The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

February 10, 2014

Deadlocked juries don't produce clear advantage in retrials

OTTUMWA — Wapello County has always had a reputation as a tough place to get a conviction. Two mistrials in high-profile murder cases over the past 12 months have reinforced the reputation.

Last spring, Seth Techel’s first trial ended in a hung jury. Earlier this year, Robert Pilcher’s trial ended the same way. In both cases, jurors failed to reach a decision either way, setting the cases up for retrial.

It raises a question: Does a high-profile mistrial alter the prosecution’s approach when faced with a new case in that county?

The Iowa Attorney General’s office declined through a spokesman to comment for this article, citing their plans to retry both cases.

Professor Emily Hughes, a member of the faculty at the University of Iowa’s law school, said there are circumstances where a county’s reputation probably does make a difference. If a charge can be tried in any of several counties, it’s reasonable to think prosecutors might opt to bring charges in a county where convictions are common rather than one in which they have been hard to come by.

But most cases don’t work that way. The vast majority of violent crimes take place in a single location, and that’s where the case must be filed. Does the county’s reputation come into the prosecution’s strategy? That’s unclear.

Hughes said she thinks it, “would certainly enter into their minds,” but that’s different than fundamentally changing their strategy. Knowing juries might be harder to convince and changing the approach in future cases are two different things.

Many felonies involve what the courts call “lesser included offenses.” In some cases juries are allowed to convict on one of those lesser offenses (say, second-degree murder rather than first-degree murder) if they are convinced the defendant committed a crime but aren’t fully persuaded the circumstances match the more serious charge.

Text Only
Local News
  • 0422 Eagle photo On a wing and a prayer

    LAKE RED ROCK — Protective gloves aren’t uncommon when dealing with a sick patient, though they’re not usually heavy, leather welder’s gloves. But, then, the patient usually doesn’t have toenails designed to puncture flesh. Or a sharp beak. Diane Mas

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0420 OTT Gothic house easter web-color photo American Gothic House celebrates Easter weekend Kids participate in an egg roll competition Saturday on the American Gothic House lawn in Eldon. Families were invited to come and participate in Easter-themed events and make crafts. They also had the opportunity to dress up and pose in front of the

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0422 OTT Egg hunt color photo -L On a roll this Easter ELDON — If you pulled up to the American Gothic House Center Saturday afternoon at moments before 1 p.m., you probably had to park halfway down the road. Cars filled the parking lot and spilled out onto the street as parents and kids from all over so

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ups and downs OTTUMWA — Iowa's governor and his lieutenant seemed thrilled with part of the employment news Friday. Gov. Terry Branstad's Twitter page said: "BREAKING: Iowa's employment reaches all-time high of 1,615,200." Iowa Workforce Development confirms the n

    April 18, 2014

  • Those who came before OTTUMWA — There is so much information on researching genealogy, beginners may not know where to start. But experts and knowledgeable amateurs will offer help as they gather for a free Family History Fair to share which websites are worthwhile and wh

    April 18, 2014

  • 0419 OTT Tree planting color photo -T -M -L Young Ottumwans show their green thumbs OTTUMWA — Several of Ottumwa’s cemeteries and parks were recipients of new trees this week as Ottumwa High School students and Eagle Scouts dedicated their time to planting dozens of trees around the city. Students from the OHS JROTC class were at Ot

    April 18, 2014 4 Photos

  • 0419 OTT Prayer Walk 2 bw photo -L -M -T On a journey OTTUMWA — The seven blocks through the center of Ottumwa took more than an hour and a half to walk as 25 people prayed and read Scripture to reflect on the events of Good Friday. Led by the Ottumwa Area Fellowship of Pastors, the walk began at First

    April 18, 2014 3 Photos

  • 0419 OTT drought map -L -T -M Drought weakens grip on Iowa OTTUMWA — Last weekend saw the first significant rains in quite some time for the Ottumwa area. How long? The last day with at least a half-inch of rain was back on Nov. 20. It was a welcome rain, arriving after the ground had thawed. That allowed at

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Eugene Clark STOCKPORT — Eugene Morris Clark, 90, of Stockport, died at 5:30 p.m. April 17, 2014, at Good Samaritan Health and Rehabilitation Center, Ottumwa. Graveside services will be at 11 a.m. Monday in Spencer Cemetery northeast of Stockport; Pastor Richard

    April 18, 2014

  • Civil War Round Table visited by baseball historian OTTUMWA — The Civil War Round Table was treated to a special guest Thursday night and a presentation about how baseball during the Civil War era helped shape Iowa as we know it. John Liepa, former history and political science professor at Des Moines

    April 18, 2014

Photo reprints


Obituaries

Facebook
E-edition