Court upholds Iowa man’s conviction for killing his grandmother with a bayonet
The Iowa Court of Appeals has upheld the first-degree murder conviction of a Muscatine man who killed his grandmother with a bayonet. (Creative Commons photo via Pxhere.com)
The Iowa Court of Appeals has upheld the first-degree murder conviction of a Muscatine man who killed his grandmother with a bayonet.
According to police and prosecutors, 19-year-old Darian Lensgraf entered the Muscatine home of his grandmother, Diana Lensgraf, early on the morning of Dec. 12, 2018, her 66th birthday. Darian stabbed his grandmother multiple times in the chest and throat with a bayonet, killing her, police said.
At his trial on charges of first-degree murder, Lensgraf raised an insanity defense, with his attorney and the state presenting conflicting expert testimony as to whether he had the mental capacity to commit the murder with “malice aforethought,” an essential element of a first-degree murder charge in Iowa.
As the judge’s instructions to the jury explained, malice aforethought means there is a “a fixed purpose or design to do some physical harm to another which exists before the act is committed.”
Lensgraf, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, was convicted and subsequently filed an appeal, claiming there was insufficient evidence to support the conviction. He argued there was “overwhelming evidence” presented at trial to rebut any claim of malice aforethought due to his well-documented mental illness.
Noting the conflicting expert testimony that was presented, the Iowa Court of Appeals stated that the question it had to decide was not whether the trial evidence might support a different verdict, but whether there was sufficient evidence to support the jury’s actual verdict.
“We think there was,” the court ruled in affirming the conviction. “As Lensgraf concedes, and the jury instructions provided, malice aforethought may be inferred from a defendant’s use of a dangerous weapon. Here the evidence showed Lensgraf used a dangerous weapon, a bayonet, against his grandmother … Moreover, this is not a case in which the victim was only stabbed once, perhaps as an accident. Rather, the evidence showed Lensgraf inflicted multiple stab wounds. This also supports a finding of malice aforethought.”
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