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Shivers denied new trial

He was convicted in 2020 shooting deaths

Michael Shivers

A District Court judge for Webster County has denied Michael Shivers’ motion for a new trial, ruling that potential new evidence that has come to light since the trial is not sufficient to throw out the jury’s conviction.

Shivers, 56, was found guilty on Oct. 27 of two counts of second-degree murder for the deaths of 25-year old Jamael Cox and 47-year-old Tyrone Cunningham.

The two men, both of Fort Dodge, were killed when they were struck by gunshots during what was described as a “volley of bullets” in the 900 block of 10th Avenue Southwest around 4:45 a.m. on June 16, 2020.

On Dec. 14, Shivers, through his attorney, Christopher Kragnes, argued his motion for a new trial in front of Senior District Court Judge James McGlynn. During the hearing, Chyla Shivers, a niece of the defendant, testified that prior to the June 2020 shooting, she had a conversation with James “Dinky” Davis Jr. during which Davis told her that he had accepted a “hit” on Cunningham. Davis was initially charged with the two murders, alongside Michael Shivers and three other men.

Chyla Shivers testified that she had seen Davis at the celebration of life that many of their friends and family had gathered for on the evening of June 15, 2020, and that Davis had a handgun on him. She testified that she believes that because Cunningham was located several blocks away from where the shooting took place, he must have been shot nearer to where he was located.

Private investigator Scott Gratias also testified during the Dec. 14 hearing, stating that the defense could not have, with reasonable diligence, discovered and produced this evidence at trial as Chyla Shivers did not mention the conversation she had with Davis when she was interviewed by Gratias. The investigator testified that he believes it’s likely that Davis was trying to cause trouble the night of the shooting in hopes that someone else might complete his contract work for him and kill Cunningham.

In a 14-page ruling filed Wednesday evening, McGlynn denied Shivers’ motion for a new trial in its entirety.

“The so-called evidence is really nothing more than a theory arrived at by Ms. Shivers and then reimagined by the investigator,” McGlynn wrote.

McGlynn wrote that during the interview with Chyla Shivers, Gratias simply asking “who, what and when” about the shooting, was not enough due diligence. Due diligence would have been asking if she knew why anyone would want to kill Cunningham or Cox, McGlynn wrote, stating that Shivers’ memory would have been jolted and the information about the alleged contract hit on Cunningham would have been provided prior to trial.

“At the most, this ‘newly discovered’ evidence suggests that ‘Dinky’ should be given some credit or blame for inciting those fears and passions but the identity and motives of the person stirring the pot are not important and relevant to this defendant’s case,” McGlynn wrote. “If the theory can be proved then ‘Dinky’ may have some culpability of his own, but it would be in addition to the culpability of Michael Shivers, not in place of it.”

Shivers’ motion for a new trial also argued that the prosecution had failed to provide any written plea agreements or statements of the co-defendants who testified at trial, Michal Wells and Jeremiha Hatten. McGlynn noted in his ruling that the defense had ample opportunity to cross-examine Wells and Hatten about their plea agreements during trial, and that the defense was offered a short recess to review the statements during the trial, but declined.

A sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.

Michael Shivers faces up to 50 years in prison for each count, with a mandatory minimum of 70 percent of time served for both.

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