The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

February 21, 2013

Jury seated in murder trial

Trial of Techel expected to begin today

OTTUMWA — Testimony is expected to begin today in the trial of Seth Techel, the Agency man accused of killing his wife and unborn child.

The jury selection process finished after 4 p.m. Wednesday. It took two full days as lawyers for both sides questioned candidates. Questions were asked both in open court and privately in Judge Daniel Wilson’s office.

Despite a forecasted winter storm, the jury was told to be at the Wapello County Courthouse prior to the 9 a.m. start time today.

When it was the defense attorney’s chance to speak to the jury Wednesday, he introduced himself as local lawyer Steven Gardner and his co-counsel as Robert Box.

He then asked his client, defendant Seth Andrew Techel, to stand up and be introduced to the jury.

Some of the questions he asked potential jurors echoed those asked the previous day by state prosecutors. Those lawyers had already asked if jurors could be objective; those asked generally said they could. When the state asked if they’d made up their minds before hearing the evidence, no one raised their hand.

On Wednesday, Gardner got more specific. In fact, it may have sounded like a rhetorical statement: Raise your hand if you’ve already decided Seth Techel is guilty.

It wasn’t hypothetical: One potential juror raised their hand when asked point blank by Gardner. That juror already had a verdict in mind based on what they’d heard from people in the community. After a day-and-a-half in court, that candidate was dismissed and replaced by an alternate — who was also dismissed.

Eventually, after going through questions and notes, attorney’s whittled the list down to 15, with 12 jurors and three alternate jurors. Only the court knows who is an alternate. Those three will discover that at the end of testimony but before deliberations by the jury working to reach a verdict on one count of murder in the first degree and one count of involuntary termination of a pregnancy. Lisa Techel was pregnant when she was shot and killed in the Agency home she shared with husband Seth Techel.

The questions asked Tuesday and Wednesday may have given jurors their first hint of how the two sides will argue the case.

Gardner asked jurors which of them owned guns. Perhaps a third of the candidates said they did. Asked for the kind of guns they owned, respondents named weapons ranging from an antique .22 rifle and some muzzle-loaded firearms to a semi-automatic 16-gauge shotgun and a .45 pistol.

“I need jurors who are ready to think, ready to analyze, I need reason and logic,” Gardner said and asked one jury pool member, “Do you consider scientific evidence important?”

State prosecutor Scott Brown of the Iowa Attorney General’s office asked jurors if they believed police officers were human and that they could make mistakes like the rest of us. Or, perhaps, if some single piece of evidence was not collected, would it mean the rest of the evidence can be ignored?

He also shared with jurors why he asked if they’d had any interaction with the Wapello County lawyers.

Part of his questioning, he told potential jurors, was to see whether there was a problem with seeing Brown and Prosser as outsiders and if that perception therefore caused them to lose credibility.

“I just want to make sure there’s no bias against us because we’re not from here,” Brown said, adding that he sometimes worries the local attorneys will have an unfair “leg up” over staff from the AG’s office.

Text Only
Local News
  • 0730 OTT Better Buildings -T -M Wildwood could be your home OTTUMWA — There was always one child per class who just adored school. If they went to Wildwood, they may soon be able to move in permanently. The Ottumwa board of education met Monday, where staff told them where the district stood as far as "facili

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • A changing roster -- for school board OTTUMWA — If the last time you saw your board of education was before Christmastime, the current school board might surprise you. Two members retired from the board: longtime educator Ron Oswalt stepped down, as did board president Carol Mitchell. Bo

    July 29, 2014

  • Lottery sales top $3 million mark

    OTTUMWA — Mother Nature may have thrown Iowans a brutal winter, but it didn’t stop them from venturing out to buy lottery tickets. On Tuesday, the Iowa Lottery confirmed that it had topped the $3 million mark in sales for the third consecutive year.

    July 29, 2014

  • halo-5-guardians-concept_wallpaper-1920x1080-53cf9b0098ea45ada37dc0f66bc174f5.jpg The Art of Kong

    OTTUMWA — The Mona Lisa. Whistler's Mother. Donkey Kong? Don't be so surprised, said Walter Day, that video games and the surrounding memorabilia are being considered art. The creativity and artistic vision required to create a poster, said the found

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Slideshow: Truck overturns on roundabout

    July 28, 2014

  • 0729 OTT Picture veteran -T -M Veteran finally receives his medals OTTUMWA — A World War II injury may have saved the life of a U.S. Coast Guardsman from Iowa, but he lost friends and a box of military awards. Francis Hardy Harbour was born on Dec.16, 1919, in Drakesville. He joined the Coast Guard in 1941 as a mach

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Seasonal forecast Cool summer leading to cool fall? OTTUMWA — By late July, the average daytime high temperature starts to drop. What is normally the hottest part of the year is over. Averages are still in the mid-80s, and it certainly wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to see days in even the upper 90s.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • IHCC buildings.jpg Grant helps Hills keep students on track

    OTTUMWA — Thanks to a grant designed to improve graduation rates, Indian Hills Community College now has even more tools in its campuswide effort to help students with needs and give them the resources they need to stay in class. Indian Hills is one

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0728 OTT ribs in eldon BBQ dinner with a hundred friends

    ELDON --- This year's Eldon Rib Cook-off was won by three BBQ chefs --- and about 150 hungry visitors. "I was down here last year, too," said Dwayne Yates from Floris, who was biting into his third smoked rib. "I never had a bad one yet." That's what

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mediacom: Rural cable consumers and companies mistreated OTTUMWA --- You may want to add just a racing channel, a court channel or a nature channel to your cable line up. Unfortunately, you'll probably have to buy a "bundle," which, ironically, is what it will cost you here in Wapello County. That's accord

    July 26, 2014

Photo reprints