Friday, October 17, 2008

Fresh Law

The Iowa Supreme Court has new decisions up, and one of them - HEIDI ANN ANFINSON vs. STATE OF IOWA (.pdf) is going to make news. This is the case a while back in which a woman claimed her child accidentally drowned in the bathtub, and she freaked when she saw the dead body and went and submerged it in Saylorville lake. The jury didn't buy it and convicted her of second-degree murder.

Well, turns out her trial lawyer was an idiot ineffective, under the facts as presented in the opinion. Read it for yourself, but the jist is that at the time of the death, she was suffering from post-partum depression badly enough that she was self-mutilating and acting bizarrely. She had a known history of post-partum depression. But trial counsel not only didn't bring this up at trial, he went out of his way to say that post-partum depression had nothing to do with the case in the press. He claimed this was because it conflicted with his theory of the case, which was pure accidental death. But, as the Supreme Court pointed out:
If the defense was to have any chance of success, it had to supply for the fact finder a plausible explanation of (1) why Anfinson was so distracted and inattentive on September 20, 1998 that she left her two-week-old baby unattended in bath water; (2) why she behaved irrationally in subsequently taking Jacob’s body to the lake, burying it under rocks, returning to her home, and going to sleep; and (3) why her affect was flat and emotionless later that same day when she was questioned by investigators about the child’s disappearance. There was ample evidence of Anfinson’s postpartum depression available to trial counsel if he had chosen to undertake the most rudimentary inquiry. He chose instead to rebuff all attempts made by Anfinson’s family members and her grief counselor to educate him. He closed not only his ears, but also his eyes as he neglected to obtain medical records evidencing Anfinson’s mental state.

The defense of “accidents happen” chosen and presented by trial counsel was highly unlikely to result in an acquittal if the three most troublesome aspects of Anfinson’s conduct suggesting criminal culpability were left unexplained.
Yeah, I think I'd want some explanation if I were a jury member. Well, she's going to get her second bite at the apple, the conviction has been reversed and remanded for a new trial.

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