CEDAR RAPIDS — The first-degree murder trial for the man accused of assaulting and killing Gina Frederiksen in her garage and then setting it on fire to cover up the crime, will remain in Linn County, a judge ruled Friday.
6th Judicial District Judge Mitchell Turner said Timothy Evans, 38, also charged with first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary and first-degree arson, did not meet his burden to show the news coverage was so “pervasive” that a fair and impartial jury couldn’t be selected.
Turner pointed out this country has a “free press” and reporters are going to cover crimes, especially homicides or high profile cases but that alone doesn’t equate to a change of venue.
David Grinde, Evans lawyer, argued the extensive news coverage by The Gazette and numerous other newspaper from the Quad Cities to Des Moines and even some outside of Iowa had biased and prejudiced any jury pool in the county.
Grinde also argued most of the articles in this area mentioned Evans’ previous convictions and a pending attempted burglary charge in an incident that occurred three hours before Frederiksen was killed, all of which wouldn’t be allowed at trial but would prejudice the jurors against his client.
First Assistant Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks argued just because a defendant commits a previous crime, doesn’t mean a trial should be moved out of county. The Iowa Supreme case has made that ruling — that alone doesn’t meet the standard to move a trial.
There is a certain criteria that must be met, such as if the new reports aren’t factual or are inflammatory. The news coverage has been factual. The reporting on this offense hasn’t been any more sensational than the crimes charged.
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“The court must distinguish between ‘sensational reporting of a routine crime’ and ‘routine reporting of a sensational crime’ — which would not rise to level of presumptive prejudice,” Maybanks noted.
Turner said he had read all the articles the defense has cited in its motion and he pointed out the majority of the articles were after the crime in May, a few in June and one in July — regarding the defense asking the court to move the trial.
He pointed out the trial isn’t until October and he concluded a fair and impartial jury could be selected in Linn County, which is densely populated and would allow the court to call a bigger jury pool if necessary.
Maybanks also argued to combine an attempted burglary charge, which Evans is accused of attempting to enter a home at 4:38 a.m. at 2101 Haven Court SW April 29, about three hours before Frederiksen was killed. The homeowner had footage from a surveillance camera, which shows the suspect.
Maybanks argued that both crimes are part of the same scheme or plan and part of a continuing motive — committing break-ins to steal items. The prosecution plans to use that crime to help prove intent in the Frederiksen garage burglary that turned into turned a robbery and led to homicide.
Grinde argued consolidating the charges would be unfair and prejudicial to Evans. Evans can’t be tried fairly in the attempted burglary after the jury hears evidence of the assault and homicide.
Turner said the two crimes aren’t part of a common scheme, as required by law. The attempted burglary evidence isn’t necessary to prove the murder charge. He agreed with Grinde that Evans couldn’t get a fair judgment on the attempted burglary charge.
Turner also ordered the attempted burglary trial to be reset to after the murder trial, which starts Oct. 15.
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Evans is accused of killing Gina Frederiksen, 38 of Cedar Rapids, on April 29. In what police called a “random act,” Evans broke into Frederiksen’s detached garage at 1814 I St. SW and the burglary turned into a robbery and fatal attack inside the garage, police said.
Neighbors called 911 after hearing an explosion at 7:34 a.m. Frederiksen was pulled from the garage but died a short time later at the hospital, police said.
Two witnesses told police a few days later that Evans had described how he killed Frederiksen, moments after it happened, and said he had set the fire in attempt to cover up the crime, according to the criminal complaint.
Evans remains in jail under a $2 million bail.
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