State v. Knox, No. 46509.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtMANTZ
Citation236 Iowa 499,18 N.W.2d 716
Decision Date25 June 1945
Docket NumberNo. 46509.
PartiesSTATE v. KNOX.

236 Iowa 499
18 N.W.2d 716

STATE
v.
KNOX.

No. 46509.

Supreme Court of Iowa.

May 8, 1945.
Rehearing Denied June 25, 1945.


Appeal from District Court, Keokuk County; P. J. Siegers, Judge.

Carl N. Knox, defendant-appellant, was indicted, tried for, and convicted of murder in the first degree. The jury recommended life imprisonment, and accordingly the district court entered judgment. From this judgment, the defendant appeals.

Reversed.

BLISS, J., HALE, C. J., and OLIVER and GARFIELD, JJ., dissenting.

[18 N.W.2d 717]

F. M. Beatty and Hamilton & Updegraff, all of Sigourney, for appellant.

John M. Rankin, Atty. Gen., Charles H. Scholz, Asst. Atty. Gen., Ralph H. Goeldner, Co. Atty., of Sigourney, and Leo D. Thoma, Sp. Asst. Atty., of Fairfield, for appellee.


MANTZ, Justice.

Carl Knox, defendant, was indicted by the grand jury of Keokuk County, Iowa, on October 25, 1943, charged with the murder of his father, Walter Knox. Such indictment, omitting the formal parts, is as follows: ‘The Grand Jurors of the County of Keokuk in the name and by the authority of the State of Iowa accuse Carl N. Knox of the crime of murder in the first degree and charge that the said Carl N. Knox in the County and State aforesaid, did on or about the 21st day of July, A. D. 1943, in Sigourney, Iowa, willfully, deliberately, and premeditatedly kill one Walter Knox by means of poison, contrary to and in violation of section 12911 of the 1939 Code of Iowa.’

Defendant's plea was not guilty. The jury found him guilty of first degree murder, fixing life imprisonment as his punishment. The defendant has appealed.

I. Appellant in this appeal has urged many errors. Some relate to the refusal of the trial court to direct a verdict in his favor; the insufficiency of the evidence to sustain the verdict; the admission and rejection of testimony; the giving of instructions and the refusal of the court to give others requested, and some others.

Before taking up the errors urged, we think it advisable to set forth a general outline of the history, circumstances, and facts appearing in the record as a background in order that there may be had a better understanding of the matters here on appeal.

The trial of the case lasted three weeks. Both sides were represented by able and experienced counsel. Many witnesses were examined, some of them being experts. There is in the record much medical testimony. The record is large. This is also true of the briefs and arguments filed in this court. These reveal care in their preparation and a wide and extensive study and investigation of the legal principles involved. We commend counsel for the manner in which this appeal has been presented.

The crime charged, if committed, was both gruesome and abhorrent,—a son killing his father and using poison as a deadly instrumentality. That the father died from a deadly poison there can be little question. There is considerable evidence in the case indicating things sordid, depraved, and revolting. It contains much dealing with filial respect and devotion, or lack of it, from son to father. There is evidence tending to show studied neglect, abuse, and indifference of the father by the son; also claims of marital shortcomings, moral misdeeds and crimes on the part of appellant.

Walter Knox was born and reared in Keokuk County; he worked on a farm, and as a carpenter. In 1924, with his wife and son Carl, then 11 years old, he went to California. In 1928 the wife divorced him, Carl staying with his mother. In 1930, Walter returned to Keokuk County and lived on a 40-acre farm near Delta until 1934, when he

[18 N.W.2d 718]

returned to California. He again returned to Iowa in 1935 and within a few days had a stroke paralyzing his left side permanently. From this he never recovered. For a time he was in a hospital at Oskaloosa and later for a time was kept in private homes. Walter requested Carl to return and care for him. Carl and a bride, June, came soon thereafter and moved to the small house near Delta. At that time it was a two-room structure, but later another room was added. Walter was given medical treatment for a time but this was discontinued upon advice that it was of little help. June returned to California in the fall of 1935 and there is no further mention of her in the record. Carl had a wheel chair fixed up and in it Walter could push himself about the house. He had to be assisted in most respects. At that time Walter owned the 40-acre tract worth about $2,000, and also $3,400 in cash and loans. As time passed, the father became morose and irritable and at times difficult to handle. Doubtless this arose at least in part from his physical condition.

