The Ottumwa Courier

Ottumwa

November 25, 2013

Attorneys argue bail reduction

ALBIA — A decision not listed on the official docket was the first thing Judge Daniel Wilson wanted to know about during a hearing in the murder case of State v. Seth Techel.

Techel is accused of murdering his wife, Lisa Techel, and their unborn child.

"To my knowledge, the State has never declared [to this court] its intention to retry this case," Wilson said at the Monroe County Courthouse on Monday. "Mr. Prosser, does the State intend to retry this case?"

"It does, your honor," replied Andy Prosser, assistant attorney general, who has been acting as prosecutor for both previous trials. His co-council in the case, Scott Brown, is the director of area prosecution for the state Attorney General.

In Iowa, Brown told the Courier, the prosecutors do not need the judge's permission in order to try a defendant after there has been a mistrial. They can just move forward with the next trial.

But that raises some questions, said Techel's lawyer: How long can you keep someone locked up when no jury has convicted the defendant of a crime? Defense attorney Steven Gardner would like to see his client's bail reduced to something that would not just be affordable by a wealthy defendant.

He wants bail to be "reduced from $750,000 to $75,000," and further, that a bail bond company be allowed to assist in providing that capital. Right now, with the original bail being called "cash only," Techel would have to come up with the full $750,000. And how is he a threat? Before this case, insisted Gardner, Techel had no criminal record.

"The case has been tried twice … the State has been unable" to get a guilty verdict, Gardner said. "At what point does [keeping him] incarcerated violate his due process?"

There's no precedent for that, said Prosser, otherwise, judges would have to decide if the state has enough evidence to convict in front of a jury, then make a decision about bail. That's not how it works, Prosser said. The State only has to prove two things: If Techel is a flight risk and if he's a danger to the community.

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