SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) — The Iowa Court of Appeals unanimously agreed to uphold the conviction of a man who strangled a woman and then set the hotel room she was in on fire.
Prosecutors accused Jordan Henry of strangling Elizabeth Bockholt and setting their hotel room on fire in January 2019. In November 2020, Henry was found guilty by a judge of second-degree murder and first-degree arson following a bench trial after he waived his right to a jury trial.
Henry had used the defenses of intoxication and insanity due to being high on methamphetamine. He was sentenced to 75 years in prison and appealed his case to the Iowa Court of Appeals.
One of the key arguments in the appeal was that Henry was not able to raise a proper defense, which is guaranteed by the Iowa Constitution. He argued that he should have been able to use the defense of a meth-induced psychosis as a defense that would have allowed him to be found not guilty.
In Iowa, intoxication and insanity are separate defenses with an insanity defense allowing a defendant to be found not guilty by reason of insanity and an intoxication defense allowing the defendant to be found guilty of lesser charges. The appeals court found that both of these defenses were considered by the judge in a way that is consistent with Iowa Law.
“A temporary mental condition caused by voluntary intoxication from alcohol or drugs does not constitute a complete insanity defense,” the appeals court said in their opinion.
The opinion written by the trial court judge pointed out problems in Henry’s insanity defense. The judge pointed out that Henry setting fire near Bockholt’s body as evidence that he was attempting to conceal the crime and, as such, understood that what he was doing was wrong. In Iowa, an insanity defense is established by proving a defendant did not know the criminal act is wrong or by showing the defendant did not understand the nature and quality of the act.
The final point Henry’s defense argued was that the state did not prove malice aforethought. In Iowa, Malice Aforethought is the intent to do harm to the victim. As this is a state-of-mind element that the state must prove usually only circumstantial evidence, which does not prove but does suggest something, is used.
Owing to the amount of time required to kill a victim through strangulation, and the presence of two strangulation marks, the appeals court felt that Henry had enough time to have established an actual intent to hurt Bockholt.
“It is reasonable to conclude that death and not just injury would be the natural consequence of physically choking or strangling Bockholt,” the trial judge wrote in their opinion.
Even though Henry’s case was upheld by Iowa Appeals Court, he will be able to ask the Iowa Supreme Court to consider his case, though it is unclear if he will do so.