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Russell trial continued to August

Murder defendant wants time to adjust to new meds

Mark Russell

The jury trial of a Fort Dodge man accused of murdering his ex-girlfriend’s mother in January 2020 has been postponed after the defendant waived his right to a speedy trial on Friday afternoon.

Mark David Russell, 29, is facing a first-degree murder charge after police say he killed 45-year-old Angela McLeod in her North 14th Street home on Jan. 20, 2020, following an apparent altercation that Fort Dodge police responded to twice. According to the police report of the incident, Russell allegedly struck McLeod at least three times with a golf club, killing her.

The trial had originally been scheduled to start Tuesday and continue for about two weeks, but prior to a scheduled hearing on the defense’s motion in limine on Friday afternoon, the defense submitted its waiver of a speedy trial.

A motion in limine is a tool to limit testimony by keeping witnesses or attorneys from talking in front of the jury about certain matters that are not relevant or otherwise not admissible at trial.

During the hearing on Friday, Russell told District Court Judge Angela Doyle that he wished to waive his right to have a jury trial within 90 days of the filing of the trial information, which was filed on March 11. He said he wanted to continue the trial in order to pursue mental health treatment so that he could better make decisions in his own defense case.

Russell has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and mild depression, and as of Friday, was only taking one psychiatric medication, which was to treat his depression.

Defense attorney Charles Kenville said that Russell has not expressed any active symptoms of mental illness to him or his co-counsel, Letitia Turner, recently.

“However, he has expressed to us that the medication he is currently on, he doesn’t feel like it’s working as well as other medication he’s been on in the past,” Kenville said.

The state, represented by First Assistant County Attorney Ryan Baldridge, had no objection to the waiver, and it was accepted by Doyle.

Russell still has the right to withdraw his waiver of a speedy trial at any time, Doyle noted.

The court has set Aug. 10 as the new start date for Russell’s murder trial.

Russell had previously been remanded to the Iowa Medical and Classification Center (Oakdale) in Coralville for an evaluation and any necessary treatment to restore the defendant to competency to face trial.

Defense attorney Kenville had requested a competency hearing for Russell in February 2020, citing that the defendant had been exhibiting signs of paranoia and hallucinations consistent with schizophrenia. Former Chief District Court Judge Kurt Wilke ordered Russell to be evaluated at the IMCC.

At a hearing in May, prompted by positive psychiatric evaluations and the establishment of a medication regimen, Doyle found Russell had been restored to competency with treatment and ordered proceedings to resume.

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