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Closing arguments, no verdict in Dykstra trial

BY ERIC MOORE | NOVEMBER 03, 2011 7:20 AM

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Prosecutors argued Brian Dykstra's good character doesn't mean he is not guilty of killing his 20-month-old adopted son.

Dykstra, a former Iowa City resident, was charged in 2008 after his child died from head trauma while under his care on Aug. 13, 2005.

The state and the defense presented their closing arguments to the jury in Dykstra's second-degree murder trial Wednesday.

The prosecution, led by Assistant County Attorney Anne Lahey, focused on the "premature death" of the child, as well as the testimonies of several doctors who said the injuries sustained were from "inflicted injury."

"Doctor after doctor told you that, in their opinion, it was a combination of slamming … or more likely a combination of shaking and slamming," Lahey said, picking up a piece of evidence to demonstrate the motion. "This was a deliberate action or actions, and there's no way the defendant could not believe they would cause injury to [the child]."

Lahey explained the things the state is required to prove: Dykstra caused injury to his son, the injury was fatal, and he acted "showing hatred with an unlawful purpose."

"The degree of force, the degree of injuries, the result of death … [were] so severe, so devastating, so catastrophic, it could only be malicious," Lahey said.

She also explained the distinction between the concepts of predetermination and intent.

"The state is not telling you that when Brian Dykstra did these things, he intended to kill his son," Lahey said. "He is held responsible for what he did because he intended to do the acts themselves."

Before Leon Spies gave his closing argument, Dykstra's former wife, Lisa DeWaard, hugged Dykstra and patted him on the back.

Spies focused his closing arguments on Dykstra's demeanor and character.

"Does character count? We tell our children that character matters," Spies said. "That character can make all the difference in a case like this."

Spies countered first responders' testimonies about Dykstra's unnaturally "calm" behavior, saying "no one had ever met him before. They knew nothing about him."

"If all it takes to convict Brian Dykstra is statistics and all it takes is disregarding the considered judgment of the people who know him, if all of that means nothing, then the presumption of innocence means nothing, and we don't need it."

In Lahey's rebuttal, she said Dykstra's "character obviously did not save [the child]," adding "… while faith is a wonderful thing, it can be lying."

As Lahey began to discuss an interview between Spies and DeWaard from around the time of the incident, Spies interrupted and asked that the jury leave the courtroom.

He then made a motion for mistrial, saying there was not evidence for the details of the interview and that it was not mentioned during DeWaard's testimony. He said it could be "damaging" to Dykstra's trial. Sixth Judicial District Judge Patrick Grady overruled the motion, and Lahey finished her closing argument.

Jurors began deliberating the verdict — they can rule guilty of second-degree murder, guilty of manslaughter, or not guilty — Wednesday afternoon.

The group of nine women and five men will continue deliberations at 9 a.m. today in the Johnson County Courthouse.


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