After Carl came to Delta he lived with his father until the father died. He managed the farm and gave personal attention to the wants of his father. At times he hired others to care for his father and this was particularly true when he was away. He cooked the meals, attended to his personal wants, and kept him supplied with things needed. At times the house was clean, and at times otherwise. Due to the inability of the father to get about, a bucket was used as an indoor toilet. Sometimes because of accumulations, this gave off an offensive odor. His bed and person were unclean and filthy at times. At times he resented attempts to get him cleaned up.

In 1939, Carl took on outside work in buying and handling livestock. In March, 1940, he married Mary Fear, daughter of Dr. Fear of Delta. To this union two children were born. She came to the farm home at times but did not seem to get along with the father. Following the birth of the last child, she and the children lived with her father. Carl would see them at times. They lived apart, but were not divorced. In 1940, Carl and a cousin, Earl Noller, entered into the livestock business at Sigourney and for a time Carl drove back and forth to the farm. About November, 1942, Carl and his father moved to Sigourney and rented a small four-room house close to the stockyards and but a short distance from its office. The house was cleaned, papered and painted and had much new furniture therein. At the request of the father, Carl purchased from Sears Roebuck shortly before moving to Delta, an indoor toilet for the use of his father. With this toilet there came a can of disinfectant to be used in disinfecting it. This disinfectant was a caustic and was poison. It was kept in the bedroom of the father. Here Walter and Carl lived together until the father's death on July 21, 1943. Carl's wife, Mary, a sufferer from a cancer for many years, died on August 11, 1943. On January 30, 1943, Walter, for a consideration of $1 and love and affection, conveyed the 40-acre tract to Carl, who on April 7, 1943, resold it to one Graham, receiving as a purchase price the sum of $2,000. A few days after the death of his father, as a result of an investigation made by state and county officials, Carl was arrested charged with the murder of his father, and upon conviction appealed to this court.

The State claims that appellant murdered his father by the use of the poisoned antiseptic caustic; the appellant denies this and claims that the death was self-inflicted,—in other words—suicide. We quote from the brief of appellee:

‘It is the State's theory that this chemical when mixed with water, has a color like milk, and that the defendant got his father to take some of this chemical into the mouth and stomach believing that he was drinking milk, milk being his principal item of diet. That upon the taking of some of this chemical in this manner, the natural reflex because of the extreme burning sensation, was to expel it. Walter Knox fought back against Carl and in the process the contents of the glass were spilled; that Carl then beat and struck his father rendering him unconscious, at least to the extent of enabling Carl to pour some of this fluid undiluted into the mouth of Walter Knox.’

There was no direct evidence to support such theory. Carl contradicted it in positive terms. If such theory was borne out it necessarily had to be established by circumstantial evidence.

II. The first matter to be considered relates to the sufficiency of the evidence to support the indictment. Appellant argues that the verdict is contrary to the evidence. Before entering into an analysis of the evidence, we will call attention to a few of the legal principles. In this class of cases

[18 N.W.2d 719]

where the claim is made that the evidence does not sustain the verdict, we find that our courts have spoken thereon many times and the legal principles governing are quite well settled. The difficulty lies in the application.

We have held that this court will not interfere with the verdict of the jury where there is supporting such verdict substantial testimony. State v. Harrington, 220 Iowa 1116, 264 N.W. 24;State v. Crandall, 227 Iowa 311, 288 N.W. 85;State v. Cummings, 128 Iowa 522, 105 N.W. 57; State v. Richardson, 179 Iowa 770, 162 N.W. 28, L.R.A.1917D, 944. It has likewise been frequently held by this court that where the verdict is clearly against the weight of the evidence, a new trial will be granted. State v. Wise, 83 Iowa 596, 50 N.W. 59;State v. Reinheimer, 109 Iowa 624, 80 N.W. 669;State v. Carson, 185 Iowa 568, 170 N.W. 781;State v. Klein, 218 Iowa 1060, 256 N.W. 741.

