A federal judge in Cedar Rapids today sentenced Dustin Honken of Britt to death for two of five drug-related killings in 1993. Prosecutors say Honken had the five people killed to protect his methamphetamine business. The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa, Charles Larson Senior, says a lot of hard work went into the case. He says, “It’s certainly been a long journey to justice, particularly for the Uh, victim’s families involved in this case.” He says it’s also been a long journey for the state and local law officers that he says worked diligently on the case.
Larson says it’s an historic case in the state of Iowa with Honken being the first Iowan in over four decades being sentenced to death. He says that was a federal case as well. He says, “It’s a tragic situation. The one loud and clear message is for those that use the phrase ‘drugs are a victimless crime’ they need to stop and think that this all involved a drug situation.”
Honken will be sent to federal death row in Terre Haute, Indiana, but Larson says it could be years before the ultimate sentence is carried out. He says normally it takes several years for appeals, although he says it has shortened some in recent years. He says his best estimate is that it would take five to seven years for carry out the sentence. Larson says he’s confident they had a very strong case — but he still expects Honken’s lawyers to file a number of different appeals to delay the death sentence. He says it’ll be some routine position such as inadequate evidence or something dealing with the jurors. He says the attorneys will pour through the entire court record, “Certainly they’ll find some grounds, they always have from my years of experience.”
Honken late last month filed a request to dismiss his defense council and asked the court to appoint new attorneys with more expertise in federal death penalty cases. Federal law allows for one automatic appeal to be granted to a defendant sentenced to death, which will be reviewed by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Honken’s ex-girlfriend, Angela Johnson, was convicted earlier this year of helping him in the 1993 drug-related slayings. The jury also recommended the death penalty in two of the murders, but Johnson’s attorneys want U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett to hold a hearing on allegations of juror misconduct. Johnson’s sentencing is pending on a ruling on the motion for a new trial.