The Iowa Supreme Court today heard the appeal of Warren County farmer who shot and killed a rival in a dispute over a piece of land. Rodney Heemstra was found guilty of first-degree murder for killing Tom Lyon on January 13th of 2003. Lawyer Paul Rosenberg says Heemstra’s defense was hampered because the district court refused to let them let them review Lyon’s medical records to see if Lyon had violent tendencies.
Rosenberg says the information sought from the medical records was relevant to the Heemstra’s defense. He say a long line of Iowa cases holds that the disposition and character of the accused for being violent, temperamental or ballistic was definitely relevant. Lyon’s medical records were opened for a civil trial, and Rosenberg said that was another reason to open them for the criminal case.
He says if the privileged is waived for a wrongful death action, then he says the “right of privacy” has been breeched already and there’s no justification for keeping the records private. Darrell Mullins represented the state in the case and says the records should still remain closed in the criminal case.
He says the privacy interests are still in play even though Lyon is dead. He says it’s not much different than when someone sees an attorney to get a will, as he says the attorney client privilege remains after the person dies.
Mullins says the District Judge did look at the records before ruling to keep them closed. Mullins suggested that the High Court could also review the records.
He says if the justices do that, then they should consider the records along with the rest of the information in the trial. Mullins says the rest of the trial proved there was the malice needed to convict Heemstra of the charge. It’s not known when the High Court might issue a ruling on the case.