Jerome Power was sentenced Monday to life in prison without parole for killing his neighbor, despite his claim that his trial should have been declared a mistrial when he poured a cup of water on his attorney’s head during his trial in November.
Power, 50, of Cedar Rapids, was found guilty by a jury in Nov. 20, of first-degree murder for the strangulation death of his neighbor, 68-year-old Doris Bevins in 2010. The Linn County jury deliberated about a day and a half following the five-day trial.
Shortly after closing arguments on Nov. 19, before jurors left the courtroom to deliberate, Power dumped a cup of water on defense attorney Steve Addington’s head.
“It should have been a mistrial,” Power said that day, after he dumped the water. “You sold me out!”
During his sentencing Monday, Power who was shackled and was wearing an electronic shock belt, was kept in the jury box, away from his attorney Jason Dunn. Five Linn County Sheriff’s deputies and a lieutenant were in the courtroom to provide security, because Power had written letters to 6th Judicial District Judge Fae Hoover-Grinde, the Linn County Attorney’s Office and the clerk of court, and made disparaging and apparently threatening comments to his attorneys, the court and the prosecutor.
Power also claimed in the letters he would not attend his sentencing. According to Iowa law, a defendant must be present for sentencing, and the judge has discretion regarding restraint or control over a defendant in court.
Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden said there were no legal grounds for a new trial or mistrial.
“Mr. Power was clearly attempting to sabotage his trial, and he shouldn’t be allowed to profit from his behavior,” said Vander Sanden, referring to the water incident.
Vander Sanden also asked the court to impose a no contact order to prevent Power from sending further letters or phone calls to his office and the staff attorneys, and for the defense attorneys. Power wrote numerous letters which were “malicious” and “vile” to his office.
Dunn declined to comment during the hearing, and Addington did not attend the hearing.
Power, who remained calm during the hearing, said he never wrote any letters to Vander Sanden and said he should have received a mistrial because the jurors saw him pour the water on his attorney. He also claimed he had ineffective counsel.
“I’m innocent of this crime, and the county attorney is just thirsty to convict someone,” Power said. “My attorney has nothing to say – that proves my point that he’s ineffective.”
Hoover-Grinde denied Power’s motion for mistrial, saying the evidence at trial showed he was guilty of the crime beyond reasonable doubt.
“According to the law, a defendant may not profit from his behavior or acts (during trial),” Hoover-Grinde said. “The timing (of the water incident) was a scheme to get a new trial.”
Hoover-Grinde also ordered Power to pay $150,000 in restitution to Bevins’ estate and to reimburse $7,500 to the Iowa Crime Victim Compensation Program for funeral expenses.
Police responded Bevins’ apartment on Sept. 19, 2010 in response to a 911 call from Bevin’s friend, who said he had been on the phone with Bevins when he heard her screaming at someone to get out and then heard gurgling sounds before the call cut off.
According to testimony, Bevins’ door was dead bolted when officers arrived, and after trying to kick the door in, they had to break a window to get inside. They found Power inside hiding by an entry door.
Bevins was found unconscious on the floor of her apartment, with pajama pants tightly tied around her neck, according to testimony. She died the next day. Medical examiners said her death was caused by ligature strangulation.
Power testified during the trial that he didn’t kill Bevins and blamed the crime on two other men. Police testified the two other men Power accused were investigated and neither were ever suspects in this crime.