KEOSAUQUA — The Shawn Bentler murder trial is close to the finish line. What comes next?

Judge Michael Mullins on Thursday gave several hints about how things may unfold after the trial ends this afternoon. In most cases, juries begin deliberations as soon as the trial ends. That won’t happen here. It’s a bench trial.

That means Judge Mullins is the only person who decides Bentler’s guilt or innocence. He must deliver a written verdict.

“I cannot simply decide this case and then come in and announce my verdict,” he said.

That means a thorough review of the evidence. If Judge Mullins had time set aside for that review, he might be able to predict when he could finish. But the circuit court schedule does not currently allow for that, meaning the review must take place amid other work.

“I do not presently have time separately set aside for that,” he said. “I will try to get it done as soon as I can, but it will take some time.”

Attorney schedules also play into the timeline. It seems likely they will try to clear their schedules for a verdict, but that isn’t guaranteed. Other court proceedings, like other trials, could cause a delay.

Judge Mullins anticipates giving at least three days warning before announcing a verdict.

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