State v. Hayden

Decision Date05 June 1906
CourtIowa Supreme Court

Appeal from Decatur District Court.-- HON. WILLIAM E. MILLER, Judge.

INDICTMENT for murder. Verdict of murder in the second degree, and judgment of imprisonment in the penitentiary for the term of twenty years. Defendant appeals.-- Affirmed.


V. R McGinnis and M. L. Temple, for appellant.

Chas W. Mullan, Attorney General, and Lawrence De Graff, Assistant Attorney General, for the State.



The indictment is for murder in the first degree. That defendant shot and killed one Bracewell on the 8th day of January 1904, is conceded; but it is contended on his behalf that his act in so doing was in self-defense, and testimony was adduced to show that defendant was insane when the fatal shot was fired. Defendant and decedent were farmers living near each other in Decatur county. On the morning of the fatal encounter deceased and his hired man, by the name of Peck, were hauling hay from defendant's land. As they left the field with the last load before dinner they noticed some cattle on defendant's land and a few upon the premises belonging to Bracewell. These cattle belonged to Bracewell. Reaching home, Bracewell and his man unhitched the team, fed them, and went into the house. At that time they noticed some one going toward the cattle as if he were trying to get around them to drive them off. Bracewell left the house and went out near a gate, apparently watching the man who was after the cattle. He thereupon had his boy get a horse for him, and Peck got another, and the two started on horseback toward the cattle, and as they approached saw the defendant. Peck was the first to reach defendant, and defendant said to him: "Do not take the cattle out. I want to see the other man first." He then said to Peck: "Don't take any offense at what I say. I don't mean any offense against you." To this Peck responded: "All right, Mr. Hayden. These are Mr. Bracewell's cattle, and it is you and him for it." Bracewell came up almost immediately, and Hayden then started toward the cattle. Bracewell moved off toward a haystack in the field. Hayden then left the cattle and came running back to where Bracewell was seated upon his horse. As he came he was swearing and cursing Bracewell and calling him vile names. He had his hand in his pocket, and as he came closer drew his coat and shook his fist at Bracewell and continued his cursing. Bracewell was in his shirt sleeves and had a buggy whip in his hand. As Hayden came up Bracewell threw his whip, dropped the bridle, slid off his horse, and told Hayden that if he wished to fight all right. As he dismounted Hayden turned around and started to run. Bracewell immediately started after him, and as Hayden ran he began feeling in his pocket. Hayden ran sixty or seventy feet, and was getting away from Bracewell, when, having secured his revolver, he whirled around and shot twice; one load striking Bracewell, resulting in his death in a few hours. When the shots were fired Bracewell had stopped his pursuit and was standing with his left side toward Hayden. The ball from the revolver entered Bracewell's left side between the tenth and eleventh rib, went through the body, and lodged underneath the skin on the other side. This, in brief, is the state's version of the affair, although defendant had another account thereof; but, as the jury returned a verdict of guilty, we should, for the purpose of this appeal, treat the case as if these facts were established.

The case was set for trial on May 23, 1904, and on the 19th of that month defendant filed a motion for a continuance, based upon the absence of a witness who, it was claimed, would testify to certain statements made by Peck, the principal witness for the state, with reference to how the difficulty occurred. On the 19th of May, 1904, an order was made by the trial court for some of defendant's witnesses, and another was made on the 11th of that month. A subpoena was issued for the absent witness May 16th, and sent to the sheriff at Des Moines, where the witness resided, on the same day. Defendant's counsel were then informed that the witness had left Des Moines on the day the subpoena issued, but had been there prior to that date. The testimony which it claimed the absent witness would give was not substantive in character, and could not have been used except for impeaching purposes. At the time the motion was made it did not appear that the witness would ever be needed, and as the witness Peck was not, when on the witness stand, asked if he had made the statement claimed to the absent witness, it does not anywhere appear that his testimony would have been admissible, even had he been present. Under this state of facts we must assume that the witness Peck was truthful, and that, in the absence of some showing to the contrary, he would have admitted the conversation had it occurred. Defendant did not see fit, for some reason, to ask him about it, and then to renew his motion for continuance, had the witness denied it. Moreover, there is no real conflict between Peck's statements while on the witness stand and what it is claimed he said to the absent witness. The discrepancies, if any, were so unimportant as to be immaterial. Again, the showing as to diligence is not strong, and there is no reason for interfering with the discretion lodged in the trial court in such matters. At any rate, prejudice is not shown; and, under the peculiar facts of this case, it is not to be presumed.

II. It is claimed that the state did not produce sufficient testimony to show that defendant was not acting in self-defense. The statement already made is sufficient answer to this proposition. Further, it is claimed that the testimony shows conclusively that defendant was not responsible for his acts. This was purely a fact question for the jury, and with its finding we shall not interfere. The most that can be said in this connection is that defendant was an epileptic, but it does not appear that at the very time in issue he was suffering from an attack of that disease. Indeed, the contrary very clearly appears.

III. Certain rulings on the admission and rejection of testimony are complained of. Nonexpert witnesses were produced by the state to give testimony in rebuttal of that offered by the defendant with reference to his unsoundness of mind. The question of which most complaint is made reads as follows: "Q. Taking into consideration your acquaintance with him and your conversation with him and his appearance and so on, what would you say as to the defendant, John Hayden, being of sound mind?" The witness answered: "I would have to say he was of sound mind, so far as I know." This was after he had stated that he had been acquainted with defendant for a long time, had observed his appearance, conduct and manner, and had given an account of a meeting with him in the forenoon of the day of the homicide. It is true that the question does not expressly limit the opinion to matters which he had just detailed; but this is not always essential, when a nonexpert is testifying to sanity, rather than insanity. Hull v. Hull, 117 Iowa 738; Stutsman v. Sharpless, 125 Iowa 335; Lamb v. Lippincott, 115 Mich. 611 (73 N.W. 887.) Nothing need be said in addition to what is given in these cases. In State v. Robbins, 109 Iowa 650, 80 N.W. 1061, relied upon by appellant, the nonexpert was attempting to testify to the insanity of the person whose state of mind was in issue; and, as stated in the Hull case, such opinion must be based upon facts narrated by the witness. There was no error in the ruling.

Defendant was a witness on his own behalf, and the state, for the purpose of impeaching him, introduced witnesses to prove that his general moral character, prior to (January 8, 1904,) the day of the homicide, in the community in which he lived, was bad. Defendant objected as incompetent, immaterial irrelevant, and not the proper form of question. It is now contended that the limitation to January 8, 1904, rendered the question objectionable. That objection, even if good, does not seem to have been made to the questions propounded, and is evidently raised for the first time in this court. Had it been made at the proper time, the question might have been so framed as to meet the objection. That was not done, and, as the objection did not point out...

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