Appeals Court upholds Van Hemert Murder Conviction

OSKALOOSA – The April 2019 second-degree murder conviction of Luke Van Hemert should stand, according to the Iowa Court of Appeals. In a ruling dated Oct. 7, a three-judge panel for the Court unanimously found that there was sufficient evidence to show that Van Hemert acted with malice aforethought and no justification.

“[S]ubstantial evidence supports the jury’s finding that Van Hemert was not justified in his actions,” the court wrote of the disagreement and ultimate confrontation that led to the death of William Penn University Student Marquis Todd. “Van Hemert disposed of the knife used to stab Todd three separate times and was not forthcoming about his actions during his interview with police later that night. We find the record, when viewed in the light most favorable to the State, contained substantial evidence for a rational jury to conclude Van Hemert acted with malice aforethought,” the court added.

Van Hemert also claimed that Judge Lucy Gamon errored in denying his motion for immunity, which she ruled on shortly before trial began in spring 2019. In denying the motion before trial, Judge Gamon ruled at that time that Van Hemert was not entitled to a pretrial, evidentiary hearing on immunity, citing the wording of Iowa’s Stand Your Ground Law. A later ruling by the Iowa Supreme Court, which formed the basis of the Court of Appeals decision on Van Hemert’s claim, generally agreed with Gamon’s finding. The Appeals Court also found that Van Hemert’s claim that he should have been granted a post-trial immunity determination hearing should be denied.

“Van Hemert never requested a post-trial immunity hearing in the district court,” the Court wrote.

What’s next for Van Hemert? Van Hemert could request a further review by the Iowa Supreme Court, though the High Court takes up very few appeals from the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals ruling also left the door open to Van Hemert filing a post-conviction relief motion in District Court, as the Appeals Court declined to address a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel Van Hemert asserted, stating instead it should be handled in a post-conviction relief proceeding.

Posted by on Oct 11 2020. Filed under Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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