Trials Rescheduled For Inmates Accused Of Killing Anamosa Prison Staffers
The trials of the two men accused of killing two staffers at the Anamosa State Penitentiary in March have been rescheduled. Inmates Michael Dutcher and Thomas Woodard are now slated to go on trial in August and September.
Thirty-nine year old Thomas Woodard had been set to go on trial in Linn County next week. But after Woodard waived his speedy trial rights, District Court Judge Fae Hoover Grinde reset his trial for September 21. Twenty-eight year old Michael Dutcher’s trial is currently slated for August 3.
Woodard and Dutcher are accused of killing registered nurse Lorena Schulte and correctional officer Robert McFarland during a failed escape attempt on the morning of March 23. Investigators say the two men had acquired prison-issued hammers and a grinder under the ruse of doing maintenance work near the facility’s infirmary. Instead, investigators say the men used the tools as deadly weapons.
According to criminal complaints, Schulte and McFarland died of blunt force head injuries. Another inmate who tried to help aid the victims, McKinley Roby, also suffered serious head injuries but survived. Dutcher and Woodard also allegedly kidnapped a third prison staffer, Lori Mathes.
The killings have shaken Iowans on both sides of the bars and have prompted a wave of inmate restrictions and operational changes within the Department of Corrections, with more expected to come. Advocates are worried that backlash from the killings, the first of their kind in decades, will be used to take away work assignments, job training and other enrichment opportunities for incarcerated individuals.
Court filings show that both trials are currently scheduled to take place at the Jones County Courthouse in Anamosa, across the street from the prison were the killings occurred. Defense attorneys have raised concerns about being able to impanel an impartial jury in the rural community, in part because the prison is a major employer in the county.
A recent filing from Dutcher’s attorneys notes there has been “pervasive media coverage and publicity” around the case, so much so that “the defendant cannot get a fair trial in Jones County and the surrounding area," the attorneys argued.
In court filings, attorneys for both men have said that discovery and depositions are still ongoing and that the previous June trial dates wouldn’t have given them enough time to prepare their cases.
Both men face two counts of first degree murder and one count each of attempted murder and second degree kidnapping. They’ve both pleaded not guilty to all counts.