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Experts: White may also face first-degree murder conviction in landlord case

BY CASSIDY RILEY | FEBRUARY 14, 2013 5:00 AM

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Experts said a conviction could be very likely in the case of the final man charged with first-degree murder in connection with the 2009 death of John Versypt, an Iowa City landlord.

Courtney White was the third person in the former Broadway Condominium owner’s death to be charged with first-degree murder. The first person was Charles Thompson, whose trial later ended in a mistrial because of an error by the prosecution. The second suspect was Justin Marshall, who was found guilty of the murder on Feb. 7.

White was charged with first-degree murder in the Versypt case on Oct. 3, 2011. According to a police complaint, a witness told the police that White said he needed money and spoke of potentially committing a robbery prior to Versypt’s body being found dead in the hallway of the complex. 

A witness allegedly saw White in the same hallway in which the slaying took place shortly before the incident. Then, within a few minutes of the victim being discovered, a witness reportedly saw White running from the scene.

“It wouldn’t surprise me if the state is arguing that White was Marshall’s accomplice or vice versa,” Song Richardson, a University of Iowa professor of law, wrote in an email. “A person can be charged with the same crime as their accomplice.”

Under the theory of joint criminal conduct, White can still be tried and convicted of murder.

“Joint criminal conduct is generally holding a co-conspirator liable to someone’s acts that weren’t agreed upon but were reasonably [foreseeable],” Robert Riggs, the director of the criminal defense program at Drake University, said.

Riggs said under the theory of joint criminal conduct the state would first have to prove that Marshall and White agreed to commit the robbery together. The state would also have to prove that in the process of robbery, Marshall killed Versypt and, that while Marshall and White may have not planned to kill Versypt, it was reasonably foreseeable that the murder could have taken place.

Jerry Foxhoven, the executive director of Drake University’s legal clinic, said an example of a way the state could prove a murder could have been reasonably foreseeable in this case would be if White had knowledge of Marshall cariying a gun to the robbery.

“Ninety-nine times out of 100, the jury can say that it was reasonably foreseeable if all of the parties knew someone was going to have a gun,” Foxhoven said. “If they can prove that a person was killed on the account of the robbery and that this new defendant participated in the robbery, then yeah, the jury could find him guilty of first-degree murder as well.”


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