Lee Christensen of Estherville was charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Thomas Bortvit in 2015. His defense conceded that he killed Bortvit, but argued it was an act of passion involving a woman he had once dated and he should be found guilty of a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter. The jury found him guilty of second-degree murder and he was sentenced to 50 years in prison.
He appealed the verdict saying jurors had been influenced by a Facebook post that suggested there would be a riot if he wasn’t found guilty of first-degree murder.
The Iowa Court of Appeals ruling says the “information received by the jurors came from sources explicitly prohibited by the court’s admonition. No juror reported these violations to the clerk or to the judge. We conclude the eight jurors’ receipt of extraneous information during deliberations amounted to juror misconduct.
It also says the post was “calculated to and with reasonable probability did influence the jury verdict.” The ruling says the denial of the motion for a new trial amounted to an abuse of discretion by the district court, and the appeals court overturned the verdict and ordered a new trial.
Here’s the ruling: Christensen-opinion-PDF