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Judge hears arguments for weapons charges dismissal

Darrell Jones

A Fort Dodge man arrested in connection with a 2020 double homicide had the opportunity to make his case to a District Court judge, asking for his felony weapons charges to be dismissed on Thursday afternoon.

Darrell L. Jones, 23, is charged with two counts of intimidation with a dangerous weapon (a Class C felony), along with one count of felon in possession of a firearm (a Class D felony), in relation to a June 2020 shooting in the Pleasant Valley neighborhood that left two men dead and two others injured.

Two Fort Dodge men, 25-year-old Jamael Cox and 47-year-old Tyrone Cunningham, were killed in a volley of bullets in the early morning hours of June 16. Two others, Marissa Andrews, 21, of Fort Dodge, and Jayne Barton, 30, of Wesley, were injured but survived.

After a five-month investigation involving multiple law enforcement agencies, five men, including Jones, were charged with two counts of second-degree murder on Nov. 10, 2020.

In April, Jones’ charges were dismissed by the Webster County Attorney’s Office, citing information gathered through depositions that led prosecutors to believe the charges couldn’t be proven at trial by proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

Jones was then charged with the two counts of intimidation and the possession count.

Last month, Jones’ defense attorney, Stanley Roush, filed a motion to dismiss those charges, arguing that Jones’ rights to due process and a speedy trial were violated by the prosecution.

Jones was arrested on June 24, 2020, on a material witness warrant and was held in the Webster County Jail for 139 days, until he was charged with the murders on Nov. 10.

Roush argued in his motion and during a hearing with District Court Judge Amy Moore on Thursday afternoon that the material witness proceeding was clearly a “sham undertaken in bad faith with the true purpose of commencing punishment of the defendant for later allegations.”

He had argued that the state had a pending request with the court to withhold mandatory statutory witness fees Jones had earned while being held on the material witness warrant, so that the money could be applied to any restitution ordered if Jones is convicted of his charges.

During Thursday’s hearing, First Assistant Webster County Attorney Ryan Baldridge noted that the request is no longer pending and was dismissed in April, prior to the weapons charges being filed.

Roush asked Moore to take into account the “totality of the circumstances” when deciding this matter.

State law requires that defendants be indicted with charges within 45 days of being arrested for a crime. Roush argued that because Jones was held as a material witness for 139 days before he was charged, his rights to a speedy trial were violated.

Baldridge argued that the material witness warrant and hold were necessary because the state wanted to bring Jones in to give a statement of what happened and the state wanted to make sure he would be available to serve with subpoenas for others who may be charged from the June 16 shooting.

Roush responded that law enforcement got a “four-hour” statement from Jones on June 24 and that he had a warrant out for his arrest in Texas and “would have been easy to find to serve a subpoena.”

Baldridge came back with a statement that because of the pandemic, Texas law enforcement was not going to come to extradite Jones.

Baldridge also noted that the current charges, though they come from the same incident, are not related to his arrest and charges of second-degree murder in November. He cited case law that has found that “new charges arising from the same incident are excluded from the speedy indictment rule as it relates to the original charges,” meaning that when Jones was arrested for the new charges — even though he was already in custody at the Webster County Jail — the 45-day deadline had restarted with the new arrest.

Moore will likely rule on the motion to dismiss early next week.

If Jones’ motion fails, he has already filed a notice of his intent to rely upon the defense of self-defense and the defense of others at trial. His trial is scheduled for June 29.

Two counts of second-degree murder remain for three of the other four men charged:

• James Davis Jr., 35, of Fort Dodge

• Michael J. Shivers, 55, of Eagle Grove

• Jeremiha R. Hatten, 22, of Fort Dodge

Another defendant, Michael J. Wells, 33, of Fort Dodge, also saw his two second-degree murder charges dismissed earlier this week. He was also then charged with two counts of intimidation with a dangerous weapon.

Davis Jr., Shivers and Wells also face an additional charge of felon in possession of a firearm.

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