State v. Teale

Decision Date03 April 1912
Citation135 N.W. 408,154 Iowa 677
CourtIowa Supreme Court

Appeal from Decatur District Court.--HON. THOMAS L. MAXWELL, Judge.

THE defendant was convicted of murder in the second degree, and appeals.


C. W Hoffman and Marion Woodard, for appellant.

George Cosson, Attorney-General and John Fletcher, Assistant Attorney-General, for the State.



The defendant, Clarence Teale, was jointly indicted with Thomas Young and others for the murder of Bertha Zornes in December 1910. A separate trial was granted him, and as we understand the record, he was the first one of the several defendants tried.

The facts necessary to an understanding of the questions to be determined are substantially and briefly as follows: The murdered woman, with her husband, Levi Zornes, and their children, lived on a farm adjoining the farm upon which this defendant lived and Levi Zornes rented of this defendant two or three acres of his land. In the evening of the 7th day of December the deceased with her husband and three sons, Henry, eighteen years of age, Willie, thirteen years old, and Elzie, twelve years old, were at the family home on the farm. A daughter, eleven years of age, was at the time away from home. The Zornes had for supper that evening Thomas and Henry Phillips, their nephews, and both grown men, and Roy Young, a man twenty-nine years old, who is a brother of Thomas and Ed Young, who, with one Hugh Teale, were jointly indicted with this defendant, Clarence Teale, for this murder. The Zornes family and their supper guests remained at the house during the evening, and about 9 o'clock or a little thereafter this defendant, Clarence Teale, his brother, Hugh Teale, a man twenty-two years old, and Thomas and Ed Young, adults, called at the Zornes home and were admitted to the house, and they with the other guests and the family, except Mrs. Zornes, were in the same room; it being a southeast room of the house with an outside door opening therefrom on the east, and a door in the southwest corner thereof opening into the southwest room of the house, which room had an outside door opening to the south. A room directly north of the living room, where these people were, was occupied as a bedroom, and, when this defendant and his friends arrived at the house, Mrs. Zornes was lying on one of the beds therein, but the door between the two rooms was open. The door between the two south rooms was in the southwest corner of the east room, and it was hung so that it swung to the east and south. At the time in question, a shotgun belonging to one of the Zornes boys stood behind this door, which was then open. Shortly after the Teales and Thomas and Ed Young entered the house, a controversy arose between this defendant and Mrs. Zornes as to who was the author of a report current in the neighborhood that a young woman had been cooking for the defendant; he accusing Mrs. Zornes of being its author, and she denying it. Intemperate language was applied to each other, which finally resulted in a request from both Mr. and Mrs. Zornes that the defendant and his party leave the house. Up to this point there is no substantial difference between the witnesses as to what took place in the house, but beyond this there is a marked conflict in the testimony. The witnesses for the state say that, when Mr. Zornes requested them to leave, Thomas Young said that Zornes could not put him out, and immediately struck Zornes on the head with a heavy bicycle pump, and knocked him down; that Young knocked Zornes down in the same way a second time, and then threw the pump at Mrs. Zornes, striking her in the face, and knocking her down. On the other hand, defendant's witnesses claim that Mrs. Zornes told her husband to get the shotgun and shoot the offending persons, and that while he was attempting to do so Thomas Young knocked Zornes down with the bicycle pump, that Mrs. Zornes then assumed a threatening attitude toward Thomas Young, and that he then knocked her down with the pump. But the question as to who was the physical aggressor in the house is not of controlling importance in this case. For present purposes it is enough to say that, after being knocked down twice, Mr. Zornes, together with Henry Zornes and the Phillips men, were driven from the house through the southwest room, and that the conflict was renewed on the outside with Zornes and his son, Henry. Mrs. Zornes and the two younger boys remained in the house until the others had gone outside, whereupon she, with these two boys, left the house by the east door, and started in a northwesterly direction therefrom. She was overtaken by the defendant, Clarence Teale, and by him struck on the side of the head with a club, and killed.

A trial juror called into the box stated in substance, in answer to the defendant's questions, that he had formed an opinion as to the guilt or innocence of the defendant, based upon what had been told him about the matter, that it might be hard to lay the opinion aside, and that it might, to some extent, influence his verdict. A challenge was then interposed. The juror then stated in answer to questions by the judge that he thought that he could lay aside the opinion he already had and try the case on the evidence, and render a verdict on that alone, whereupon the defendant's challenge was overruled, and the ruling is assigned as error. In the examination of jurors as to their qualifications to try a case, the sole question to be determined by the trial court is whether they can fairly and impartially hear the evidence, and render a verdict thereon which shall be entirely free from the aid or influence of previous knowledge or preconceived opinions. And in the very nature of the situation the trial court must be given discretion in such matters which will not be interfered with, unless an abuse of discretion be shown. State v. Hassan, 149 Iowa 518, 128 N.W. 960; State v. Bone, 114 Iowa 537, 87 N.W. 507; State v. Brown, 130 Iowa 57, 106 N.W. 379.

A person is qualified to act as a juror when it is apparent from his entire examination that, notwithstanding his present knowledge of the facts or any opinion which he may have formed therefrom, he can try the case fairly and impartially on the evidence alone....

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