Attorneys for Cristhian Bahena Rivera, convicted in May of killing Mollie Tibbetts, a University of Iowa student from small-town Brooklyn, Iowa, are asking the court to grant him a new trial after they claim not one, but two new witnesses came forward during the trial and named another suspect in her death.
The motions for an arrest of judgment and the ordering of a new trial were filed Thursday, July 8, one week before Bahena Rivera's scheduled sentencing Thursday. Attorneys Chad and Jennifer Frese are asking the court to set aside a jury's May 28 guilty verdict after they say two people came forward hours apart on May 26 to cast doubt on Bahena Rivera's guilt.
Although prosecutors promptly disclosed the new information to the defense, Bahena Rivera had already rested his case. The new evidence, the Freses argue, "certainly" would have made a difference in the verdict.
"While perhaps not every bit of the account fits neatly into defendant’s account of the events, enough of the facts fit to certainly question whether the state would have been able to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt had this information been known and presented to a jury," they wrote.
The motion also requests a new trial on the basis that the court improperly instructed the jury, and claims the verdict is contrary to the weight of the evidence in the case.
Court records show prosecutors have not yet responded to the new motions. A spokesperson for the Iowa Attorney General's office, which is assisting with the prosecution, said a response would be filed "in the next day or so."
Author: William Morris Des Moines Register
Published 4:16 p.m. CT July 12, 2021 I Updated 8:54 a.m. CT July 13, 2021