Jurors sent home in Justin Marshall murder trial

No explanation given in open court; jurors told to return at 9 a.m. Tuesday

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March 28, 2014 | 10:38 am

UPDATE: Jurors chosen for the first-degree murder trial of Justin Marshall, accused in the 2009 Iowa City killing of John Versypt, were sent home early today without explanation from the judge.

The trial, which was scheduled to resume at 9 a.m. Monday, was delayed while prosecutors chatted with family members of the victim in a separate courtroom. When jurors finally were brought in for the third full day of testimony, Judge Sean McPartland promptly excused the 16 jurors for the day.

He simply said, “Matters have arisen that require discussion outside the presence of the jury.” And, he said, the matters are going to take time to address.

Justin Marshall, 22, was standing between his two attorneys when the judge dismissed the jury. He had a smile on his face, and he seemed to be grinning at family members. Typically, he’s very stoic.

Immediately after dismissing the jury, McPartland left the courtroom without further explanation, and attorneys began collecting their materials to leave as well.

Assistant County Attorney Meredith Rich-Chappell declined to comment about the “matters” that came up, but when asked whether she expects the trial to continue, she said she does.

Both of Marshall’s defense attorneys declined to comment about the delay. But Michael Adams, one of Marshall’s two attorneys, said, “The judge took a break so we could work on things.” When asked if by “things” he meant a plea deal, Adams replied, “Work on things.”

After proceedings closed for the day, family members went with prosecutors to further discuss the issues that have come up. In open court, a victims’ advocate appeared to be consoling them, saying, “I’m sorry.”

Versypt, according to police, was a landlord for units in the Broadway Condominium complex in south Iowa City and was checking on his properties when he was shot in the head during an attempted robbery on Oct. 8, 2009. Charles Thompson, 20, was the first person to be arrested in the case in February 2010, followed by Marshall, 22, in July 2011 and Courtney White, 25, in October 2011.

All three men originally were charged with first-degree murder. But Thompson’s trial, the first of the three, ended in a mistrial when prosecutors inadvertently presented evidence that was inadmissible.

Following the trial, Thompson agreed to plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for his promise to testify against Marshall. He has not yet taken the stand in Marshall’s trial.

If convicted on the murder charge, both Marshall and White could face life in prison.

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