The Iowa Supreme Court Monday issued an amendment to the court’s ruling in a case of a Warren County farmer who shot and killed a rival in a dispute over a piece of land — a move prosecutors say should stop a flood of requests for retrials in other murder cases.
The Supreme Court ruled in August of this year that Rodney Heemstra of Milo should get a new trial after being found guilty of first-degree murder in January 2003 for the shooting death of Tom Lyon. Prosecutors had argued the act of shooting Lyon was willfull injury — a felony act that made the crime first-degree murder. The Supreme Court in its original ruling overturned that idea.
Iowa Assistant Attorney General Mary Tabor says the amendment issued Monday limits that change to the Heemstra case. Tabor says the Supreme Court says the rule only applies to people who had been convicted and raised the issue in the district court and were now appealing — making a smaller pool of cases that could be appealed.
Heemstra has also appealed based on the fact that his defense lawyer was not allowed to use Lyon’s medical records in his defense. Tabor says the Supreme Court chose not to address that issue in its amendment. Tabor says the court decided the records should be turned over to the defense and district court for them to decided if the medical records can be used in the new trial. Tabor says the amendment means the Supreme Court won’t reconsider its decision to give Heemstra a new trial.
Tabor says Heemstra will be transferred back to Warren County and will get a new trial — the amendment just keeps others from appealing on the same issue. Tabor says the amendment was one victory for prosecutors in keeping down the number of appeals of old murder cases based on the old rule.
Tabor says it’s “pretty unusual” for the Supreme Court to amend a ruling, so they’re pleased the court made the ruling in this case. Tabor says prosecutors who’re bring ahead new murder cases though, have to think about the change in the rules made by the Supreme Court in the Heemstra case.