The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

April 1, 2013

Techel trial moving, but where?

OTTUMWA — Both prosecution and defense want to move the retrial of State v. Seth Techel to "escape media coverage," though they have not yet come to a decision on a new venue.

A mistrial was declared last month in State v. Seth Techel. Techel was charged with first-degree murder and non-consensual termination of a human pregnancy in the death of his wife, Lisa Caldwell Techel, and their unborn child at their home in rural Agency last May.

Judge Daniel Wilson said at a hearing Monday afternoon that he will file a ruling for change of venue, though it will not include a new location for the retrial because he needs input from counsel and court administration as to what their schedules will allow.

Wilson said he understands a possible date for the retrial is contingent upon new witnesses the defense may call, as well as their request for a transcript of the nearly three-week trial that ended on March 15.

"Obviously it's a difficult balance getting far enough away to escape some media attention, but not so far away that it inconveniences family members and witnesses," said state prosecutor Andy Prosser.

Prosecutors filed a motion requesting a change of venue for the retrial due to "extensive coverage in the media this case has received," Prosser said.

"I think the court knows and anyone during the trial realizes that coverage of the trial was the front page story every single day of the three weeks of evidence and to a lesser extent during jury deliberations," Prosser said. "Because of the two families who are involved in this matter, there was already a vast amount of public knowledge and I think that complicated the selection of the jury. Now with the first trial behind us, I think it would be difficult or impossible to find 12 jurors who have not heard and/or expressed opinions about this case."

While the prosecution wants the retrial to be held elsewhere, Prosser said he doesn't believe it's appropriate for the prosecution and defense to choose possible counties because it "invites foreign shopping."

Gardner agreed that coverage of the trial "prevents the defendant from receiving a fair trial in Wapello County."

Prosecution suggested either Henry or Lee County be considered as possible venues for the retrial. Gardner said Henry County is still too close, but that Lee County could be a viable option.

"It seems to me that we're stuck until we know locations that have available court time," Gardner said.

Techel has also waived his right to a retrial within 90 days of the declaration of a mistrial. He also waived his right to a trial within one year of being arraigned, which occurred on July 13.

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