Matthews receives life sentence

BY ZHI XIONG | APRIL 20, 2009 7:30 AM

Micah Matthews will spend life in prison without parole for first- and second-degree kidnapping and first-degree burglary.

6th District Judge Douglas Russell added two consecutive sentences of the 25-year maximum. Matthews will also register with the Iowa Sex Offender Registry; the kidnapping conviction included a sexual-abuse charge.

For several Iowa City residents in the courtroom April 17, the sentencing brought closure after what happened June 5, 2007.

Matthews, 33, entered a house on Jema Court near the intersection of Benton Street and Mormon Trek Boulevard. He forced its resident to drive him to an ATM. When she was unable to withdraw the $500 he demanded, Matthews pistol-whipped and sexually assaulted her back in her home. The woman was 50 years old at the time.

“I remember the sound of the garage door being broken and not running fast enough to get away,” said Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness, reading aloud her client’s victim impact statement. “I remember the intense fear and sleepless nights.”

The aftermath of the attack permeated Jema Court, Lyness read. One neighbor suffered weeks of insomnia, unable to sleep until she installed an alarm system. A college student crashed on the couch upstairs rather than stay downstairs in her own room.

But the mood of fear lifted after the roughly 20-minute sentencing. A circle of supporters surrounded the victim outside the courtroom, offering their congratulations.

“Thank you for tearing up my house,” the woman said cheerily to Special Agent Jagat Sandhu, a lead investigator with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigations.

The DCI found DNA evidence linking Matthews to the crimes. Investigators tested vaginal swabs, oral swabs, rectal swabs, head and pubic hairs, and even water bottles for fluid and skin cells. One DCI expert said there was only a 1 in 100 billion chance the semen taken from a vaginal swab belonged to someone other than Matthews.

Russell convicted Matthews after hearing four days of testimony in February. At the hearing, Matthews sat across the table from the prosecution, not looking at his attorneys, Paul Miller and Davis Foster of Iowa City.

Matthews had asked Russell to vacate the guilty verdict. In a rare move, he requested a delay in judgment and sought post-conviction relief weeks before the sentencing. Matthews wrote his lawyers misrepresented him.

But before Russell read the sentence, Matthews withdrew his requests. He plans to take his case to the Court of Appeals instead.

Legal experts say convicted criminals typically seek post-conviction relief after exhausting the appeals process. It gives the attorneys a chance to defend themselves against accusations of misrepresentation. It also requires the state to explain the conviction or sentence.

Miller and Foster had asked for a lesser charge, arguing the state never found the gun Matthews used to fracture the victim’s nose and that the woman did not suffer “serious medical injury.”

Russell said Matthews’ lengthy criminal record, the “cruel manner” of his crimes, and his lack of remorse factored into the sentence. Matthews must pay more than $1,679 restitution and obey a no-contact order until 2014.

“He is not going to be a threat to [the victim] or anyone,” Lyness said later.

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