Attorney: State withheld evidence in Thompson murder case

BY SAM LANE | OCTOBER 21, 2011 7:20 AM

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Charles William Curtis Thompson was not involved in the murder of local landlord John Versypt in 2009, Muscatine County Jail inmates reportedly told local detectives.

Two Iowa City police detectives testified for more than an hour and a half Thursday in the Johnson County Courthouse about their meetings with the inmates during a hearing on the defense's motion to the dismiss Thompson's first-degree murder trial.

Thompson's attorney, Linn County public defender Tyler Johnston, asked Detectives Mike Smithey and Jennifer Clarahan about the interviews they held at the Muscatine County Jail in late September and earlier this month.

Clarahan told Johnston three inmates said Justin Marshall — a 20-year-old also charged in connection with the case — said Thompson had nothing to do Versypt's slaying.

Johnston accused the state of withholding evidence, frequently asking the detectives when they filed reports of their interviews with inmates and when they notified the County Attorney's Office about those interviews.

"We just got [the documents regarding the interviews] this morning," Johnston said. "We had them emailed to us at 9:07 a.m. The state has had them since early October. It's information that exonerates my client. It shows a pattern of behavior in this case."

But Johnson County prosecutor Janet Lyness said the defense just requested the reports Wednesday night.

Thompson is charged with the shooting death of Versypt in the hallway of a Broadway apartment building. He stood trial for the homicide late last month, but 6th District Judge Sean McPartland declared a mistrial after the prosecution played a portion of a videotaped interview with Thompson that was not supposed to be presented to the jury.

The two detectives also testified about activities that took place during the breaks of the trial itself. Johnston maintained the two detectives coached Ronda Bluitt and James Brown, a couple who lived in the apartment complex at the time of the slaying, during one of the trial's recesses. However, Smithey and Clarahan both said they only discussed Bluitt and Brown's concerns about spending so much time away from their home in Mississippi.

However, Smithey said, during the recess of last month's trial Bluitt brought up Johnston's so-called harsh questioning. But Clarahan said Bluitt never mentioned Johnston's demeanor.

At the beginning of Thursday's hearing, Johnston said the prosecution engaged in "unethical practice" during the course of the trial.

"We have a burden that we are happy to take on," Johnston said. "We have the burden to show that the state engaged in misconduct."

Johnston went on to say the prosecution had motivation to intentionally cause the mistrial "because they were losing."

Lyness said the defense has "made a lot of accusations against the state."

McPartland did not issue a ruling on the motion for dismissal Thursday but said the parties would later decide — likely by telephone — when the hearing on the motion would continue.

DI reporter Eric Moore contributed to this report.

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