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Defense wants lesser charge in sexual-abuse trial

BY OLIVIA MORAN | FEBRUARY 20, 2009 7:34 AM

Defense attorneys said Thursday prosecutors lack sufficient evidence to convict Micah Matthews of first-degree kidnapping and first-degree sexual abuse, arguing for two lesser charges.

In a closing argument, Iowa City attorney Paul Miller told 6th District Judge Douglas Russell prosecutors failed to prove Matthews assaulted his alleged victim with a gun and the woman sustained a serious injury. Whether the claims are true determines the severity of Matthews’ charges.

Matthews, 33, is charged with first-degree kidnapping, first-degree sexual assault, first-degree burglary, and second-degree kidnapping.

He is accused of breaking into a 50-year-old woman’s home on June 5, 2007, and forcing her to drive to an ATM to withdraw money before sexually abusing her in her home.

“We know it was the defendant who did this,” Johnson County prosecutor Janet Lyness said.
The victim told police Matthews became angry the day of the alleged incident and pistol-whipped her with what she described as a small black gun. In a 911 call played on Thursday — the third and final day of Matthews’ trial — she said to dispatchers, “He had a gun, yes.”

Investigators never found the gun. Second-degree kidnapping requires the perpetrator be armed with a dangerous weapon.

Miller also argued against the charge of first-degree sexual abuse, which requires use of a weapon in addition to causing substantial injury.

There is no evidence the woman “sustained serious medical injury,” Miller said. “She suffered a nasal fracture that healed and required no subsequent medical treatment, hearing loss that healed, and dizziness that is sporadic.”

Lyness argued the victim’s injuries are still affecting her today.

“The manner in which he used [the gun] by striking her in the head was something that caused her serious injury,” she said. “This was not just like a slap to her face. This was a serious blow.”
Lyness said the search for a suspect in the case through fingerprint testing was rather extensive, but the real evidence is a semen match from the victim’s vaginal swab.

“All of these things point to the defendant, but the reason we really know it’s the defendant is the DNA,” she said.

Michael Halverson, a criminalist with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, testified on Wednesday only 1 in 100 billion would have the same DNA as Matthews.

Russell did not reach a verdict on Thursday. He is expected to eventually file a written ruling and read it aloud at a hearing.

Matthews will not be sentenced at that time. If convicted of all four charges, he faces at least two life sentences.

DI reporter Adam Sullivan contributed to this report.


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