CEDAR RAPIDS — The second trial for Nicholas Luerkens, accused of fatally stabbing his former girlfriend in a grocery store parking lot in 2015, will now go forward May 21 after being reset three times.
During a hearing Wednesday, attorneys told 6th Judicial District Judge Mitchell Turner that the trial would take five to six days and they plan on calling at least 70 people for the jury pool. Jury selection in Scott County District Court will start May 21.
The prosecution’s case will remain the same and the defense will still claim insanity/diminished capacity and/or intoxication. The defense has added a new expert witness to testify about Luerkens’ medical and/or mental issues, according to court documents.
Leon Spies, Luerkens’ lawyer told the court in February he needed more time to prepare for trial based on new medical findings that prevented the trial from starting March 19. It was then reset to Aug. 6 in Scott County District Court. In March, Luerkens demanded his speedy trial right and 6th Judicial District Judge Mitchell Turner then reset it again for May 21.
The defense asked for a change of venue last year based on pretrial publicity and it was moved to Scott County District Court.
A Linn County jury convicted Luerkens, 35, in November 2015 of first-degree in the fatal stabbing of Lynnsey Donald, 29, in the Marion Hy-Vee parking lot April 21, 2015. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
The Iowa Court of Appeals ruled in May 2017 that Luerkens should have a new trial because the judge should have allowed the jury to consider an insanity defense. In June, the Iowa Supreme Court declined to review that decision.
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Turner ruled in the first trial that the defense hadn’t submitted sufficient evidence to present the insanity claim to the jury.
Evidence at the 2015 trial, including a surveillance video of the attack, showed Luerkens stabbed Donald 32 times. He ambushed her in the parking lot as she was holding the hand of her son. Her son was 7-years-old at the time, and after seeing the stabbing he ran home.
Luerkens then turned the knife on himself, saying he was going to jail and wanted to die, witnesses testified.
The defense never denied Luerkens killed Donald, only that he had diminished capacity at the time.
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