Young Iowan Gets New Trial Based on Violation of Sixth Amendment Right
07.05.16 By Innocence Staff
In 2013, a young man named Justin Marshall was convicted of the 2009 killing of a 64-year-old landlord of an Iowa City apartment building; he was sentenced to life in prison. But last year, when an appeals court ruled that informant testimony used to seal Marshall’s conviction should not have been allowed at the trial, his conviction was overturned. And in a split 4-3 decision last Thursday, the Iowa Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s decision, entitling Marshall to a new trial.
Marshall was just 19 when he was arrested for the deadly shooting of John Versypt. According to the Associated Press, there was no physical evidence or eyewitnesses linking Marshall to the crime. The prosecution’s case rested on the testimony of three informants, one of them named Antonio Martin—a jailhouse informant who had previously worked with federal prosecutors on drug cases in exchange for a reduced sentence in his criminal case. Martin elicited a written confession from Marshall after the two men were placed in adjacent cells at the local county jail. In the written statement, Marshall said that he’d killed Versypt by accident and that he hoped that his admission would get him a lesser charge.
Marshall’s attorney tried to suppress testimony from all three informants, “claiming they were agents of the state and Marshall was entitled to have an attorney present while speaking to them,” reports the Press-Citizen, but to no avail. When it came to Martin’s testimony, the High Court agreed with Marshall’s attorney.
“We hold that the district court improperly overruled the motion to suppress as to Martin. As a result, the decision of the court of appeals must be vacated . . .” Justice Brent Appel wrote in his majority opinion, according to the Press-Citizen.
According to the court, Martin had an agreement with the state to elicit incriminating statements from Marshall, violating Marshall’s Six Amendment right to have an attorney present during interrogation, reported the Gazette. It was also Martin who advised Marshall to tell his side of the story to get a reduced charge, said the court.
Marshall’s case will now go to the district court for a new trial. Marshall is represented by Kent Simmons.
Related: Incentivized Informants
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