IOWA CITY, Iowa - In the final hearing before the second of three suspects is tried in connection with the 2009 Iowa City shooting death of John Versypt, a judge ruled that jurors will be allowed to hear some about the criminal history of a witness who could be central to the state's case.
Justin Marshall, 22, is scheduled to be tried on a charge of first-degree murder Jan. 22 in connection with the shooting death of Versypt on Oct. 8, 2009. Versypt, according to police, was a landlord for units in the Broadway Condominiums in south Iowa City and was checking on his properties when he was shot in the head during a robbery attempt.
Charles Thompson, 20, was first to be arrested in February 2010, followed by Marshall in July 2011 and Courtney White, 25, in October 2011.
According to trial information, Thompson told police that he knew Marshall and another man killed Versypt, and he admitted to helping Marshall dispose of the clothes he was wearing at the time. Thompson initially was charged with first-degree murder but, in December, he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of accessory after the fact following a mistrial in his case.
As part of his plea agreement, Thompson agreed to testify against Marshall.
During Marshall's pretrial conference on Friday, his attorney Thomas Gaul indicated to the judge that Thompson seemed to be under the impression at the time of the plea deal that he also would get a lesser penalty in a separate case.
"Thompson seemed to believe that part of what was involved in the plea offer he made would result in the possession of a controlled substance with attempt o deliver being modified," Gaul said. "Thompson seemed to think it was part of the deal."
Gaul indicated this belief could bias Thompson's testimony against his client, and he wants to be able to talk about that in front of jurors, should prosecutors call Thompson to the witness stand.
Judge Sean McPartland ruled that such questioning would be allowed.
"The defense will be allowed to get into questioning along those lines, if (Thompson) is a witness," he said.
Thompson's plea deal has kept him behind bars until after he has fulfilled his part of the plea deal – to testify against Marshall. Thompson's sentencing has been postponed until after Marshall's trial, pushing it to Feb. 15.
White's trial has been set for May 1, 2013.
If convicted, both Marshall and White face mandatory life sentences in prison.
Thompson's lesser charge comes with a two-year prison term. But, by the time he's sentenced, he'll have been behind bars for three years, meaning he probably will be released after his sentencing.