Public Safety

Man charged in Cedar Rapids double homicide wants trial moved

Lawyer argues pretrial publicity prevents fair trial in Linn County

Andre Richardson
Andre Richardson

CEDAR RAPIDS — A man charged in two fatal shootings and seriously injuring two others outside a smoke shop May 18 wants his trial moved out of Linn County because of extensive pretrial publicity. He also wants a statement suppressed that he made to police after he asked for a lawyer.

Andre Richardson, 26, is charged with two counts each of first-degree murder, attempted murder and willful injury causing serious injury, and one count each of intimidation with a weapon, felon in possession of a firearm and going armed with intent.

He is accused of firing a “series of shots with a .45-caliber handgun at close range” into a Buick Rendezvous in the parking lot of the Iowa Smoke Shop at 70 Kirkwood Ct. SW, according to criminal complaints. The fatal attack was captured on surveillance video.

Officers arrived about 1:20 a.m. and found Royal Abram and Matrell Johnson, both 18, of Cedar Rapids, in the back seat of the Rendezvous. They had been fatally shot, complaints show. Two 19-year-olds, Booker McKinney and Kayla Panos-Blackcloud, were in the front seats and were seriously injured.

Surveillance video of the shooting shows that the handgun jammed several times as Richardson repeatedly shot into the Buick, and each time he cleared the weapon and continued to fire, according to the complaint.

Motion to move trial to another county

Sarah Hradek, Richardson’s lawyer, in the motion for a change of venue cites numerous local and area media outlets that have reported in broadcasts, print and digital forms on the case since May, including national coverage of an article in Time magazine Aug. 19, regarding mass shootings.

The motion points out the Cedar Rapids Police Department used social media and billboards to provide information to the public regarding the suspects or wanted individuals in this case. Richardson’s lawyers claim the information by the department and the public comments on the posts were “inflammatory.”

The comments on the posts reference gang membership and “people from Chicago,” calls to bring back the death penalty and speculation on Richardson’s prior criminal history, according to the motion.

The motion includes many examples of derogatory, racist and “inflammatory” comments from the public on social media posts. News coverage and social media posts have occurred whenever an issue is addressed in this case, and likely will continue, lawyers argue.

A degree of prejudice in Linn County exists and would deny Richardson his “constitutional right to an impartial jury,” according to the motion.

Hradek also asks the court to order a subpoena for Media Quest Outdoor, which owns the billboards used by police in this case, according to court documents. The defense wants information about the billboards, which the company won’t release without a subpoena.

Motion to suppress statement

In the motion to suppress, Richardson asked the court to not allow one of his statements made to police into the trial because he already asked for a lawyer. After his request, a Cedar Rapids police investigator asked him if anyone had read him the warrant, and he said no. The investigator read it to him and asked if he has any questions.

Richardson said “Uh, yeah, sounds about ...” and then took a drink of water, according to the motion. In the trial information and minutes of testimony, Richardson is quoted as saying “That’s about right” after being advised of the charges. That statement shouldn’t be allowed because Richardson already asked for a lawyer and had a right to remain silent, Hradek argued.

The prosecution hasn’t replied to the motions at this time, and a judge hasn’t set a hearing on the motions.

Last month, Alexandra L. Smith, 24, of Cedar Rapids, also was charged in the shooting with accessory after the fact, according to the criminal complaint. Smith is accused of driving the vehicle that Richardson was riding in the morning of the shooting.

Authorities said Smith helped Richardson escape after the shooting by allowing him to use her credit card to buy gas in Cedar Rapids and Urbandale. She also went with him to Raytown, Mo., where she helped him buy clothes and the cellphone that was found in his possession when he was arrested June 24, hiding in a garage after being bitten by a police dog used to track him.

If convicted of the charges, Richardson faces two life sentences.

Richardson’s trial was reset to May 4 in Linn County District Court.

Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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