Hobbs’ conviction upheld - Fort Madison Daily Democrat: Wednesday

Hobbs’ conviction upheld

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Posted: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 12:00 pm

The Iowa Supreme Court has decided not to review the February 2012 trial of a St. Francisville, Mo., man convicted of first-degree murder.

The refusal is the end of the appeals process for Tyler Hobbs, 28, who is serving a life sentence for the November 2010 murder of Shawn Wright, 40, Kahoka, Mo.

Hobbs was convicted by a jury in the South Lee County Courthouse in Keokuk. District Judge Mary Ann Brown sentenced Hobbs in March 2012 to life in prison without parole.

Prior to sentencing, Brown denied a motion for a new trial by Hobbs’ defense attorneys Jon Henson and Kendra Abfalter, who cited inconsistencies in eyewitness Kimberly Jaeger’s testimony. Jaeger was Hobbs’ girlfriend.

Brown ruled that the physical evidence related to Wright’s murder was consistent with Jaeger’s testimony. Brown said the jury was aware of Jaeger’s intoxication at the scene of the crime and had found Hobbs guilty despite Jaeger’s impairment at the time of the murder.

Hobbs appealed his conviction, but in March the Iowa Court of Appeals upheld the guilty verdict reached in district court.

“In his first appeal, Hobbs argues the district court erred in failing to grant his motion for a new trial,” according to the court of appeal’s ruling. “Hobbs contends the testimony of a key witness, necessary for his conviction, should have been disregarded. Because we find no error, we affirm (Brown’s ruling).”

In its review, the court of appeals looked “for abuse of discretion” by the district court, not for “the underlying question of whether the verdict is against the weight of the evidence.”

Hobbs’ attorneys argued that without Jaeger’s testimony, the evidence would not have carried enough weight for his conviction, according to court documents.

The court of appeals noted that “Wright’s blood was found in Hobbs’ truck. The speaker wire used to secure a bag around Wright’s head matched wire also found in Hobbs’ truck ... Police learned that Hobbs was the last person seen with Wright. Witnesses established Hobbs had previously threatened to injure and kill Wright if the opportunity arose. As a result, the district court (Brown) did not abuse its discretion in determining this evidence was sufficient to corroborate Jaeger’s testimony,” according to court documents.

As to Jaeger’s credibility, the court of appeals wrote, “none of the details she provided about the events of the night stretch the bounds of believability to the limits of impossibility. Neither does her admitted intoxication require her testimony to be disregarded. Our courts have long held that intoxication, while certainly impairing credibility, falls short of destroying it. Jaeger’s intoxication was well established for the jury, who was able to consider it when assigning weight to her testimony. Accordingly, we affirm.”

During the initial trial, Jaeger testified that outside an abandoned farm house near Argyle, Wright made sexual advances toward her and Hobbs hit Wright over the head with a wooden mallet. She said Hobbs hit Wright several times more “to silence him,” according to court documents.

Hobbs testified that at the farmhouse, “he walked away from Wright and Jaeger to urinate. Hearing a shriek of some kind, Hobbs stated that he returned to find Jaeger standing over Wright with the mallet in her hand. He claims that Jaeger told him Wright had tried to rape her,” according to court documents.

Hobbs later dumped Wright’s body in Gregory Landing, Mo., where it was discovered by a passerby.

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