Supreme Court: No New Trial for Man Who Killed Parkersburg Football Coach

By Trish Mehaffey, Reporter

DES MOINES, Iowa - The Iowa Supreme Court upheld the murder conviction of a Parkersburg man who shot and killed legendary Aplington/Parkersburg High School football coach Ed Thomas.

Mark Becker, 25, who argued insanity as his defense, shot Thomas several times June 24, 2009 while the coach was in the weight room of the temporary high school. About 20 students were in the room and some testified during the three week trial in Butler County District Court.

Becker was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced in April 2010 to life in prison.

Becker in his appeal argued the jury wasn't properly instructed on the insanity defense and the jury should have been told the consequences of a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity. The defense asked for this instruction and claimed this was a violation of due process of the Iowa Constitution because the district court declined to include it.

The justices ruled under the specific facts and circumstances of this case, fundamental fairness didn't require the district court to instruct the jury what would happen to Becker if they found him not guilty by reason of insanity. The instructions read to the jury fairly and accurately advised the jury of the legal standard it was to apply to the insanity defense.

Justice Daryl Hecht dissented arguing the failure to give the consequences instruction under the circumstances of this case deprived Becker of due process because it "nullified his insanity defense and thus deprived him of a fair trial."

The peculiar circumstances of this case demanded a consequence instruction to assure Becker a fair trial, Hecht stated. The jury had reached an impasse on the insanity defense by the third day of its deliberations according to the record. One of the jury's questions was what would happen to Becker if he would be found insane. This request clearly showed some jurors were unwilling to decide a verdict of insanity without additional information.
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