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Curtis Fry trial nears

BY OLIVIA MORAN | MARCH 5, 2009 7:29 AM

Attorneys and prosecutors in the Curtis Fry case argued over the use of an intoxication defense at Fry’s final pretrial conference on Wednesday, never reaching a conclusion.

Sixth District Judge Mitchell Turner ordered the parties to reach an agreement about the use of certain testimony by the beginning of Fry’s trial March 9 at 9 a.m.

Fry, 22, of Wilton, Iowa, is charged with second-degree murder for allegedly beating a 75-year-old Iowa City man to death on Feb. 7, 2008.

Prosecutors filed a motion last week requesting the judge disregard testimony from the defense that suggests Fry’s intoxication prevented him from acting with intent when he allegedly killed Patrick McEwen.

At the hearing, Johnson County chief prosecutor Janet Lyness argued that “intoxication is not a defense to second-degree murder,” according to the Iowa Code. But Peter Persaud, one of Fry’s public defenders, said certain alcohol consumption can explain actions in a noncriminal way.

“It’s important to hear the whole story,” he said. “You cannot prevent the production of defenses. Once you start narrowing what is admissible … it’s a fine line.”

Persaud and Fry’s other attorney, Public Defender Quint Meyerdirk, filed a similar motion on Monday, asking a judge to not allow testimony from 13 of Lyness’ witnesses. They argued many of the witnesses may relay on hearsay in their testimonies from conversations with Fry’s brother and McEwen’s neighbors.

The defense attorneys also asked a judge to omit testimony regarding McEwen’s character and speculation he was beaten.

Lyness and assistant county prosecutor Meredith Rich-Chappell filed another motion on Wednesday, asking the judge to also throw out testimony regarding McEwen’s possible mental illnesses. The attorneys said the testimony is not an issue in the case.

Turner made no ruling on the motions, which regard issues Turner said have never even been addressed at the Iowa Supreme Court. He said a decision did not have to be made on the motions Wednesday because there is no jury in the case. Fry waived his right to a jury trial last year.
Lyness said the prosecution is expected to use two and a half to three days of trial. The overall trial should last about four or five days, she said.

Second-degree murder is a Class B felony. Fry faces 50 years in prison if convicted.


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