State v. Martin, No. 47935

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtTHOMPSON; MULRONEY; GARFIELD
Citation55 N.W.2d 258,34 A.L.R.2d 904,243 Iowa 1323
Decision Date14 October 1952
Docket NumberNo. 47935
Parties, 34 A.L.R.2d 904 STATE v. MARTIN.

Page 258

55 N.W.2d 258
243 Iowa 1323, 34 A.L.R.2d 904
STATE

v.
MARTIN.
No. 47935.
Supreme Court of Iowa.
Oct. 14, 1952.

Page 259

Hobart E. Newton, Stuart, for appellant.

Robert L. Larson, Atty. Gen., Glenn L. Gray, Asst. Atty. Gen., Claire H. Williamson, County Atty., W. E. Don Carlos, Sp. Asst. County Atty., Greenfield, for appellee.

THOMPSON, Justice.

On March 9, 1951, the defendant was indicted by the grand jury of Adair county; the indictment being in these terms:

'The Grand Jurors of the County of Adair in the name and by the authority of the State of Iowa accuse Max Burnell Martin of the crime of First Degree Murder as defined in section 690.2 of the 1950 Code of Iowa [I.C.A.], and charge that the said Max Burnell Martin on or about the 19th day of January, A. D., 1951, in the County of Adair and State of Iowa did wilfully, [243 Iowa 1325] deliberately, feloniously, and with premeditation and malice aforethought, or while in the perpetration or attempt to perpetrate the rape of Kathryn Givan Schrader, or while in the peretration or attempt to perpetrate the robbery of Kathryn Givan Schrader, murder the said Kathryn Givan Schrader, contrary to the provisions of section 690.2 of the 1950 Code of the State of Iowa, [I.C.A.]'

On March 28, 1951, the defendant was arraigned. Thereupon he entered a written plea of guilty, and since it is of importance in a proper consideration of this case we set it out in full herewith:

'Comes now the defendant, Max Burnell Martin, and respectfully states to the Court:

'That he is 28 years of age and a resident of Adair County, Iowa; that he has lived in Adair County, Iowa, all of his life except for the period of time during which he served in the Armed Forces of the United States.

'That he has received a true copy of the Indictment returned by the Grand Jury of Adair County, Iowa, in the above entitled cause charging him with the crime of Murder In The First Degree as defined in section 690.2 of the 1950 Code of Iowa [I.C.A.], in that on or about the 19th day of January, 1951, he murdered one Kathryn Givan Schrader; that he is charged in his true name in said indictment; that he has been advised of his legal rights and that he is represented in the above cause by George D. Musmaker, an attorney at law of Greenfield, Adair County, Iowa; that he has been advised that on conviction on said Indictment he may be punished with death or imprisonment for life at hard labor in the penitentiary.

'That without any promise of leniency or other inducements he hereby voluntarily enters his written plea of Guilty to the crime charged in said Indictment. That he knows this leaves nothing for the Court to do but to pronounce sentence upon him, and he waives formal arraignment and asks

Page 260

the court to pronounce sentence upon him at once.

'Dated at Greenfield, Iowa, this 28th day of March, 1951.

'Max Burnell Martin.'

[243 Iowa 1326] The record shows that court convened at 2:55 p. m. on March 28th. Defendant's counsel, at that time Mr. George D. Musmaker, of Greenfield, then said to the court:

'I would like to have him take time to read this plea here.' To this the court assented, and presently the written plea, signed by the defendant was filed. We assume from the foregoing that it was signed in the courtroom, after being scanned by the accused. It was then agreed by the court and counsel for the state and for defendant that judgment would be pronounced on March 29, 1951, at 9 a. m. Court adjourned at 3:05 p. m. on the 28th. The facts as to what transpired on March 29th, when sentence and judgment imposing the death penalty upon the defendant were entered, are set out later in this opinion.

As shown by the indictment above, Kathryn Givan Schrader, 25 years of age, the mother of two small children, a young woman of high standing in the community, was killed at her farm home in Adair county on January 19, 1951. On January 20th the defendant was apprehended and accused of the crime. On that date he made a written confession, which he repeated in substance and in much more detail, in question and answer form, on January 22nd. He admitted killing Mrs. Schrader by shooting her twice with a .22 caliber rifle. The defendant had a previous criminal record, and if his own story is believed the killing was most cruel and wanton. Further details of the commission of the offense as shown by the two purported confessions of the defendant and by the testimony of other witnesses before the grand jury would be of no aid in the solution of the problems before us.

