A federal judge is defending his weekend excursions with two defense attorneys who are involved in a case he’s presiding in which could result in Iowa’s first execution in over four decades. District Judge Mark Bennett says he has worked his whole career to develop a reputation for being fair, and says he’ll not show any favoritism in the drug-related murder trial of Dustin Honken of Britt. Bennett says he asked permission from former U.S. District Attorney Stephen Rapp nearly five years ago before making his first trip to a Lake Okoboji condo with defense attorneys Alfredo Parrish and Leon Spies. Bennett Wednesday unsealed letters entered into evidence at a hearing earlier this year questioning Bennett’s relationships with the defending attorneys. In those letters, Bennett states he has known Parrish at least 20 years and has dinner twice a year with him in Des Moines. Bennett also says he’ll have breakfast with Spies in Cedar Rapids a few times a year. Bennett stated that Spies rarely appears before him, and in a recent case, Parrish raised five issues on behalf of his client and he ruled against him on all five. Honken is accused of killing five north-central Iowans in 1993 to interrupt a drug investigation. Honken’s trial is slated to begin in mid-August.
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