The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

March 5, 2014

Social media cited in venue change filing

OTTUMWA — Prosecutors and defense attorneys sparred over media in court filings to determine whether Robert Pilcher’s retrial will be in Ottumwa.

Pilcher is accused of first-degree murder in the 1974 death of Mary Jayne Jones. A Wapello County jury was unable to reach a verdict in Pilcher’s first trial. Prosecutors have asked for a change of venue, a request the defense opposes.

While media coverage is often cited as a reason for a change of venue, prosecutors also cite the defense’s own use of social media during the trial. According to the state’s filing, “social media was used by the defense during this case to express opinions about the evidence and jury deliberations.”

The defense says none of the media accounts, social or otherwise, preclude a retrial in Wapello County. If any prejudice exists as a result, attorneys said, it’s against Pilcher.

In the filing resisting the change of venue request, the defense said “the majority of media coverage, as in most criminal cases, has been pro-State.”

Professor Emily Hughes of the University of Iowa said she hasn't heard of similar cases where social media by attorneys was an issue in a request for change of venue, but it's not a surprise. She said the rise of social media is presenting new issues to the courts, just as it is to other parts of life.

The judge has not ruled on the request. Pilcher’s retrial is currently scheduled to begin March 25 and is expected to last 10 days.

Other filings in the case include a prosecution request to admit statements made by Ernest Marlin to authorities shortly after the murder. Marlin and his wife discovered Jones’ body. Prosecutors say the account of investigators’ questioning of Marlin should be admitted since Marlin died and thus cannot be called to personally testify.

Text Only
Local News
  • Emergency council meeting Friday OTTUMWA — Ottumwa’s City Council will meet for a second time this week, this time to discuss an emergency problem at the city’s Water Pollution Control Facility. The special meeting will be conducted at 1 p.m. Friday in the council chambers. Earlier

    July 23, 2014

  • 0723 OTT Riverfront color photo -L -M Ideas flow at Riverfront Renaissance workshop OTTUMWA — Ideas flowed as freely as the river itself Tuesday evening as more than 100 Ottumwans shared their vision of what the riverfront can be.The Riverfront Renaissance design charrette, sponsored by the Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation, drew p

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Kids … not cash OTTUMWA — From a project that started with nothing, supporters created a top-notch education facility for at-risk youth. Someone in on the project from the beginning shared the story. Wapello County Supervisor Jerry Parker addressed a community advis

    July 22, 2014

  • Staying healthy during extreme heat OTTUMWA — After unusually cool temperatures last week, it may have been easy to forget how the heat of summer feels, but an incoming heat wave will quickly remind you. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, heat is the No.

    July 22, 2014

  • 0723 OTT Seth Techel mugshot -T Techel jury may begin deliberations Wednesday

    DAVENPORT — The jury in the third trial of a Wapello County man accused of murdering his wife may begin deliberations as early as Wednesday in Scott County, Davenport. The jury was excused mid-afternoon Tuesday while Judge Daniel Wilson, who continue

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Shooting ruled homicide OTTUMWA — The death of a man shot in Wapello County has been ruled a homicide. The Wapello County Sheriff’s Office on Monday received a 911 call of a shooting 4 miles southwest of Ottumwa. Deputies discovered Clinton Gus Leedom, 49, of Bloomfield, to

    July 22, 2014

  • 0723 OTT flood file photo Over $1 million to fight floods EDDYVILLE — It's not the way a town wants to get $1 million, but the damage suffered by Eddyville in recent floods has prompted the federal government to cut a check. Actually, it's Area 15 Regional Planning Commission, a community assistance agency

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Driver's license services temporarily suspended KEOSAUQUA — Van Buren County Treasurer’s Office has notified the Iowa Department of Transportation that it has suspended driver’s license services due to staffing issues in the county treasurer’s office. It is anticipated suspension of the services

    July 22, 2014

  • 0723 OTT Canoe Camp color photo -L -M -T Canoe Camp teaches water safety OTTUMWA — Six children at Pioneer Nature Area and Nature Center pond were making waves and getting wet as they flipped their canoes over in attempt to rescue each other. Since summertime and water activities go hand-in-hand, the goal of the activity

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Three appointed to Board of Adjustment OTTUMWA — Three new faces will appear on Wapello County Board of Adjustment, thanks to help from the county’s newspaper of record, the Ottumwa Courier. Four applicants applied for the positions and three were selected. New members include Marcia Week

    July 22, 2014

Photo reprints