State v. Thomas, No. 53114

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtSTUART
Citation162 N.W.2d 724
PartiesSTATE of Iowa, Appellee, v. Harlan Price THOMAS, Appellant.
Decision Date12 November 1968
Docket NumberNo. 53114

Page 724

162 N.W.2d 724
STATE of Iowa, Appellee,
v.
Harlan Price THOMAS, Appellant.
No. 53114.
Supreme Court of Iowa.
Nov. 12, 1968.

Page 725

John W. Gailey, Fort Dodge, for appellant.

Richard Turner, Atty. Gen., James C. Sell, Asst. Atty. Gen., David A. Opheim, County Atty., and Terry W. Guinan, Asst. County Atty., for appellee.

STUART, Justice.

Defendant was indicted for murder by the Webster County Grand Jury. He was tried and the jury returned a verdict of guilty of manslaughter. Defendant appeals contending trial court erred (1) by allowing expert testimony based on hearsay, (2) by failing to give defendant's requested instruction, and (3) by failing to grant a new trial when prosecutor failed to disclose evidence favorable to defendant upon request.

On Saturday, October 28, 1967, around midnight, defendant Harlan Price Thomas, went to the home of decedent, Fred Newton Williams, in Fort Dodge. Apparently decedent was running a 'boot-leg joint'. There was a juke box in the house and people gathered there. A dispute arose between deceased and defendant over the change due defendant from purchases of beer. Defendant grabbed Williams as he turned to leave the room, saying he would not allow Williams to go and get something to hit him with and continued demanding his change. Thomas began hitting Williams about the head with his fists and hands telling him he was going to beat him until he got his money. Thomas pulled decedent outside where the beating continued until decedent cut Thomas on the head with a knife. Defendant Thomas left the scene and Williams returned to the house where he cleaned up, played cards and went to bed. Defendant was 36 years old and decedent was 72 years old at the time.

Sunday afternoon Williams became ill. On Monday he went into convulsions. He was taken to the hospital in Fort Dodge where he was examined by Dr. Tyler who referred him to the Veteran's Hospital in Des Moines. At the Veteran's Hospital decedent's condition worsened, a craniotomy was performed on Wednesday November 1, and the patient died November 5.

I. Defendant claims trial court erred in overruling defendant's motion to strike Dr. Song's opinion as to the cause of decedent's death contending the opinion was based on hearsay. Dr. Joseph Song, a certified pathologist, performed an autopsy on decedent on November 5, 1967. The record does not support the claim Dr. Song's opinion as to the cause of death was based on hearsay. On direct examination he indicated several times his opinion was based upon observations made at the time of the autopsy. At one point he testified:

'Q. Do you have sufficient evidence then, based upon your autopsy report (which was admitted into evidence without objection) and your objective findings, to have reached an opinion as to the cause of death of this man? A. The cause of death in my opinion, based on autopsy, is an extensive subdura hematoma with hemorrhagic infarction of the brain substance. That we believe is the cause of it.

'Q. And the subdura hematoma, or subdural hematoma, found, would be one in your opinion inflicted by trauma? A. Yes, it has to be associated with trauma.

Page 726

'Q. There is just no other answer? A. No other answer.'

The basis of the alleged error is found in the cross examination of Dr. Song. He was asked:

'Q. Your prosecuting, or your autopsy rather, was predicated in part, at least, upon the history obtained from Dr. Luka? A. No, sir, autopsy procedure has nothing to do with the history given by Dr. Luka.

'Q. I didn't mean that, sir. I meant that the trauma of which you speak, the origin of the trauma of which you speak, must necessarily be based upon the history you obtained from Dr. Luka? A. Partly, yes.'

He also testified it was partly from his observations and partly from conversations with Dr. Henry Decker who performed the craniotomy.

Nowhere did Dr. Song identify the trauma which caused the subdure hematoma. We do not interpret the above cross examination as indicating his autopsy report or the conclusion reached therein was based on anything but his examination. In fact, he definitely denies that the history had anything to do with his autopsy report.

In any event the admission of Dr. Song's opinion that death was caused by trauma was without prejudice as it was merely cumulative. The autopsy report and the certificate of death listed trauma as the cause of death and were admitted into evidence without objection. We find no error in the admission of Dr. Song's testimony as to cause of death.

II. One medical history taken by an attending physician indicated decedent had hit his head in a fall a week before the fight. A second history placed the fall a day before the fight. Defendant claims it was therefore purely conjectural for the jury to contemplate the actual cause of death and that a verdict should have been directed in favor of defendant. We do not agree. There is evidence defendant gave decedent a severe beating about the head either late Saturday night or early Sunday morning. There is evidence deceased was completely normal as late as 9:00 p.m. on the 28th with no marks or injuries of any kind. He was bruised and his head was swollen on the right side after the fight. Dr. Song testified the blood clots found under the dura were not more than seven days old. There was sufficient evidence to make a jury question as to the cause of death.

