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Judge sets Pendleton murder trial venue

Case will be tried in Scott County

Joshua Pendleton

Scott County has been selected as the venue for the murder trial of the man accused of killing the Rev. Al Henderson in October.

Joshua Pendleton, 37, will go to trial for first-degree murder and first-degree robbery in Davenport at a date to be determined. Given the backlog of cases in urban Scott County, the start of the trial is expected to be delayed substantially.

A trial scheduling conference will soon determine when the trial can start. Jury trials in Iowa are prohibited from starting before Sept. 14 due to COVID-19 precautions.

Though the right to a “speedy trial” is a consideration in changing venues, the Fort Dodge defendant has waived his right to expediency. Attorneys for Pendleton on Friday expressed strong preference for Scott County even if it meant waiting longer to go to trial.

The court venue in Davenport was the first choice of both state and defense attorneys hoping to escape from the pre-trial coverage of the high profile case, which was picked up by multiple state and national media outlets.

District Judge Gina Badding offered Carroll and Cerro Gordo Counties as potential alternatives to Scott, hoping to avoid prolonging the trial unnecessarily. Her suggestions were rebutted by defense attorneys on the grounds that both were too close to the “general central Iowa media market” and had differing demographics.

“Given (Carroll County’s) proximity to our media market, one person hearing about it in the community means that many have heard, given its small size,” defense attorney Michelle Wolf said Friday. “The defense … is willing to wait to have it in a county in which we think it could (render) the fairest jury pool.”

State attorneys said at Friday’s hearing they did not believe a trial had to be moved to a county of the exact same size and racial makeup to give a fair cross-section of jurors for trial.

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