The Iowa Court of Appeals has granted a Burlington man a new trial in the strangling death of his ex-wife. Prosecutors said Dennis Richards killed his ex-wife Cyd Richards in January of 2009, and then set her house on fire to destroy the evidence.
An autopsy determined that Cyd Richards had been strangled to death before the fire. Dennis was convicted of second-degree murder and second-degree arson. The district court judge had ruled a physical-therapist who Richards said would provide expert testimony that he was physically incapable of strangling Cyd could not testify because the notice of the expert witness came one day after the required deadline.
Prosecutors said they did not have time to question the expert and doing so would have delayed a speedy trial. Richards appealed his conviction — saying the notification of the expert witness was only one day late, and there had been several delays in his case in part due to his lawyer’s illness.
He said not allowing the expert witness prejudiced his case. The Iowa Court of Appeals agreed and ruled the trial judge abused her discretion in not allowing the expert witness. The court reversed Richards’ convictions and sent the case back to district court for a new trial.
See the complete ruling here: Richards case PDF