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Marshall found guilty of first-degree murder in landlord's slaying

BY LAUREN COFFEY | FEBRUARY 08, 2013 5:00 AM

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Justin Marshall remained somber Thursday afternoon as his supporters wept around him.

A jury found Marshall, 22, guilty of first-degree murder in the slaying of former Broadway Condominiums owner John Versypt in October 2009.

Sixth District Judge Sean McPartland announced the verdict shortly after 12:30 p.m. to a semi-full room of Iowa City police officers, Versypt’s family and friends, as well as Marshall’s two supporters.

After the reading of the verdict, Marshall’s attorneys Thomas Gaul and Mike Adams requested the jury state the grounds on which they found Marshall guilty.

One juror seemed pleased with the announced verdict.

“It’s great to be an American with our legal system,” juror Dave Tokuhisa said. “The jury of 12 system really works.”

The other 11 jurors declined to comment.

The defense attorneys left the courthouse in their black coats, with their heads down. Both declined to comment.

Johnson County prosecutors Janet Lyness and Meredith Rich-Chappell could not be reached for comment.

The Versypt family left the courtroom immediately after exchanging smiles with one another.

Marshall’s supporters continued to cry and did not wish to give a comment. Shortly after the verdict was read, Gaul asked directed one of the women to call Marshall’s mother.

The Versypt family gave a statement of gratitude for the verdict.

“We are grateful and relieved with the verdict by the jury,” the Versypt family said in a handwritten statement. “Hopefully, after three years, we can continue our healing and have some closure. Thank you to the Johnson County Attorney’s Office, Horizons Survivors Program, the Iowa City Police Department, and our family and friends who have stood by us in support during this difficult time. Thank you.”

Marshall’s trial began on Jan. 23. It had lasted 12 days, including two for jury selection, and it was delayed another two days — one for new evidence and another for bad weather. The jury’s deliberation took roughly 13 hours.

The jury did ask a clarification question on Wednesday regarding the definition of joint criminal conduct. According to the Iowa code, joint criminal conduct means a defendant can be charged with the actions of another person if they “knowingly participate in the act.” But McPartland simply asked the jury to “carefully review [the jury instructions]” after Johnson County prosecutor asked the judge to specifically single out two instructions. The defense objected to the action.

Charles Thompson was also charged with the first-degree murder in the case, but his trial ended in a mistrial after a mistake by the prosecution.

He later pleaded guilty to accessory to a felony and signed documents stating he knew Marshall killed Versypt.

But Gaul and Adams spent the length of the trial attempting to prove otherwise.

“As far as physical evidence … nothing the state has produced points in Justin Marshall’s direction,” Gaul said during his closing argument on Tuesday. “It does point in Charles Thompson’s direction.”
A third suspect, Courtney White, is also charged with first-degree murder in connection with the killing. His trial is set for May 1.

Marshall is set to be formally sentenced on April 26. Gaul and Adams said they plan to appeal the verdict.


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