The evidence offered by the State covers a wide range. The record is voluminous. We have gone over it with care and in so doing have made use of the original transcript. It would serve no useful purpose to set it out in detail. The evidence is almost all of a circumstantial nature. Much of the evidence of the State deals with the relationship and associations existing between Carl and his father, and particularly with the period following the stroke of the father in 1935, including his death on July 21, 1943, and his arrest and confinement a few days later. It covers a period in excess of fifteen years. It deals with the property of the father, the...

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26 practice notes
  • WINFRED D v. MICHELIN North America INC., No. B195416.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • October 22, 2008
    ...39 Cal.4th 1, 14, 45 Cal.Rptr.3d 407, 137 P.3d 229; State v. Talbert (Mo.Ct.App.1975) 524 S.W.2d 58, 60, fn. 1; State v. Knox (1945) 236 Iowa 499, 516-517, 18 N.W.2d 716, 724.) Accordingly, Yukevich's arguments affected the central issue in the case: whether the van was overloaded, on the o......
  • State v. Martin, No. 55207
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • April 24, 1974
    ...State v. Frese, 256 Iowa 289, 292--295, 127 N.W.2d 83 (1964); State v. Leuty, 247 Iowa 251, 257--258, 73 N.W.2d 64 (1955); State v. Knox, 236 Iowa 499, 508, 18 N.W.2d 716 (1945); State v. McCumber, 202 Iowa 1382, 1385, 212 N.W. 137 (1927); State v. Dickson, 200 Iowa 17, 24, 202 N.W. 225 Fur......
  • State v. Ellis, No. 42954
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Nebraska
    • March 27, 1981
    ...(5th ed. 1979). In criminal law, "motive" is that which leads or tempts the mind to indulge in a criminal act. State v. Knox, 236 Iowa 499, 18 N.W.2d 716 (1945). See, also, Williams v. State, 113 Neb. 606, 204 N.W. 64 (1925). Intent, likewise, has been defined as "(d)esign, r......
  • Jones v. State, No. 4604
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • July 26, 1977
    ...it does have great probative force in determining guilt, especially in cases which depend on circumstantial evidence. State v. Knox, 1945, 236 Iowa 499, 18 N.W.2d 716, 724; State v. Taylor, 1947, 356 Mo. 1216, 205 S.W.2d 734, 737; Simmons v. State, 1924, 111 Neb. 644, 197 N.W. 398, 402, cer......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
26 cases
  • WINFRED D v. MICHELIN North America INC., No. B195416.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • October 22, 2008
    ...39 Cal.4th 1, 14, 45 Cal.Rptr.3d 407, 137 P.3d 229; State v. Talbert (Mo.Ct.App.1975) 524 S.W.2d 58, 60, fn. 1; State v. Knox (1945) 236 Iowa 499, 516-517, 18 N.W.2d 716, 724.) Accordingly, Yukevich's arguments affected the central issue in the case: whether the van was overloaded, on the o......
  • State v. Martin, No. 55207
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • April 24, 1974
    ...State v. Frese, 256 Iowa 289, 292--295, 127 N.W.2d 83 (1964); State v. Leuty, 247 Iowa 251, 257--258, 73 N.W.2d 64 (1955); State v. Knox, 236 Iowa 499, 508, 18 N.W.2d 716 (1945); State v. McCumber, 202 Iowa 1382, 1385, 212 N.W. 137 (1927); State v. Dickson, 200 Iowa 17, 24, 202 N.W. 225 Fur......
  • State v. Ellis, No. 42954
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Nebraska
    • March 27, 1981
    ...914 (5th ed. 1979). In criminal law, "motive" is that which leads or tempts the mind to indulge in a criminal act. State v. Knox, 236 Iowa 499, 18 N.W.2d 716 (1945). See, also, Williams v. State, 113 Neb. 606, 204 N.W. 64 (1925). Intent, likewise, has been defined as "(d)esign, resolve, or ......
  • Jones v. State, No. 4604
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • July 26, 1977
    ...it does have great probative force in determining guilt, especially in cases which depend on circumstantial evidence. State v. Knox, 1945, 236 Iowa 499, 18 N.W.2d 716, 724; State v. Taylor, 1947, 356 Mo. 1216, 205 S.W.2d 734, 737; Simmons v. State, 1924, 111 Neb. 644, 197 N.W. 398, 402, cer......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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