Fry conviction elicits binge drinking discussion

BY ZHI XIONG | APRIL 06, 2009 7:40 AM

Curtis Fry’s April 3 verdict announcement rattled the campus and the community. After all, he started out in a familiar situation, especially in Iowa City standards: turning 21 and going barhopping. He ended up beating a man to death that night.

UI junior Jessie Nicoll mulled over the case this past weekend while dining with her mother. Over martinis at Graze, 115 E. College St., the two women delved into a conversation about the city’s reputed drinking culture.

Nicoll brought up the Fry killing.

“She couldn’t believe that it happened,” the Chi Omega member said. “It sounds like urban legend.”

Fry’s attorneys initially filed an intoxication defense. Alcohol experts from the defense and prosecution agreed Fry was blacked out from drinking when he kicked in Patrick McEwen’s door and fatally beat up the elderly man.

6th Judicial District Judge Mitchell Turner threw out the state’s second-degree murder charge. Fry faces a maximum 10-year prison sentence for voluntary manslaughter.

Turner’s decision ultimately did not hinge on the intoxication defense. But some of the victim’s friends still condemned the alcohol link.

With binge drinking a perennial item on the agenda, city officials had mixed opinions about the case.

“We have literally discussed the drinking issue to death,” said Iowa City City Councilor Connie Champion, who is serving her third term. “This kid was 21. He wasn’t underage. It’s really sad, but we can’t control what people do.”

Mayor Regenia Bailey said the “apparent connection” to alcohol overconsumption ties in with current efforts to tweak students’ drinking habits. She co-chairs a recently established Alcohol Steering Committee, which includes UI officials and students.

“It’s a horrible tragedy,” she said. “The council has continued to look at what our role is in addressing the issue.”

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