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Closing arguments in Shivers trial

Shivers acquitted on weapons charge, verdict on murder charges with the jury

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Assistant Iowa State Attorney General Doug Hammerand delivers his closing arguments to the jury on Tuesday afternoon.

The defense for murder defendant Michael J. Shivers was at least partially successful on Tuesday as Senior District Court Judge James McGlynn granted the defense’s motion for acquittal on the charge of possession of a firearm as a prohibited person.

On Monday, defense attorney Christopher Kragnes made the motion once the state rested its case against his client, arguing that because the state of Iowa failed to inform Shivers of the firearm prohibition, he did not know he was breaking the law at the time and, according to Iowa Code, the state of Iowa is required to inform him of the prohibition.

Shivers was charged with the firearm possession along with two counts of second-degree murder after a shootout in the Pleasant Valley neighborhood on June 16, 2020, that left two men dead and two women injured.

Jamael Cox, 25, and Tyrone Cunningham, 47, both died from their injuries sustained in the firefight. Both were innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire, the prosecution has argued during Shivers’ trial.

McGlynn chose to reserve his ruling on the motion for acquittal on the possession charge on Monday, citing the need for more research to reach a conclusion.

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Defense attorney Christopher Kragnes emphasizes the plea deal two of the witnesses received from the state to testify against his client Michael J. Shivers on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, McGlynn made his ruling, siding with the defense.

“The state presented no evidence that the defendant knew he was prohibited from possessing firearms,” McGlynn said.

However, the two second-degree murder charges remained and the attorneys moved on to deliver their closing arguments to the jury on Tuesday afternoon.

The prosecution started by attacking Shivers’ defense that he had been acting in self-defense and in defense of others because Isiah Mosley had shown up to the celebration of life the Shivers family was having in the 900 block of 10th Avenue Southwest. The party had started on the evening of June 15, 2020, and gone into the early morning hours of June 16.

Throughout the trial, witnesses described the scene as “tense” after Mosley showed up, and an investigator testified that in an interview with the defendant, Shivers described it as a “stalemate.”

“The defendant did not fear for his life, or the lives of others — he just got tired waiting,” said Asistant Iowa Attorney General Doug Hammerand. “So he decided to take that AR assault rifle that he had and fire it several times into a group of people, killing two innocent bystanders.”

Instead of telling Mosley to leave, or even calling the police, Shivers decided to take matters into his own hands, Hammerand told the jury.

Hammerand also reminded the jury that throughout four interviews with investigators and other interactions with law enforcement, not once did Shivers tell them he had acted in self-defense. In fact, he had initially told Detective Larry Hedlund that he did not have a gun at all that night. Shivers later told Special Agent Chris Calloway, of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, that he had a 38-caliber revolver that night, but that he didn’t fire the first shot.

In his closing arguments, Kragnes argued that the state didn’t prove that Shivers fired the shots that hit the victims nor did it prove who fired the first shot that morning.

“The evidence hasn’t shown us who shot who,” Kragnes said.

During the state’s case, witnesses Michael Wells and Jeremiha Hatten both testified that Shivers had been in possession of the Bushmaster AR-15 that morning and that they saw him fire the first shot.

In closing, Kragnes reminded the jury that both Wells and Hatten had also initially been charged with the murders, but later took plea deals with the state in exchange for testifying.

On rebuttal, Hammerand said the plea deals were for Wells and Hatten to be truthful on the stand, “not pick a guy.” He also pointed out that Wells is a son of the defendant and still named his father as the first shooter.

“Do you really think if he wanted a deal … he’s going to name his dad if he’s making it up?” Hammerand asked.

“They got a plea deal, but that doesn’t mean they’re not telling the truth,” he told the jury.

After closing arguments, McGlynn sent the jury into the jury room to begin deliberations.

If convicted, Michael Shivers faces up to 50 years in prison for each count, with a mandatory minimum of 70% of time served, meaning he could spend the rest of his life in prison.

The jury will continue to deliberate today until a verdict is reached.

Follow Kelby Wingert on Twitter at @KelbyWingert for live updates on the verdict.

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