Defense lawyer attacks officer’s credibility
Tanner King’s attorney: Prosecutors withheld evidence
NEVADA — Tanner King, the man accused of murdering El Dominic and Marion Rhodes, could see the case against him dismissed next week if the judge grants his defense team’s Friday request.
As the jury was dismissed for lunch on the last day of the first week in the trial, counsel stayed seated. Defense attorney Paul Rounds had something to say.
“This is a double homicide,” he said. “The state has the obligation … to provide anything that is exculpatory.”
Exculpatory is the term used for evidence that could prove the defendant’s innocence on a charge or lead to others who did commit the crime.
King, of Fort Dodge, faces two counts of first degree murder in connection with the Oct. 22, 2018, shooting deaths of the Rhodes brothers. Their bodies were found in an alley and a parking lot near an apartment building at Second Avenue North and Ninth Street previously occupied by King.
Just before Detective Larry Hedlund, prosecuting attorneys’ final witness from the Fort Dodge Police Department, took the stand, Rounds dropped a 500-page document into the court’s lap — a transcript of an investigation into Hedlund’s termination from the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, which he said came into their possession Thursday.
Rounds said the recently-unsealed document, which he claimed was withheld by the state, references lies Hedlund made while at the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, in addition to his refusal to follow up on leads.
But that’s not the only thing the defense said First Assistant Webster County Attorney Ryan Baldridge and Assistant Attorney General Susan Krisco withheld. A list of other items that Rounds said could lead to information proving King’s innocence, or implicate another man in the deaths, included: a 40-caliber handgun sent for testing, jailhouse phone calls, reports associated with a robbery conspiracy that involved the gun and recordings of conversation between another man and Hedlund in which Hedlund allegedly talked about the state’s possession of the gun.
Rounds has asked the court to dismiss the case with prejudice for what he called egregious Brady and Giglio violations. If that request is granted, King would be released from the charges and the state would not be able to file them again.
A Brady violation, as attorneys refer to it, is the result of a Supreme Court ruling from 1963 that held prosecutors have a constitutional duty to disclose all evidence favorable, or evidence that could lead to finding potentially favorable information, to defendants upon request.
A Giglio violation is one in which prosecutors fail to notify the defendant of law enforcement witnesses being called who have a documented history of lying.
Hedlund, a former 25-year veteran of the DCI, has sued the agency for wrongful termination. He was placed on administrative leave and fired in 2013, days after reporting an SUV clocked going 84 mph in a 65 mph zone on U.S Highway 20.
That SUV’s passengers included then-Gov. Terry Branstad and then Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, who is now Iowa’s governor. Branstad denied that Hedlund’s firing was related to the incident.
That lawsuit is still pending an appeal in court.
The new matter froze the trial, whose jury was dismissed early for the week, until District Court Judge Kurt Stoebe can research the matter enough to make a ruling. Stoebe is expected to speak to the status of the request on Monday.
“The defense is extremely frustrated because we asked for a timely meeting on these materials (with a request for a hearing in August), and we were denied (because of) what appears to be a blatantly false statement by Mr. Baldridge,” Rounds said. “More importantly, they held on to (the report on Hedlund) for months and months.”
Baldridge’s referenced quote, which Rounds said was cited verbatim by the court in denying the request for a hearing on exculpatory evidence, was: “the state is wholly unaware of evidence held back (that shows) King was not the shooter or that Cletio Clark confessed.”
The defense team received a compilation of the state’s evidence against King on April 5 after making a request routine for defense attorneys. Rounds claimed the report was available to prosecuting attorneys three days before that.
Denying any knowledge of the file and denying that the contents of the file would reasonably amount to a violation of her duties if she had been aware of it, Krisco replied point by point.
She contended that the instance of Hedlund not following up on a lead was for one given by a psychic, to which Baldridge audibly laughed as she continued — irritating defense attorneys enough to make a point of bringing it up with the judge later on the record.
“These snide comments that don’t make the record are out of line,” he said, referring to several “annoying” instances when the state’s table made loud comments during Rounds’ address to the judge.
“There seems to be this idea that the state is one giant entity that moves around like a blob,” Krisco continued. “I can’t get things that are sealed.”
That includes things like Department of Human Services records and medical records, she said.
“I can’t even check to see if Mr. Rounds is on medication,” she said, to Rounds’s immediate objection.
Krisco conceded no knowledge of the gun sent for testing referenced and implied that Hedlund’s reference of it in interviews and conversations — that the state had guns they were getting tested — were false statements used to elicit information from the subject. Use of deceptive interrogation tactics is legally protected by a 1969 Supreme Court ruling, she said.
She also dismissed alleged statements from a third-party saying Clark confessed to the murders as hearsay.
And the defense’s timing was disingenuous, she added.
“The state is one entity when it comes to Brady (violations),” Rounds replied. “That’s the law. … If there’s even one line in (the Hedlund report) about him lying, that’s exculpatory.”
Prosecutors have introduced testimony to the jury that revealed Hedlund had prior DCI experience before coming back to the FDPD, and previously acted as supervisor of the lead special agent, Ray Fiedler. Fiedler managed the investigation of the Oct. 22, 2018, shooting and testified to his role in that capacity Thursday and Friday.
Rounds said that Hedlund’s history as the lead agent’s former boss, which the jury may be inclined to give him more credence for, should be tempered by the fact that he was fired.
Krisco also referenced a ruling by Chief Judge Kurt Wilke, of the 2nd Judicial District, who had privately reviewed similar requests for a file to impeach Hedlund and concluded that it contained no exculpatory evidence that could be used.
Wilke called King a liar after claiming that Fort Dodge Mayor Matt Bemrich assaulted and coerced him into taking a plea deal for his role in the arson and burglary of Bemrich Electric & Telephone Inc. in 2013.
King’s request to rescind the plea deal was denied, as he had stated his intent to accept the agreement in court a month earlier.
Stoebe said that ruling does not set any precedent for this court.
“Yes, it’s informative to a point, but not necessarily a precedent the court can follow,” he said.