homepage logo


Defense will poll jury

By Staff | Sep 14, 2016

Judge David Lester issued an order Tuesday afternoon sustaining the defense motion for a jury poll in the case of Lee Christensen.

Christensen was convicted of murder in the second degree in the June 6, 2015 death of 19-year-old Thomas Bortvit.

Lester’s Order cited two cases:?State v. Gathercole and State v. Phillips in sustaining the defense motion.

Lester’s Order said the Phillips case supports “alternate relief” in the form of a post-trial hearing which will give the defendant the opportunity to “prove allegations of jury influence.”?

Lester cited the due process clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in his decision. “Even in the absence of specific evidence showing the verdict was the result of misconduct or the verdict was affected by outside influences,”?due process requires the defendant have the opportunity to question jurors about the possibility.

Included in the court Order:?

the motion for jury poll was sustained;

attorneys Coleman McAllister for the state attorney general’s office, and Leon Spies for the defendant to schedule a hearing date with court services;

the defense or prosecution has the right to subpoena any of the jurors to the hearing;

because one of the grounds of Christensen’s motion for a new trial relates to alleged juror misconduct or influence, Judge Lester will rule on the motion for a new trial after the jury poll hearing;

Friday’s sentencing hearing is cancelled and will be reset only by court order.

The pre-sentence investigation was also filed early this week. The contents therein have not been made public. Iowa Code section 901.4 requires that the court provide safeguards to ensure this report is confidential.

According to Iowa Code section 901.2, a pre-sentence investigation happens upon a guilty verdict.

The court receives from the defendant, the state, the department of corrections, any information relevant to the question of sentencing. The court may consider information from other sources additionally.

It includes a brief personal and social history of the defendant, the defendant’s criminal record, and the harm to the victim, the victim’s immediate family, and the community, including victim impact statements the court has received.

The investigation report may include suggestions for correctional planning.

Scheduling of the jury poll hearing is pending.