Iowa courts

Courtesy: Linn County Attorney's Office

After nine days of testimony and legal arguments, and more than 40 years of unanswered questions, Jerry Lynn Burns has been found guilty of killing Cedar Rapids high schooler Michelle Martinko, who was found stabbed to death in her family’s car outside the Westdale Mall in 1979. A jury of seven women and five men handed down the unanimous verdict Monday afternoon in Davenport after about three hours of deliberations. New developments in forensic DNA analysis and a family genealogy website led investigators to Burns. It’s one of the first cases of its kind in the country to go to trial.

Courtesy: Linn County Attorney's Office

The defense team for Jerry Lynn Burns rested its case Thursday, posing questions about whether key DNA evidence is simply circumstantial. The 66-year-old Manchester, Iowa man faces a first degree murder charge in the 1979 killing of Cedar Rapids high schooler Michelle Martinko, who was found stabbed to death in her family’s Buick in the parking lot of the Westdale Mall.

Linn County Jail via AP

Prosecutors in the trial of Jerry Lynn Burns rested their case Wednesday. Burns is suspected of killing high schooler Michelle Martinko in Cedar Rapids in 1979 and he faces a first degree murder charge.

Courtesy: Linn County Attorney's Office

Jurors in the case of a man accused of killing 18-year-old Michelle Martinko in Cedar Rapids in 1979 heard from the suspect himself Tuesday. Prosecutors played a covertly recorded interview that investigators conducted with Jerry Lynn Burns in December of 2018. A jailhouse informant also testified in the case Tuesday.

Courtesy: Cedar Rapids Police

A witness testified in Davenport Monday that DNA from the suspect in a 40-year-old murder case is “consistent” with DNA found on the dress the victim was wearing when she died. The testimony from a forensic DNA analyst came in the case of Jerry Lynn Burns, who faces a first degree murder charge for the killing of Michelle Martinko in Cedar Rapids in 1979.

Courtesy: Cedar Rapids Police

Jurors heard opening arguments at the Scott County Courthouse Wednesday in the case of a man accused of killing a Cedar Rapids high school student more than forty years ago. Jerry Lynn Burns faces a first degree murder charge in the 1979 killing of 18 year old Michelle Martinko, a killing that stunned Cedar Rapids residents and has been seared into the memories of some for decades.

The long-idle cold case was revived in recent years when investigators turned to newly-developed techniques for DNA analysis. That forty-year old evidence now forms the foundation of the case against Burns.

Defense attorney Jennifer Frese holds up a card that reads the Miranda Warning, a list of rights criminal suspects are told about when they face questioning.
Brian Powers / Des Moines Register pool photo

Investigators in the death of University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts were questioned in Poweshiek County court Wednesday as defense attorneys pushed to suppress evidence that led to murder charges against Christhian Bahena Rivera.

Chief Judge of the Southern District of Iowa, John Jarvey, said having a new courthouse will fix the security and accessibility problems of the current 90-year-old building.
Grant Gerlock / IPR

Construction is underway on a new federal courthouse in downtown Des Moines. Funding for the project was approved by Congress in 2016, and the groundbreaking held Wednesday morning follows years of disagreement on where it should be built.

Collin Richards speaks with one of his attorneys at his sentencing hearing on August 23, 2019.
Kylee Mullen / Ames Tribune

The man who admitted to stabbing and killing Iowa State University golfer Celia Barquin Arozamena has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Collin Richards pleaded guilty to the murder in June and was sentenced in court Friday.

Katie Peikes / IPR

A northwest Iowa man who burned four LGBTQ-themed children’s library books last year was found guilty of 5th degree criminal mischief Tuesday in Sioux County District Court.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

State and federal attorneys want the Iowa Supreme Court to reverse a Tama County magistrate judge’s decision to dismiss a set of criminal charges because they occurred on tribal land. In oral arguments Wednesday, they argued a law passed by Congress last year does not entirely eliminate the state’s jurisdiction on the Meskwaki Settlement in eastern Iowa as the judge ruled.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

A group of Iowa House Democrats is waiting to hear what comes next in a lawsuit aimed at rolling back changes to the process for choosing Iowa Supreme Court justices. The lawmakers are challenging new rules passed on the last day of the legislative session giving the governor more influence over the membership of the judicial nominating commission.

Former Iowa governor and current ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, gives testimony at the Polk County Courthouse in Des Moines.
Des Moines Register pool photo

Former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad testified Friday that he did not discriminate against Christopher Godfrey when he asked him to resign as Iowa’s Workers’ Compensation Commissioner before his six-year term was up.

Godfrey is suing Branstad, claiming he was asked to leave the position in 2011 because he is gay and that, after he declined, Branstad retaliated by slashing his salary.

S Kaya / Flickr

Recently, the Iowa Supreme Court has ruled on cases dealing with Iowa's 2017 collective bargaining law, the judicial nomination process, wind energy restrictions, and jury selection and representation.

The Polk County Courthouse in Des Moines.
Bill Badzo / Flickr

A 10 person jury had its first opportunity Wednesday to hear arguments in a case where former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad is accused of pressuring a department-head to resign because he is gay. Former Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner, Chris Godfrey, is suing the state, Branstad and two former aides because he says when he refused to step down his salary was cut in retaliation.

Former Des Moines city councilwoman, Christine Hensley, has been helping organize opposition to the construction of a new federal courthouse on a former YMCA site.
Grant Gerlock / IPR

Some Des Moines business leaders and city council members want the federal government to reconsider plans for a new courthouse on a coveted piece of real estate in downtown Des Moines. The agency in charge of the $137 million project could decide how to move forward as soon as Wednesday.

Collin Richards sits with his attorneys waiting to hear whether his trial would be moved out of Story County.
Lyn Keren / Ames Tribune

The man charged with the murder of an Iowa State University golfer will go on trial in September, but not in Story County where the crime occurred. Instead, the trial will be three hours away in Decorah.

Amy Mayer / IPR file

The latest version of Iowa’s ag gag law is headed to court, just like its predecessor. The ACLU of Iowa and other groups are suing the state, arguing that the law violates the free speech of journalists and animal rights advocates by making it a crime to go undercover on the farm.

Under the new law, an individual who lies in order to gain access to a farm or agricultural facility with the intention of physically or economically harming the business can be charged with trespassing.

Katie Peikes / IPR

A northwest Iowa man who recorded himself on video burning books from the Orange City Public Library has appeared in court. Paul Dorr will face a new judge when his case continues because the one originally assigned feels he has a conflict of interest.

bill signing
John Pemble/IPR file

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Monday she will not appeal a decision by a Polk County judge that struck down the fetal heartbeat abortion law and declared it unconstitutional.

Julian Garrett
John Pemble / IPR

Senate Republicans advanced a proposal out of a committee Monday that would change the make-up of the judicial nominating commissions that recommend potential judges to the governor.

The bill would allow the governor and statehouse leaders from the same political party to appoint three-fourths of the members of each commission, and statehouse leaders from the other party would appoint the remaining fourth.

Joe Gratz

Specialty courts have gained support in recent years due to their goal of relieving pressure on local jails and the court system.

In this River to River segment, we learn about a mental health court being developed in Story County to address the increasing number of defendants with serious mental health conditions who are caught up in the criminal justice system.

Anthony Posey via flickr creative commons /

A judge will consider Tuesday whether to approve a $50 million settlement in a class action case over air pollution in Muscatine.

North Scott Junior High via facebook

A 12 year old eastern Iowa boy has pleaded not guilty to three charges, after allegedly trying to shoot and kill his teacher last August. Luke Andrews is being tried as a youthful offender in adult court.