I. It must be conceded that neither the defendant nor any one for him took any exceptions or made any objections in the trial court to the procedures by which he was convicted upon his plea of guilty and sentenced to death. If, therefore, we are to measure his rights upon this appeal by the technical rules which apply to civil cases, and which have been followed in many criminal causes, he has no case and there is nothing that we can do for him. But there are most cogent reasons why we should not apply these rules here.

Section 793.18, Code of 1950 I.C.A., says:

[243 Iowa 1327] 'If the appeal is taken by the defendant, the supreme court must examine the record, without regard to technical errors or defects which do not affect the substantial rights of the parties, and render such judgment on the record as the law demands; it may affirm, reverse, or modify the judgment, or render such judgment as the district court should have done, or order a new trial, or reduce the punishment, but cannot increase it.'

We have applied it in many cases. See, State v. Cox, 240 Iowa 248, 34 N.W.2d 616; State v. Barr, 123 Iowa 139, 98 N.W. 595; State v. Nine, 105 Iowa 131, 136, 74 N.W. 945; State v. McCormick, 27 Iowa 402; and State v. Brainard, 25 Iowa 572, 580. Many others might be cited. In State v. Cox, supra, 240 Iowa at page 252, 34 N.W.2d at page 619, we quoted with approval from State v. Brainard, supra, this language:

"It is made the duty of this court to decide criminal appeals according to the very justice of the case as shown by the record, without regard to technical errors. It does not harmonize with the humane spirit of this statute to lay down the iron rule that the defendant must inevitably and in all cases be visited with the consequences of the omissions or errors of counsel."

It is generally held that in capital cases the appellate courts will disregard technical rules for the purpose of determining whether the defendant had a fair trial. It is said in 24 C.J.S., Criminal Law, § 1669, pages 270-271:

'* * * an exception to the general rule that questions not raised in

Page 261

the trial court will not be considered on appeal exists in case of material defects which are apparent on the face of the record and which are fundamental in their character, or which clearly show manifest injustice, especially in capital cases.'

It is the manifest purpose of the statute above set out to guarantee that this court shall determine whether the accused had a fair and just trial under established rules of law, but without regard to technical defects or failures. Especially must this be true in cases where the defendant's life is in jeopardy. The most solemn duty devolving upon any court is the imposition of the death sentence, in a proper case. No human life should be taken by judicial order until every requirement of statutory [243 Iowa 1328] law and justice has been complied with. And the more cruel and revolting the crime of which the defendant stands accused, the stronger the popular feeling and public indignation, the more meticulous should the courts be in observing these rules, that no man may be convicted and executed because of the hue and cry raised against him, but only after a trial fair in every respect. The Florida supreme court, in Casey v. State, 116 Fla. 3, 156 So. 282, 284, said:

'Under our form of government, a supreme value is attached to human life. The law rightly prescribes exacting and sometimes tedious requirements to deprive one of it. There is a sound reason and a pertinent history behind all these requirements, and the fact that one whose life society is exacting has committed a heinous crime in no sense warrants any court in overlooking the law's mandate. If it may be overlooked in one case, it may be cast to windward in another, and then it ceases to perform the function for which created.'

Nor is it for us to say in this case, or in any case, that the defendant is obviously guilty of a heartless and wanton murder, and so deserves his punishment even though not imposed with strict observance of the requirements of law. It was well said in Reynolds v. State, 58 Neb. 49, 78 N.W. 483, 485:

'It has been suggested, and is doubtless true, that in this case 'outraged justice has laid her avenging lash on the back of one who honestly deserves the scourge,' but we cannot for that reason alone affirm the judgment. The jurisdiction of the courts is not coordinate with that of the mob.'

II. Sections 690.4, 690.5, and 777.12, Code of 1950, I.C.A., are herewith set out:

[243 Iowa 1329] 'Upon the trial of an indictment for murder, the jury, if it finds the defendant guilty, must inquire, and by its verdict ascertain and determine the degree; but if the defendant is convicted upon a plea of guilty, the court must, by the examination of witnesses, determine the degree, and in either case must enter judgment and pass sentence accordingly.' Section 690.4. (Italics supplied.)

