Class Notes 1/31

A look at the Story County Judge Evaluations in District 2B showed that Judge Stephen A. Owen ranked between 4 and 5 on every category in both performance and personality.

For performance, Judge Owen received above average-outstanding performance rankings in the following categories: Knowledge and application of the law (4.34), Perception of factual issues (4.32), Punctuality for court proceedings (4.58), Attentiveness to arguments and testimony (4.39), Management and control of the courtroom (4.42), Temperament and demeanor (4.55), Clarity and quality of written opinions (4.34), Promptness of rulings and decisions (4.55).

Owen also received very strong personality evaluations from the following: Avoids undue personal observations or criticisms of litigants, judges and lawyers from bench or in written opinions (4.57), Decides cases on basis of applicable law and fact, not affected by outside influence (4.56), Is courteous and patient with litigants, lawyers and court personnel (4.56), Treats people equally regardless of race, gender, age, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic status or disability (4.7)

His retention Percentage was 94% and there were 77 respondents.


Reference: Iowa Bar Association:

Covering Iowa Law and Courts: A Guide for Journalists: Chapter 2 Criminal Cases

“The criminal justice system exists to deal with those who commit wrongs against society… Iowa’s criminal laws, as enacted by the Iowa General Assembly, are collected in volumes known as the Code of Iowa. The U.S. Congress also passes criminal laws, collected in the United States Code” (p. 1).

“Iowa’s criminal statutes have been classified into seven different categories, based upon the maximum punishments for each offense. There are four classes of felonies (ranging from the most serious, Class A, down to Class D) and three classes of misdemeanors (aggravated, serious, and simple)” (p.1).


Arrest and Release/Bond Conditions

“If the charge filed is a simple misdemeanor, the defendant is ordered to appear personally before either a magistrate or district associate court judge to enter a plea. If the defendant pleads guilty, the judge typically proceeds directly to sentencing, usually by imposing only a monetary fine; however, certain simple misdemeanor charges (domestic assault, for example) have mandatory jail penalties. If the defendant pleads not guilty, a trial date is set” (p.2).


“The defendant is guaranteed the right to have a lawyer present at all proceedings, and if the defendant cannot afford an attorney, one may be appointed by the court” (p.2).

Preliminary Hearings and Trial Informations


“The trial information is a document prepared by a prosecutor and approved by a judge. The trial information must be filed within 45 days of the defendant’s arrest. The trial information sets forth the specific charge or charges against a defendant and lists the witnesses the State plans to call to testify against that defendant” (p.3).

“Trial informations for serious and aggravated misdemeanors and Class D felonies may be approved by either district associate or district court judges. Trial informations for the more serious Class A, B, and C felonies may only be approved by district court judges, as they are the only ones with jurisdiction over those classes of cases.

Arraignment and Pleas” (p.3).

“The grand jury is a specially-drawn panel of citizens who convene in special circumstances. The grand jury meets in secret, and after reviewing only the testimony and evidence submitted by prosecutors, determines if charges should be brought against a defendant” (p.4).


Arraignment and Pleas

“It is at the arraignment that a person accused of an indictable offense enters a plea.

Pre-Trial Process” (p.4)

“The vast majority of the time, a defendant enters a plea of not guilty at arraignment in order to preserve all of her/his rights” (p.4)


“Note, however, that a plea (or even a jury verdict) of not guilty is not the same as saying the defendant is innocent. Not guilty merely represents that the State cannot prove the defendant guilty of the charged offense, and can include affirmative defenses of diminished capacity (due to intoxication or mental illness) or justification (commonly known as self defense)” (p.4).


Guilty Pleas

Jury Trials/Bench Trials

The Trial Process

Post-Trial Motions


Monetary Fines and Restitution

General Comments—Reporting On Criminal Cases


Iowa Supreme Court

one job is to address attorney behavior

Jesse Marzen

“it’s not just the person that pays the price, it’s everyone around them”

“it’s really about humanity that binds us all”

Mauer Divorce Case

“starts with a story and it becomes another story, it becomes a circle”

“all these stories are bound together in a court of law”

State of Iowa vs Mark Becker

Applington-Parkersburg football coach Ed Thomas murder

arrived in 1975 coach at 25, 292 wins 2 state titles, national hs coach of the year

turn generations of boys into men, make them better men

May 25, 2008 tornado hit Parkersburg, killed 8 people, destroyed hundreds of homes

“Ed Thomas guided Parkersburg out of the wreckage”- narrator

September 5, got the field back together 11-1 record

started just like any other day, weights in the morning

Mark- diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, shot Thomas 7 times

kid he taught and coached

“how are we going to live to tomorrow”- joan becker

press conference hours after- asked them to pray for Becker family

“lead by example”- aaron thomas

“right away they said we’re here with you”- joan becker

“compassion is the driving force in their family”- dave becker

“i know coach wasn’t there, but he was there”-dave

“faith family and falcon football”-narrator

“no doubt we’ve been faced with adversity, but how we react to it is what matters”-aaron thomas

state argues that it was premeditated- malice and intent

have to prove 4 elements of murder in the 1st degree

not just t


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