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Iowa City Ped Mall Shooting Trial Includes 'Stand Your Ground' Claim

polk county court
Stephen Matthew Milligan
Wikimedia Commons
The trial was moved to the Polk County courthouse because of local media exposure in Johnson County.

The man accused of shooting three people in downtown Iowa City in August is going to trial Monday. Lamar Wilson is charged with the murder of one man and the attempted murder of two others in Iowa City’s Pedestrian Mall, which was crowded with bar patrons at the time of the shooting.

The high-profile case will also be the state’s first trial involving a self-defense claim under Iowa’s new "stand your ground" law.

The new "stand your ground" provision means if a person is in a place they have a lawful right to be present, they have no duty to retreat before using deadly force for self-defense. It went into effect in Iowa July 1, 2017, but lawmakers did not specify a legal process for using the defense.

In October, lawyers for Wilson said he should be immune from prosecution under the "stand your ground" law. Sixth Judicial District Judge Paul Miller decided Wilson must go to trial, and Miller will rule on the immunity claim after the jury returns a verdict.

At a hearing last year, Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness said Wilson and gang members brought guns to the ped mall to confront a group arriving from Cedar Rapids. Defense attorney John Bruzek said a group from Cedar Rapids started flashing their guns and threatening people on the ped mall, and Wilson was protecting himself when he fired shots.

Prosecutors are asking the judge to ban the phrase "stand your ground" from trial because it’s not included in Iowa law.

The defense is asking the judge to exclude from trial any references to the defendant as a gang member. Judge Miller recently ruled that a charge of gang participation will not be included in this trial, and that Wilson can face that charge at a later date.

The trial, which was moved to Polk County, is expected to last two to three weeks.