Law students at Drake University will get to hear arguments in a high profile Supreme Court case at the end of this month. The annual celebration of the Iowa Supreme Court at the Des Moines school will include oral arguments in the appeal of the man convicted of murdering Aplington-Parkersburg football coach Ed Thomas in June of 2009.
Mark Becker was convicted of first-degree murder in the shooting death. He appealed, saying the jury was given flawed instructions on his insanity defense. He is also appealing the amount of restitution he was ordered to pay for the cost of his defense.
The Iowa Court of Appeals upheld Becker’s conviction in September of last year. Drake spokesperson Jarad Bernstein says this is one of the most high-profile cases they’ve had heard on campus and since the arguments are open to the public, they have moved the proceedings to a larger venue.
Bernstein says in most years they hold the arguments at the Drake Legal clinic, but moving it to an auditorium gives them more space. The Supreme Court will also hear arguments in the medical malpractice case involving the death of Erika Anderson in 2009 from cancer. The oral arguments will begin on March 29th at 9 a.m.
Bernstein says the 75th annual Supreme Court Day is part of an ongoing relationship with the state’s highest court. “Our relationship with the state supreme court isn’t just limited to these events, it is something that goes on throughout the year,” Bernstein says. For example, he says there’s a student that is a Supreme Court Scholar who works with the justices throughout the year on a research project. “So it’s not just that the Supreme Court shows up for one week on campus.”
Bernstein says the high profile of this case will add to the experience the law students are getting. “We just want to provide the students with every opportunity to connect and network with justices , with others involved in the state supreme court. It really helps develop them as students as they enter the legal profession,” according to Bernstein.
A spokesman for the Iowa court system says the Becker case fell on the calendar at the time the arguments were scheduled for Drake, and was not specifically chosen for the event.