The Iowa Court of Appeals has ruled that post-partum depression was not a valid defense in the case of a Des Moines woman convicted of killing her infant son. Heidi Anfinson was convicted of second-degree murder in the 1998 death of her 15-day old son Jacob. Anfinson claimed the boy accidentally drowned in the bathtub, but after questioning by police, Anfinson led police to the boy’s body in Saylorville Lake.
Anfinson was charged with first-degree murder, but following a mistrial, was convicted of second-degree murder in her second trial in 2000. Anfinson appealed her conviction saying her lawyer was ineffective because he failed to pursue an insanity defense based on post-partum depression, failed to properly explain a child endangerment plea bargain agreement, and failed to seek to suppress the written statement Anfinson gave to police.
The Iowa Court of Appeals ruled there is no authority in Iowa law for using post-partum depression as a basis for an insanity defense. The court also said if the post-partum defense could be used, it would apply to a first-degree murder conviction. Since Anfinson was found guilty of second-degree murder, the court says the insanity defense does not apply, so there was no negligence on the part of her lawyer.
The court also ruled that Anfinson was not in custody when she gave the written statement to police, and the statements she gave at the time would not have impacted the outcome of the trial. As for Anfinson’s claim the plea bargain was improperly explained, the court said that claim was based on too much speculation to be decided on its merits.