State, defense rest in Shivers trial
The State of Iowa wrapped up its case against defendant Michael J. Shivers on Monday morning, and the defense concluded its case in the afternoon and will be sending it to the jury today.
Shivers is on trial for two counts of second-degree murder and one count of possession of a firearm as a prohibited person in connection with a June 2020 shootout in the Pleasant Valley neighborhood that left 25-year-old Jamael Cox and 47-year-old Tyrone Cunningham dead and two others injured.
Special Agent Scott Reger, of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, was the state’s last witness.
Reger, who was the lead investigator for the case, said law enforcement interviewed roughly 90 people and executed approximately 33 search warrants throughout the investigation.
Assistant Iowa Attorney General Doug Hammerand asked Reger about Isiah Mosley, the Fort Dodge man who the state says was the other party the defendant was shooting at on June 16, 2020.
Reger testified that law enforcement, through search warrants at two residences Mosley is familiar with, were able to locate the handgun Mosley allegedly had the night of the shooting. Reger said investigators were also able to locate a 45-caliber Glock allegedly possessed by Quanterious Altman the morning of the shooting as well.
Through previous testimony in the trial, the state has established that a large number of people were present at DarTonya Shivers’ residence in the 900 block of 10th Avenue Southwest on the evening of June 15, 2020, through the next morning, to celebrate the life of a recently-passed family member. Previous testimony also showed that Mosley, along with an unknown number of others, were known to be in the H.C. Meriwether Park across the street from the Shivers home.
Reger testified that through dozens of interviews and search warrants, investigators were able to determine the first shot that night was fired from the Shivers’ “side,” and that the first shot was fired by defendant Michael Shivers.
On cross-examination from defense attorney Christopher Kragnes, Reger testified that the individuals who identified Michael Shivers as the first shooter were Jeremiha Hatten and Michael Wells.
Hatten and Wells were formerly co-defendants alongside Michael Shivers and two other men who were originally charged with two counts of second-degree murder in November 2020. The state eventually dismissed the charges against four of the men, leaving Michael Shivers to stand alone on the murder charges.
Reger also testified that there were some “inconsistencies” with information gathered from witnesses and that some had said the first gunshots came from the park side.
Kragnes asked about another guest at the Shivers party, Devontae Naylor-Foy. Reger testified that investigators learned that there was an “ongoing history” between Mosley and Naylor-Foy.
Through further questioning, Kragnes highlighted for the jury that Michael Shivers never attempted to flee the scene of the shooting or evade investigators in the following days and weeks.
After the state rested its case, Kragnes made a motion for a mistrial because he was never provided with the audio recordings of the proffer statements made by Hatten and Wells, referring to the statements the two made to law enforcement in exchange for a plea deal on their related criminal charges.
“It may be information that alters our theory of the case,” Kragnes said.
“Mistrial would be the nuclear option, so to speak,” said Senior District Court Judge James McGlynn, denying the motion. He said he was willing to make accommodations for the defense counsel to review the proffer statements and recall the witnesses to the stand, if requested.
“The bulk of what you’re talking about, the jury was made aware of,” McGlynn added.
Kragnes also motioned for a judgment of acquittal on the three charges faced by Michael Shivers, arguing that the state failed to inform him that his previous domestic violence conviction in 1999 prohibited him from possessing firearms.
“There is zero evidence in this record that Michael Shivers was provided the notice that he’s required under the Iowa Code,” Kragnes said.
First Assistant Webster County Attorney Ryan Baldridge found that in 1999, the Iowa Code did not require the court to notify a defendant of the prohibition.
Kragnes argued that when the Iowa Code was changed, it became the court’s responsibility to inform those with convictions of the prohibitions.
McGlynn chose to defer his ruling on the motion for acquittal of the weapons charge, but ruled against the motion for acquittal on the two second-degree murder charges.
The defense only had two witnesses testify on Monday.
Ira Shivers, brother of the defendant, testified that he was not present during the shooting, but had later conversations with two former co-defendants of Michael Shivers.
Ira Shivers testified that in late June, Hatten came to the fireworks tent Shivers was running and asked to speak with him.
“How did he seem at the time?” Kragnes asked.
“Antsy,” Ira Shivers responded. “Nervous.”
He said he encouraged Hatten to talk to law enforcement about what happened the morning of June 16, 2020. And though Hatten was initially charged with the murders, he’s now pleading guilty to a “way lesser charge” to testify against Michael Shivers and say Michael fired the first shot, Ira Shivers said.
A week later, Ira Shivers talked to Wells and encouraged him to talk to law enforcement, Ira Shivers testified. Similar to Hatten, he said, Wells was initially charged with the murders but “took a plea deal to say Mike shot first.”
The defense’s second witness, Cierra Shivers, testified about the atmosphere around the party the night leading up to the shooting.
“We were enjoying the moment, listening to music that brought back memories of my mom, things that she would listen to,” she said. “It was a good time, given the circumstance.”
Cierra Shivers testified that the mood changed after Mosley stopped by briefly.
“He walked over with a pistol on his hip,” she said. “He greeted me; he said he was there to pay his respects, he was sorry for my loss.”
She said he was sort of looking around the crowd, like he was looking for someone, possibly Naylor-Foy.
Cierra Shivers testified that though Mosley’s visit was brief, it had a strong effect.
“The energy was tense,” she said. “It wasn’t the same enjoyable as it was previously.”
Shortly after, the shooting began. Cierra Shivers testified she doesn’t know who fired the first shot, and doesn’t even recall that first gunshot.
“To me it wasn’t an exchange of fire,” she said. “It was more like a war zone.”
On cross-examination, Baldridge asked if anyone at the party had asked Mosley to leave because of the gun on his hip, or if Mosley pulled the gun out while he was there.
Cierra Shivers said he wasn’t asked to leave and didn’t pull his gun.
She said she also doesn’t recall the defendant ever telling Mosley to leave.
The state and the defense will give their closing arguments this morning before putting the case in the jury’s hands.
Follow Kelby Wingert on Twitter at @KelbyWingert for live coverage.