Man Accused of Strangling Neighbor Will Get New Attorney

By Trish Mehaffey, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – A 48-year-old Cedar Rapids man accused of killing his elderly downstairs neighbor will switch attorneys because of a "secret" conflict with his current attorney.

Jerome Power, charged with first-degree murder, and his attorney refused to reveal the conflict in open court during hearing Wednesday.

Power is accused in the death of Doris Bevins, 68, who was found unconscious with flannel pants wrapped around her neck by police Sept. 19 in her apartment, 1211 5th Ave. SE, #2.

Linn County Medical Examiner Don Linder released cause of death Wednesday as asphyxiation by strangulation.

Police also found Power hiding inside behind the entry door. Bevins died later at the hospital.

Power's public defender Tyler Johnston told the court Wednesday that something happened in the past that might create a conflict and he told Power he would be better off with another attorney.

Power told the judge he would follow Johnston's advice and asked for another lawyer.

Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden said he didn't necessarily resist the motion for Johnston to withdraw as Power's attorney but there's no information about the unknown conflict and if it is indeed a conflict.

"I think it sets a bad precedence that defendants can easily dismiss lawyers and go lawyer shopping," Vander Sanden said.

Johnston said the state doesn't have the right to know.He wasn't going to divulge the confidence of a client.

"It's a real conflict and merits getting new counsel," Johnston said.

Sixth Judicial District Judge Fae Hoover-Grinde granted the motion but she wanted to make a record of the conflict outside of open court and without Vander Sanden for possible appellate purposes.

Vander Sanden objected again, saying a factual record should be made of the conflict in open court. "There's no provision to keep it secret."

A financial affidavit was found in the clerk's office Wednesday after the hearing, which was filed by Power Tuesday that had an attached letter to the court requesting a new attorney.

Power said in the letter he had a run-in with Johnston in 2006 outside of Johnston's apartment. Johnston came outside with his camera and accused Power of loitering and then accused him of attempting to break into Johnston's apartment, according to the letter.

Power said it almost came to a "physical shoving match" and he felt uncomfortable. He also said he didn't feel Johnston was interested in his case because he wouldn't respond to his requests for police reports and other information.

Hoover-Grinde assigned the Johnson County Public Defender's Office to the case.
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