Aggressive, Skillful and Experienced Defense

Iowa appeals court overturns murder conviction

The right to an attorney in a criminal case is one of the most fundamental rights in the U.S. Constitution. Most people know that a person facing criminal charges has the right to have an attorney present during a police interrogation. But does a defendant have the right to a lawyer if, while he or she is in jail awaiting trial, police have another prisoner ask the defendant about the alleged crime?

The Iowa Court of Appeals faced this question recently and ruled that a defendant's right to an attorney was violated when another prisoner elicited statements from the defendant about the defendant's involvement in a homicide. The defendant was facing murder charges; the other prisoner had been convicted on federal drug charges and was acting as an informant in exchange for a possible reduction in his sentence.

The case arose out of the killing of an Iowa City landlord in 2009 during what police said was a botched robbery. At trial the defendant's lawyer argued the testimony of the jailhouse informant should have been suppressed and not allowed in evidence. The trial court disagreed and allowed the informant to testify. The defendant was convicted of first-degree murder. The appeals court reversed the trial court's ruling and overturned the conviction, saying the jailhouse conversation was the equivalent of a police interrogation, and the defendant's right to an attorney was violated.

The appeals court relied on other decisions, including some from the U.S. Supreme Court, which concluded a defendant may have the right to an attorney in similar situations. The cases draw a distinction between unsolicited admissions by the defendant, in which the informant is merely a passive listener, and admissions made after the informant actively tries to draw information out of the defendant. In the latter situations, courts have ruled the defendant has the right to a lawyer.

Source: The Gazette, "Appeals court rejects conviction in Iowa City landlord murder," Erin Jordan, June 10, 2015

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information

contact us FOR a Free Consultation

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information
disclaimer.

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.

close

Privacy Policy

IOWA Association for justice IOWA state bar association NACDL 1958 national association of criminal defense lawyers american association for justice board certified specialist DUI defense law the iowa state bar association

Notable Case Work

Attorney Thomas Farnsworth's client was arrested for multiple charges after being pulled over for an OWI 3rd offense. Mr. Farnsworth ....

Read More

faq

Should I take a breath test?
The most common question asked of criminal defense lawyers who work on Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) or Driving While...

Can I get a work permit or temporary restricted license in Iowa after losing my driving privileges for an OWI?
For a first offense, yes. The revocation is this instance is 180 days for an OWI test failure and one year for an OWI test refusal...

Read More

Get In Touch

J. Dean Keegan and Thomas D. Farnsworth, Attorneys at Law
425 2nd Street South East
Cedar Rapids, IA 52406

Cedar Rapids Criminal Law Office

J. Dean Keegan and Thomas D. Farnsworth, Attorneys at Law
103 East College Street
Iowa City, IA 52240

Iowa City Criminal Law Office

J Dean Keegan Thomas DS Farnsworth Keegan Legal

Privacy Policy | Business Development Solutions by FindLaw, a Thomson Reuters business.