Appeals could have re-opened hundreds of murder cases - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Appeals could have re-opened hundreds of murder cases

DES MOINES (KWWL) - A supreme court ruling today could have had a big impact on Iowa.  It would have let hundreds of convicted murderers seek a new trial.

Appeals filed by two convicted murderers challenged the way many 1st degree murder convictions were handled in Iowa for decades.

It all stems from a 2006 ruling in a case against Rodney Heemstra, a farmer from Milo convicted of shooting his neighbor in an argument over a land dispute.
Heemstra says he shot the man in self-defense, and eventually had his conviction changed to voluntary manslaughter.

He spent four years behind bars.

In Friday's ruling, the Iowa Supreme Court decided that case should not be applied to other murder cases already decided.

As many as 300 convicted killers could have had their cases taken back to court.

Following is a statement of the Attorney General's Office on the decisions:

Statement of the Iowa Attorney General's Office, 4-17-09:

            The Iowa Supreme Court decided today it is not required by the federal constitution to apply the independent felony murder rule to convictions which were already final before the 2006 decision in State v. Heemstra, which changed the law.  In two decisions issued this morning - Goosman v. State and Scott v. State - the Court turned down requests for new trial by inmates whose first-degree murder convictions had been final for more than a decade.  

            The Iowa Attorney General's Office argued in both cases that the decision to limit the retroactivity of Heemstra complied with due process because that decision marked a major change in the law of how certain felony murder cases could be tried.  Both Goosman and Scott were fairly convicted of brutal killings and are properly serving life sentences under state law.   The Attorney General believes the Court reached the correct decision in denying new trials to Goosman and Scott.

            The Attorney General anticipates that appeals from about two dozen other inmates serving life sentences for murder who are raising this same issue will be rejected as a result of these decisions. 

            Today's decisions are a relief for the families, friends and neighbors of murder victims in communities across Iowa who were affected by these cases.    



Online producer: Adam Amdor

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