CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - A jury has convicted Jerome Power of first-degree murder. Power, 50, was accused of strangling to death Doris Bevins, 68, in her home Sept. 19, 2010. Police found Power hiding inside behind the entry door as they responded to the 911 call from Bevin's friend who was talking on the phone to her when she was assaulted that night.
During closing arguments, Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden said the act of killing Bevins was premeditated, deliberate and willful. Power "squeezed the life from her." He used pajama pants found at her apartment to strangle her and was likely there to commit a burglary or theft but he was interrupted when police showed up. Police did find Bevins' cellphone and charger in his pocket.
Vander Sanden said why wouldn't Power immediately answer the door if had just found Bevins unconscious, as he testified. Police testified they were pounding on Bevins' door and shouting for her to answer them for about four minutes. They also were kicking the door, trying to bust in the deadbolt locked door and finally had to break a window to get inside.
"There's no way he couldn't have heard police at the door," Vander Sanden said. "He was inside in a panic. He was just hoping they would go away."
Vander Sanden said Power's first instinct was to play the "blame game" and talk himself out of this predicament. He started talking about another black man that was inside who ran out the back door or window. Then he continued to blame someone else when he was questioned by police.
Power said about 100 times during the interview the killer was a white man who had lived in the same apartment house as he and Bevins, Vander Sanden said.
"He said he would testify against him (other man) in court," Vander Sanden said. "I think that tells you something about Power. He was ready to accuse an innocent man of murder, under oath."
Jason Dunn, Power's attorney, said everybody knew Bevins didn't have any money. Power had more items of value like a computer and printer in his apartment than Bevins owned.
"Is it reasonable to think Mr. Power stole a $5 cellphone?" Dunn said.
Dunn said it doesn't make sense that Power would kill his neighbor after knowing her for four years. That day in particular doesn't make sense because things were going well for Power. He had just gotten a new job and was receiving student loan money to continue his education.
Consider the context of the police interview, Dunn said. Power volunteered to talk to police. He was "slightly buzzed" that day but he also was nervous and panicked. He realized it looked bad.
Dunn said there were inconsistencies in Power's interview and his testimony but he attempted to explain those. There were also inconsistencies in police testimony. They made a "big deal" of Power trying to give the cellphone he had, which belonged to Bevins, to his girlfriend before police took him from the scene but one officer in his deposition only mentioned him Power wanting to give his keys to his girlfriend. And another officer said he didn't mention the cell.
Dunn also asked the jurors to consider the fact that there was no DNA evidence to incriminate Power. He told them to look at photos of Bevins' body because she had scratches and open sores on body, so how was there not any blood found on Power.
Vander Sanden in his rebuttal argument said nobody knows why DNA isn't found at a crime scene. Power in the interview seemed to think police might find some DNA on him. At one point, he spit on his hands and rubbed them through his hair as if to wipe off something and then he also is brushing off his clothes, he said.