The Ottumwa Courier

May 15, 2013

Objections from Techel defense refuted by state

By CHELSEA DAVIS Courier staff writer
Ottumwa Courier

---- — OTTUMWA — State prosecutors argued against claims made by Seth Techel's attorney, asserting they either had no basis or had already been ruled upon.

Defense attorney Steven Gardner filed five motions last week, seeking to: ban law enforcement from carrying weapons and providing security in the courtroom; formally admonish state prosecutors; request a second change of venue for the retrial; ban law enforcement witnesses from using social media to influence the jury; and change the presiding judge due to alleged prejudice.

In March, a Wapello County jury found itself deadlocked after a month-long trial of Techel's case. Techel, 22, is charged with first-degree murder and non-consensual termination of a human pregnancy in the shooting death of his wife, Lisa Caldwell Techel, and their unborn child at their rural Agency home in May 2012.

State prosecutors Andy Prosser and Scott Brown responded to Gardner's motions on Friday, refuting all of his claims.

In regards to law enforcement carrying weapons and providing security, the state said the court had already ruled on this motion, therefore a change in the initial ruling was unnecessary.

According to the defense's motion in limine to formally admonish the state, Gardner said the state filed a motion in limine prior to the first trial prohibiting the defense from mentioning the death of Brian Tate (a neighbor of the Techels that the defense suggested could have been responsible for Lisa's death), saying it was "without evidentiary support and prejudicial to the state." But Gardner said the state contradicted itself by then mentioning Tate's death during closing arguments.

"No order in limine was filed by the court in the first trial of this matter, despite motions requesting the entry of the same by both parties," state prosecutors wrote. "... the state does not resist the entry of an order in limine preventing the state from making such arguments without first bringing the issue up with the court outside the presence of the jury."

The state resisted Gardner's request to transfer the retrial's venue from Henry County.

"[Techel] previously objected to Mt. Pleasant as an appropriate venue, which objections were overruled and should not be reconsidered," state prosecutors wrote.

Prosser and Brown also said they requested all law enforcement agencies involved in the case to "refrain from making public statements which could prejudice [Techel's] right to a fair trial" but that they have no power to make them comply.

Prosecutors also said there is no evidence that any statements made by anyone "actually prejudiced [Techel's] right to a fair trial."

"Even if the court had the authority to gag witnesses, the likelihood that any electronic statements that might be made about this case by any witness on his or her Facebook or Twitter accounts will even be seen by, much less have any prejudicial effect upon, potential Henry County jurors renders [Techel's] motion de minimis," state prosecutors wrote.

The state also said no evidence exists that Judge Daniel Wilson is in any way prejudiced in presiding over this trial. They said judicial disqualification must be based upon "claimed personal bias by allegations of fact, not conclusions or frivolous assertions."

"There is no evidence of actual prejudice or even the appearance of judicial prejudice, much less any prejudice stemming from an outside source," state prosecutors wrote.

Techel's retrial is currently scheduled to begin on Aug. 12 in Henry County.

To follow reporter Chelsea Davis on Twitter, head to @ChelseaLeeDavis.