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State v. Bigelow

Supreme Court of Nebraska

July 19, 2019

State of Nebraska, appellant,
Shannon D. Bigelow, appellee.

         1. Jury Instructions: Appeal and Error. Whether jury instructions are correct is a question of law, which an appellate court resolves independently of the lower court's decision.

         2. Jury Instructions: Proof: Appeal and Error. To establish reversible error from a court's refusal to give a requested instruction, an appellant has the burden to show that (1) the tendered instruction is a correct statement of the law, (2) the tendered instruction is warranted by the evidence, and (3) the appellant was prejudiced by the court's refusal to give the tendered instruction.

         3. Insanity: Proof. The insanity defense requires proof that (1) the defendant had a mental disease or defect at the time of the crime and (2) the defendant did not know or understand the nature and consequences of his or her actions or that he or she did not know the difference between right and wrong.

         4. Jury Instructions. Jury instructions are not prejudicial if, when taken as a whole, they correctly state the law, are not misleading, and adequately cover the issues supported by the pleadings and the evidence.

          Petition for further review from the Court of Appeals. Riedmann, Bishop, and Welch, Judges, on appeal thereto from the District Court for Lancaster County, Kevin R. McManaman, Judge. Judgment of Court of Appeals affirmed.

          Mark E. Rappl for appellant.

          Douglas J. Peterson, Attorney General, Melissa R. Vincent, and Derek T. Bral, Senior Certified Law Student, for appellee.

         [303 Neb. 730] Heavican, C.J., Miller-Lerman, Cassel, Stacy, Funke, Papik, and Freudenberg, JJ.

          Miller-Lerman, J.


         After ingesting methamphetamine, Shannon D. Bigelow was in a hospital emergency room, where hospital personnel administered medications which, instead of relaxing him caused him to become agitated, whereupon he assaulted an officer. We granted Bigelow's petition for further review of the decision of the Nebraska Court of Appeals which affirmed his conviction in the district court for Lancaster County for third degree assault on an officer. On further review, Bigelow raises issues regarding jury instructions refused and given on the defenses of insanity and intoxication.

         We agree with the Court of Appeals that the district court did not err when it refused Bigelow's proposed insanity defense instruction and instead gave an instruction regarding both voluntary and involuntary intoxication. We affirm.


         The charge against Bigelow arose from an incident which occurred in July 2016 when he was admitted to a hospital after he ingested methamphetamine and exhibited bizarre behavior. Bigelow became agitated and restless at the hospital, so nurses injected him with three medications-Haldol, Ativan, and Benadryl-which were intended to relax him. However, Bigelow became more agitated, left his room, and began pacing around the emergency room. After personnel called for security, an off-duty police officer working for hospital security arrived and told Bigelow that he needed to leave the emergency room. Bigelow punched the officer in the face, "took him to the ground," and punched the officer several more times while reaching for the officer's gun. He then fled the emergency room, pursued by the security officer.

         A sheriff's deputy responding to an emergency dispatch saw Bigelow running out the doors of the emergency room [303 Neb. 731] followed by the security officer. The deputy pointed his Taser at Bigelow and told him to stop and get on the ground. Bigelow immediately stopped running and complied with the deputy's command to get on the ground. Bigelow also immediately complied with subsequent orders to roll over and put his hands behind his back. The deputy testified at trial that Bigelow was "completely compliant," that he did not resist and was not aggressive but instead was "[t]he opposite," and that he was compliant with other police officers who arrived and helped complete the capture.

         Bigelow was arrested, and the State charged him with third degree assault on an officer in violation of Neb. Rev. Stat. § 28-931 (Reissue 2016). The State later amended the information to allege that Bigelow was a habitual criminal.

         Prior to trial, Bigelow filed a notice of intent to rely on an insanity defense. After a competency evaluation, the court determined that Bigelow was competent to stand trial.

         In his defense at trial, Bigelow called Dr. Klaus Hartmann as a witness. Hartmann had conducted an evaluation in January 2017 to determine whether Bigelow was insane at the time of the incident in July 2016. Although Hartmann noted that at times prior to the incident, Bigelow had been diagnosed with various mental disorders, including schizophrenia, the general thrust of Hartmann's testimony was that he attributed Bigelow's behavior in the emergency room to the effects of the three drugs given to him at the hospital. Hartmann also testified that the methamphetamine Bigelow had ingested prior to being admitted to the hospital would have made him "more energized," but Hartmann disagreed with an evaluation by another doctor who concluded that the assault was "precipitated by the voluntary use of amphetamine." When asked to opine on whether Bigelow knew what he was doing when the assault took place, Hartmann opined that "he was sufficiently impaired by the effects of these medicines that he did not know what he was doing." When asked whether the effect of the three drugs could be described as "some sort of either [303 Neb. 732] a mental disease or defect or disorder," Hartmann declined to use one of those terms and instead described the effect as "a temporary drug-induced impairment." Hartmann had also described the effect of the three drugs as being "almost like [Bigelow] had been drinking alcohol excessively and he was not in a position to control his actions and be in full possession of his faculties."

         During his cross-examination by the State, Hartmann testified that it was "the three drugs [Bigelow] was given at the hospital" and "[n]ot the methamphetamine" that had "caused his problems" at the time of the assault. At the end of the cross-examination, the State specifically asked Hartmann, "And your opinion is not that he was suffering from the mental disease to the extent that he did not know the difference between right and wrong with respect to what he was doing, it was the impairment due to the three drugs, correct?" Hartman replied, "Yes."

         After Bigelow rested his case, the State moved the court for an order that Bigelow would not be entitled to submit an insanity defense to the jury. The State noted Hartman's testimony that it was not mental disease that caused Bigelow's behavior and that instead, he was impaired due to the drugs he had been given. Bigelow argued in response that "the mental disorder was essentially an involuntary intoxication . . . caused by the three drugs." The court found that Bigelow's evidence did not present a prima facie case for the insanity defense and granted the State's motion. In connection with the ruling, the court commented that it thought Bigelow's evidence showed both voluntary and involuntary intoxication but not the mental disease, defect, or disorder necessary for an insanity ...

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