Iowa Supreme Court upholds Mason City double murder conviction following jury disqualification | national news

MASON CITY — The Iowa Supreme Court has upheld the double murder conviction of a Lake Mills man who challenged the verdict because of the racial makeup of his jury.

Peter Leroy Veal, 35, was convicted of first degree murder and attempted murder for allegedly shooting Mindy Kavars, stabbing Caleb Christensen to death and attempting to shoot another person in Mason City in November 2017.

On appeal, Veal challenged the verdict, arguing that his jury was not made up of a cross-section of the Webster County community, where the trial had been moved due to a change of location.

Prosecutors had used a rule that allows them to remove people with previous felony convictions to evict two African-American potential jurors and one white. In Iowa, convicted felons can serve on juries, but they can automatically be removed from the pool if either party requests it without using a strike.

According to court records, Webster County’s jury-eligible population is 3.02% African American. Of the 153 people appearing for jury duty, five were African Americans, three of whom went to a preliminary panel.

Neither was seated on the actual jury after the state sought to remove both ‘for cause’ due to felony convictions and used a preemptive strike on the third because his father was prosecuted for serious felony charges by the same prosecutor.

The NAACP attacked the “criminal exclusion rule” in an amicus curiae brief in the appeal, saying its use by the state had an “incredible” impact on the racial makeup of Veal’s jury.

“It was not an aberration; this is consistent with the dramatic racial disparities that have existed in the Iowa criminal justice system for at least four decades,” the NAACP argued.

But in a ruling Friday, the Iowa Supreme Court said African Americans were actually overrepresented on the jury pool.

“Having a fair sample of the population in a defendant’s pool, as noted by the District Court, does not guarantee a racially representative jury,” the High Court opinion said.

“Evidence showed that Veal’s own pool and panel contained a percentage of African Americans that exceeded their percentage in Webster County’s jury-eligible population, and there is no basis under the Sixth Amendment. to adjust the calculations as Veal requests based on the cause challenges at the voir dire,” the opinion reads.

The decision noted that 3.27% of its jury pool was African American and the preliminary panel was 8.82%.

The Supreme Court noted that potential jurors who are criminals can be automatically removed from a panel if either party requests it, “but potential jurors with felony convictions can – and do – sit to juries if no party disputes them”.

Veal is the younger brother of Ruthann Veal, who was convicted of murdering a retired librarian in Waterloo when she was 14 in 1993. She was released on parole in June 2021.

In a related case, the Iowa Supreme Court upheld the second-degree murder conviction of Antoine Tyree Williams, who also challenged his jury’s racial demographics.

Williams was convicted of murdering Nathaniel Fleming in a 2017 shooting at a Charles City apartment building.

Two African Americans had responded to a jury summons for Williams’ trial, and Floyd County officials excused one because she was a student attending a school outside the area.

About Jessica J. Bass

Check Also

Lawyers for former Fort Worth officer tell court they are needed elsewhere on murder trial date | PA

FORT WORTH, Texas — Two attorneys who represent a former Fort Worth police officer who …