III. On direct examination by the county attorney Edna Howard, decedent's daughter, testified she was with her father until about 4:00 p.m. on Saturday preceding the fight. When recalled later before the State rested its case she corrected her previous testimony saying she was previously mistaken and that she had been with her father until about 9:00 p.m.

Dr. Tyler, a witness for the State, testified he took a history of decedent from his daughter in which she stated deceased had had an injury about a week or so prior to hospitalization and had been in a fight a day or two before coming to the hospital. He was unable to identify Mrs. Howard, but Mrs. Howard conceded she had given a history to the doctor. When recalled after Dr. Tyler had been on the witness stand, she testified she told the doctor her father fell 'a couple of months ago'. On recross examination she testified:

'Q. Are you telling us Dr. Tyler was mistaken about when this occurred? A. I am telling you Dr. Tyler is mistaken.'

On the basis of the variance disclosed by these bits of evidence, defendant requested the following instruction on impeachment, which the trial court refused.

'1. Evidence has been offered purporting to show that witnesses have made previous statements...

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9 practice notes
  • Dickinson v. Mailliard, 53776
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 10 March 1970
    ...the hospital. State v. Parker, Iowa, 151 N.W.2d 505, 512, 513; State v. Williams, Iowa, 155 N.W.2d 526, 530, and State v. Thomas, Iowa, 162 N.W.2d 724, 728. See also Quint-Cities Petroleum Company v. Maas, 259 Iowa 122, 127, 143 N.W.2d 345, 348, and Annotations at 5 A.L.R.2d X. For the reas......
  • State v. Langlet, No. 62256
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 19 September 1979
    ...requested instruction denied); Accord, Crosser v. Iowa Department of Public Safety,240 N.W.2d 682, 685 (Iowa 1976); State v. Thomas, 162 N.W.2d 724, 728 (Iowa 1968); State v. Parker, 261 Iowa 88, 101, 151 N.W.2d 505, 513 (1967); McCormick, Supra, at 657. The inference from failure to call a......
  • State v. Hill, 58728
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 30 June 1976
    ...statements. (Authorities).' See Grocers Wholesale Coop., Inc. v. Nussberger Truck Co., 192 N.W.2d 753, 755 (Iowa 1971); State v. Thomas, 162 N.W.2d 724, 727 (Iowa 1968); Basch v. Iowa Power & Light Co., 250 Iowa 976, 979--980, 95 N.W.2d 714, 716 (1959); 4 Jones on Evidence (Sixth Ed. 1972) ......
  • People v. Elkins, Docket No. 11876
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan (US)
    • 29 March 1972
    ...See also Blackwell v. State, 264 Ala. 553, 88 So.2d 347 (1956); State v. Hephner, 161 N.W.2d 714, 720 (Iowa, 1968); State v. Thomas, 162 N.W.2d 724, 727 (Iowa, In the instant case, the defendant's prior inconsistent statements were admissible as his admissions. It is not necessary to lay a ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
9 cases
  • Dickinson v. Mailliard, 53776
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 10 March 1970
    ...the hospital. State v. Parker, Iowa, 151 N.W.2d 505, 512, 513; State v. Williams, Iowa, 155 N.W.2d 526, 530, and State v. Thomas, Iowa, 162 N.W.2d 724, 728. See also Quint-Cities Petroleum Company v. Maas, 259 Iowa 122, 127, 143 N.W.2d 345, 348, and Annotations at 5 A.L.R.2d X. For the reas......
  • State v. Langlet, 62256
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 19 September 1979
    ...requested instruction denied); Accord, Crosser v. Iowa Department of Public Safety,240 N.W.2d 682, 685 (Iowa 1976); State v. Thomas, 162 N.W.2d 724, 728 (Iowa 1968); State v. Parker, 261 Iowa 88, 101, 151 N.W.2d 505, 513 (1967); McCormick, Supra, at 657. The inference from failure to call a......
  • State v. Hill, 58728
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 30 June 1976
    ...statements. (Authorities).' See Grocers Wholesale Coop., Inc. v. Nussberger Truck Co., 192 N.W.2d 753, 755 (Iowa 1971); State v. Thomas, 162 N.W.2d 724, 727 (Iowa 1968); Basch v. Iowa Power & Light Co., 250 Iowa 976, 979--980, 95 N.W.2d 714, 716 (1959); 4 Jones on Evidence (Sixth Ed. 1972) ......
  • People v. Elkins, Docket No. 11876
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan (US)
    • 29 March 1972
    ...See also Blackwell v. State, 264 Ala. 553, 88 So.2d 347 (1956); State v. Hephner, 161 N.W.2d 714, 720 (Iowa, 1968); State v. Thomas, 162 N.W.2d 724, 727 (Iowa, In the instant case, the defendant's prior inconsistent statements were admissible as his admissions. It is not necessary to lay a ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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