 318 (Iowa 1976). Under these cases, diminished responsibility may be offered as a defense where an accused, because of a limited capacity to think, is unable to form a necessary criminal intent. It differs from the usual insanity situation...

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  • Sillick v. Ault
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Iowa
    • February 25, 2005
    ... ... B. Direct Appeal ... 742 ... C. State Post-Conviction Relief Proceedings ... 745 ... D. Federal Post-Conviction Relief Proceedings ... Aguilar, 325 N.W.2d 100, 103 (Iowa 1982) (citing State v. Collins, 305 N.W.2d 434, 437-38 ... Page 775 ... (Iowa 1981)). The court finds that in light of the evidence contained in the record, it was reasonable ... ...
  • State v. McVey
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    ...the defense even though it is not listed among the special defenses to crime delineated in Code chapter 701. See State v. Collins, 305 N.W.2d 434, 436 (Iowa 1981). The court has also continued to contrast the defense with the insanity defense, distinguishing diminished responsibility on the......
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    • Iowa Supreme Court
    • December 1, 2023
    ... ... Id ... Diminished responsibility does not mean that someone is ... insane; a person may be sane but still not have the mental ... capacity to form specific intent because of a mental disease ... or disorder. See State v. Collins , 305 N.W.2d 434, ... 436-37 (Iowa 1981). Compare State v. Jacobs, 607 ... N.W.2d 679, 684 (Iowa 2000) (discussing diminished ... responsibility as a common law defense), with Iowa ... Code § 701.4 (2009) (insanity defense codified). A ... defendant does not need ... ...
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    • July 15, 1981 evidence that indicated that a defense of diminished responsibility could possibly have been raised at trial. See State v. Collins, 305 N.W.2d 434 (Iowa 1981). He wanted to get defendant a new trial. Under our rules, a motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence could be m......
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