The Iowa Supreme Court upheld the second-degree murder conviction of Annette Dee Cahill, who a Muscatine County jury found guilty of beating 22-year-old Corey Wieneke to death on October 13, 1992.
Cahill, 59, was convicted of second degree murder on September 19, 2019. At a sentencing hearing on November 22, 2019 in Muscatine County District Court, District Court Judge Patrick McElyea sentenced Cahill to the mandatory 50 years in prison.
Second degree murder is considered a forcible felony under Iowa law. Cahill must serve 70%, or 35 years, of his sentence before becoming eligible for parole.
The case was appealed to the Iowa Court of Appeals which upheld Cahill’s conviction. The case then went to the Iowa Supreme Court.
Cahill was prosecuted and convicted after new evidence surfaced in what had been a cold case. Cahill, then 29, and Wieneke, 22, had been involved in a relationship. The prosecution argued that Cahill and Wieneke had an argument over the fact that he had seen another woman the night before her body was found.
Wieneke’s homicide case remained cold until 2017, when Jessie Becker approached investigators about a confession she heard as a child. Becker said she heard Cahill say, “I’m sorry I killed you, Corey,” in a dark room in the house where Cahill lived and Becker, then 9, slept with friends.
Cahill’s first first-degree murder trial took place in March and ended in a hung jury. The second trial began the week of September 9, and the state presented the jury with new evidence. At the second trial, Cahill was found guilty of second degree murder.
In her appeals to the Iowa Court of Appeals and the Iowa Supreme Court, Cahill’s attorney, Elizabeth Araguas of Cedar Rapids, challenged the district court’s refusal to perform DNA testing on four hair found on Wieneke’s hand at the crime scene. Araguas pleaded violation to Brady. The Brady Rule requires prosecutors to disclose materially exculpatory evidence in the possession of the government to the defense.
Writing the Iowa Supreme Court opinion, Justice Edward Mansfield noted that Cahill’s attorneys were aware of the existence of the hair before the trial. Presumably, they were still available for DNA testing.
“Obviously, they preferred to assert that the unidentified human hair created additional uncertainty as to the depth of the state’s investigation, whether there had been a struggle, and who the real killer was,” he said. said Mansfield. “It is difficult to see how this calculation would have been different had Cahill’s attorneys known before trial that the common form of DNA testing could not be performed, even if they had known that a less specific form of testing could possibly be done.
“Of course, after Cahill’s conviction, all bets were off,” Mansfield wrote. “At that time, Cahill was looking for a path to a new trial.”
Additionally, Mansfield said the Iowa high court has ruled that a defendant is not entitled to a new trial based on newly discovered evidence where the defendant knew of the evidence before the verdict but did not. made no affirmative attempt to obtain the evidence or enter the evidence into the record.
Araguas also argued that the case should have been dismissed because of the 26-year delay, arguing that Cahill’s defense was hampered because some people who gave law enforcement information about other suspects weren’t were no longer available. In particular, according to Cahill’s investigator, nine people who previously had information about six other suspects died or suffered from memory impairment in 2019.
However, Mansfield said in his decision that, for the most part, these people had only offered second-hand hearsay and rumors, and that their stories contradicted each other.
“Cahill is not claiming that any particular individual saved him; at most, she claims that her “ability to present a full defense was significantly impaired by her inability to investigate the statements made by these witnesses” and her “inability to thoroughly investigate and possibly interview these deceased suspects.” significantly hampered his ability to present a full defense,” Mansfield said.
Araguas also questioned the admissibility of the testimony, namely that of Jessie Becker and her mother and later that of Scott Payne, who in 1996 Payne told Iowa Criminal Investigation Division investigators that he had seen Cahill burn a bunch of things after Cahill. was killed.
In a new interview, Payne recalls seeing Cahill burning bloodstained clothes in a barrel. Cahill claimed the clothes she burned were painted, but Payne, who worked slaughtering pigs for IBP, believed there was blood rather than paint on the clothes.
Mansfield for the Supreme Court and the Iowa Court of Appeals ruled that these were not valid arguments for admissibility, as the reliability of testimony is left to the jury.
Araguas also questioned the sufficiency of evidence in Cahill’s case. In that argument, she said the state never produced physical evidence linking Cahill to the crime, never produced an eyewitness to the crime, never produced an eyewitness placing her with the weapon, a baseball bat, nor a witness who was aware of any plan to kill Wieneke.
The Court of Appeal ruled that although the evidence against Cahill was not overwhelming, the court could not conclude that it fell below the threshold of substantial evidence.
In his opinion, Mansfield said that “in our review of the record, we find sufficient evidence to support the conviction.”
Mansfield said that “Becker’s testimony as to Cahill’s confession was corroborated by Cahill’s admitted presence at the Hotz-Wieneke home near the time of the murder and Payne’s testimony that he saw Cahill burning bloodied clothes.
Some other points are worth noting, Mansfield said. “The forensic and photographic evidence strongly suggests that Wieneke was fatally struck in the back of the head while he was sleeping or incapacitated. Thus, the physical dimensions of his assailant would not have had as much impact ‘importance.
“Additionally, the state’s most important witness, Becker, had an impressive life story as a critical care nurse and an officer in the Army Reserve while raising a family,” said Mansfield.
“Perhaps of greater importance to the jury, his testimony was relatable,” he added. “Nine-year-old Becker’s actions and the memories that stuck in his mind were what one would expect of a child that age.
“Also, Becker didn’t seem to have a vested interest in the outcome of the trial; she just happened to meet with an agent who worked on cold cases and tell her story,” Mansfield said. “On top of that, Becker’s mother confirmed that Becker has been consistent in her story since 1992.”