WATERLOO --- The Iowa Court of Appeals has overturned the burglary and harassment conviction of a Waterloo man who waived his right to an attorney before trial.
A psychologist found Gary Russell Burke suffered from bipolar disorder and a personality disorder with obsessive compulsive and schizoid and paranoid features but was otherwise competent to stand trial.
Days before trial, Burke quit cooperating with his retained attorney and then turned down a public defender in favor of representing himself. A plea bargain broke down when Burke argued with the prosecutor, and the matter proceeded to trial.
During jury selection, Burke acted bizarre, prompting a prospective juror to ask "Is this a mental health court or something?" One of Burke's former attorneys asked the court to put the trial on hold so he could have an independent mental health evaluation, but the judge declined and Burke was eventually found guilty.
In a ruling filed Thursday, the Iowa Court of Appeals ruled the trial judge didn't make an adequate inquiry into Burke's competence to waive legal counsel and returned it for a retrial.
Authorities said Burke broke into an apartment below his in September 2009 and told the occupants he was going to kill them because they were building bombs.
The Court of Appeals also upheld the willful injury conviction of Robert Lewis Hanes, who was accused of stabbing a man in the head in April 2007 because the man had taken $2.25 from him.
Hanes, who claimed self-defense, argued he should have been given access to the victim's mental health records to prepare for trial. The Court of Appeals ruled Hanes didn't make a sufficient showing that the records were relevant to the case.