On September 14, 2020, after extensive preparation, we were set for our first jury trial following the COVID pause. Clarke County was to host one of the first jury trials in the rural districts. This would not have been possible without the diligent efforts District Court Judge Elizabeth Reynolson of Clarke County to assist Judicial Branch Staff with the logistics of social distancing and enhanced sanitary methods to reduce the likelihood of virus transmission but to allow for the resumption of jury trials. While we were initially scheduled to have a trial every Monday for the rest of the year, the resumption of trials has facilitated scheduling, rescheduling, and resolution. Needless to say, I am quite relieved that we are really going to have jury trials every Monday for the rest of the year. Judge Reynoldson also recently spearheaded a request to the Judicial Branch to provide remote viewing hardware for Clarke County’s secondary courtroom. This would allow real-time observation of what is happening in the court room from the other room. This is helps affording social distancing during jury selection and social distancing for citizens viewing trials. The Iowa Judicial Branch has moved quickly to cover Clarke’s vacant Magistrate position by hiring an experienced attorney, Shireen Carter of Norwalk, as the new Magistrate and by assigning the Clarke County Clerk of Court Duties to the Clerk of Court in Union County.
The Jury Trial that was set for September 14th involved a very shocking set of events that happened nearly a year earlier. However, as is not unusual, the Defendant decided to plead guilty the day or two before trial. As you can imagine, the guilty plea is directly related to the fact that this office and our local law enforcement demonstrated that we were fully prepared to try the case to the people of Clarke County. The facts of the Case were disturbing. In the early morning hours (about 2:30 am) of Monday morning, September 2nd of 2019, a local homeowner in rural Clarke County was awakened from a deep sleep to discover a man he had never seen before moving around in his living room. When he asked the man what he was doing and how he could help him the man immediately attacked him! After some struggle the attacker rendered the homeowner intermittently unconscious. At this point the homeowner’s 12 year old son emerged from a bedroom to protect his father by immobilizing the attacker with a baseball bat. Theson and his father were quite disturbed by the incident and when law enforcement arrived, the intruder remained on their floor bleeding from the head. The intruder was taken by helicopter to Des Moines and after several surgeries he recovered from his injuries. The subsequent investigation revealed that the intruder was a man from Chariton that was very drunk and put his car in the ditch near there in Northern Clarke County. The man’s defense was that he was not guilty because he was highly intoxicated (.286) and no memory of the events. In that regard, the Defendant asserted he was therefore not capable of having the specific criminal intent that the crimes he was charged with required. In a case like this, the State bears the burden of proving at trial that despite his high degree of voluntary intoxication, the Defendant was coherent enough to form specific criminal intent. We had secured two expert witnesses that were prepared to testify that the Defendant’s statements and behaviors did demonstrate rational and goal-oriented behavior sufficient to indicate the ability to form specific intent. The guilty plea negotiated in this case was a C felony with up to 10 years in prison followed by a D felony with up to 5 years after that. It was arrived at in close consultation with the family and law enforcement. The family’s cited their Christian values in seeking justice and rehabilitation rather than revenge.
In terms of August’s workload, 9 Felony cases came in and 5 were disposed. Felony cases are the most serious of criminal cases. The number of pending Felony is up slightly from 86 to 90.
Indictable Misdemeanors are Misdemeanor crimes that are punishable by more than a year but no more than two years of incarceration. Misdemeanor crimes are categorized as Aggravated, Serious, and Simple. Aggravated Misdemeanors are the most serious misdemeanors and can be punished by up to two years in prison. Serious Misdemeanor crimes are punishable by up to one year in the County Jail. Simple Misdemeanor crimes are punishable by up to 30 days in the county jail. As you can imagine, fines increase with the severity of the crime.
In August, 23 Indictable Misdemeanors came in 30 were disposed. The State’s case tracking system reflects that the pending number is down again from 197 to 192.
In August, 308 Simple Misdemeanors came in and 270 were disposed. Though we resolved significantly more Simple Misdemeanors than last month a lot more came in for the second month in a row and the State’s case tracking system reflects that the total number of pending Simple Misdemeanors is now up from 519 to 565.
In August, the Clarke County Attorney’s Office Juvenile case load included 3 new Child in Need of Assistance (CINA) cases with 3 (CINA & other) cases disposed. The State’s case tracking system reflects a decrease from 97 total pending Juvenile cases to 85.