'Upon the trial of an indictment for murder, the jury, if it finds the defendant guilty of murder in the first degree, must direct in its verdict whether the punishment shall be death or imprisonment for life at hard labor in the penitentiary, but if the defendant pleads guilty the court shall so direct, and in either case must enter judgment and pass sentence accordingly.' Section 690.5.

'The plea of guilty can only be made in open court and by the...

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33 practice notes
  • Calhoun v. State, Nos. 129
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • November 21, 1983
    ...187, 192-93, 204-05 (1981); People v. Szabo, 94 Ill.2d 327, 354-55, 68 Ill.Dec. 935, 948, 447 N.E.2d 193, 206 (1983); State v. Martin, 243 Iowa 1323, 1326-28, 55 N.W.2d 258, 260-61 (1952); State v. Spencer, 186 Kan. 298, 302, 349 P.2d 920, 923 (1960); Smith v. Commonwealth, 366 S.W.2d 902, ......
  • State v. Ramirez, No. 2379
    • United States
    • New Mexico Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • October 19, 1976
    ...49 S.E.2d 289 (1948), 16 A.L.R.2d 1317 (1951); Mack v. State, 203 Ind. 355, 180 N.E. 279 (1932), 83 A.L.R. 1349 (1933); State v. Martin, 243 Iowa 1323, 55 N.W.2d 258 (1952), 34 A.L.R.2d 904 (1954); Anderson v. State, Without the confession of December 6, 1974, there was no evidence upon whi......
  • State v. Beam, No. 15453
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • October 24, 1985
    ...State v. Ceja, 115 Ariz. 413, 565 P.2d 1274, 1276 (1977); cert.den., 434 U.S. 975, 98 S.Ct. 533, 54 L.Ed.2d 467 (1977); State v. Martin, 243 Iowa 1323, 55 N.W.2d 258, 260-261 (1952); Tuggle v. State, 73 Okl.Cr. 208, 119 P.2d 857, 859 (1941). We have previously recognized as much in this sta......
  • State v. Reaves, Nos. 59065 and 59066
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • May 25, 1977
    ...own judgment, after consulting with counsel, to enter such plea. We commend this practice to all trial judges. See also State v. Martin, 243 Iowa 1323, 55 N.W.2d 258 (1952); State v. Kellison, 232 Iowa 9, 4 N.W.2d 239 We observed in Sisco that the ABA standards adopted there were "in essenc......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
33 cases
  • Calhoun v. State, Nos. 129
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • November 21, 1983
    ...187, 192-93, 204-05 (1981); People v. Szabo, 94 Ill.2d 327, 354-55, 68 Ill.Dec. 935, 948, 447 N.E.2d 193, 206 (1983); State v. Martin, 243 Iowa 1323, 1326-28, 55 N.W.2d 258, 260-61 (1952); State v. Spencer, 186 Kan. 298, 302, 349 P.2d 920, 923 (1960); Smith v. Commonwealth, 366 S.W.2d 902, ......
  • State v. Ramirez, No. 2379
    • United States
    • New Mexico Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • October 19, 1976
    ...49 S.E.2d 289 (1948), 16 A.L.R.2d 1317 (1951); Mack v. State, 203 Ind. 355, 180 N.E. 279 (1932), 83 A.L.R. 1349 (1933); State v. Martin, 243 Iowa 1323, 55 N.W.2d 258 (1952), 34 A.L.R.2d 904 (1954); Anderson v. State, Without the confession of December 6, 1974, there was no evidence upon whi......
  • State v. Beam, No. 15453
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Idaho
    • October 24, 1985
    ...State v. Ceja, 115 Ariz. 413, 565 P.2d 1274, 1276 (1977); cert.den., 434 U.S. 975, 98 S.Ct. 533, 54 L.Ed.2d 467 (1977); State v. Martin, 243 Iowa 1323, 55 N.W.2d 258, 260-261 (1952); Tuggle v. State, 73 Okl.Cr. 208, 119 P.2d 857, 859 (1941). We have previously recognized as much in this sta......
  • State v. Reaves, Nos. 59065 and 59066
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • May 25, 1977
    ...own judgment, after consulting with counsel, to enter such plea. We commend this practice to all trial judges. See also State v. Martin, 243 Iowa 1323, 55 N.W.2d 258 (1952); State v. Kellison, 232 Iowa 9, 4 N.W.2d 239 We observed in Sisco that the ABA standards adopted there were "in essenc......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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