Becker Wants a New Trial

PARKERSBURG (AP) - The man convicted of killing an Iowa high school football coach has asked for a new trial, saying the judge misdirected the jury by not including instructions requested by his defense attorney.

Mark D. Becker, 24, is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday to a mandatory life in prison for killing Aplington-Parkersburg coach Ed Thomas on June 24, 2009. A jury convicted Becker on March 2 of first-degree murder, rejecting the claim that he was legally insane at the time he shot Thomas.

Judge Stephen Carroll said Tuesday that he would rule on the motion for a new trial Wednesday, then proceed to sentencing if he rejects the request. The hearing will take place at the Butler County Courthouse in Alison.

Becker's attorney, Susan Flander of Mason City, wrote in a motion for a new trial filed Thursday that Carroll erred when he elected not to read certain instructions to the jury. Flander wrote that the guilty verdict was "contrary to the law" because Becker proved he had been insane at the time of the shooting.

Flander and Iowa Attorney General's Office spokesman Bob Brammer did not immediately return telephone messages Tuesday morning.

During the trial, prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed that Becker shot Thomas and also that Becker suffers from a mental illness. Four mental health experts testified that Becker suffers from paranoid schizophrenia.

But the jury decided that Becker knew right from wrong when he shot and killed Thomas in the school's makeshift weight.

The jury instructions Flander requested included specifics about the evidence necessary to determine whether Becker was insane.

Flander also wanted an instruction read that said, "Insanity need not exist for any specific length of time before or after the commission of the act."

One of the instructions Flander requested, that the jury has "nothing to do with punishment," came up during the third day of jury deliberations, when jurors sent a note to Carroll asking, "What would happen to Mark Becker if we find him insane?"

Carroll responded in a note that jurors "need not concern yourself with the potential consequences of a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity."

Complete Coverage of the Mark Becker Trial
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