Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Strangling Neighbor

By Trish Mehaffey, Reporter

Jerome Power is lead from the courtroom after being convicted of first degree murder Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012 in Linn County District court in Cedar Rapids. Power was convicted in the strangulation death of his neighbor, 68-year-old neighbor Doris Bevins, in September of 2010. (Brian Ray/The Gazette-KCRG)

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By Aaron Hepker

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Jerome Power was sentenced to life in prison without parole after he told the judge he should have received a mistrial because they witnessed him pouring a cup of water on his attorney's head before the jury went out to deliberate his case.

Power, 50, of Cedar Rapids, was found guilty by a jury in November of first-degree murder for the strangulation death of his neighbor, Doris Bevins, 68, Sept. 19, 2010. The Linn County jury deliberated about a day and a half following the five day trial.

Power, who was wearing an electronic shock belt and shackled, was kept in the jury box and not seated next to his attorney Jason Dunn during the hearing. There also were five Linn County Sheriff deputies and a police sergeant in the courtroom because Power had written letters to 6th Judicial District Judge Fae Hoover-Grinde, the Linn County Attorney's Office and the clerk of court, stating disparaging and apparently threatening comments to his attorneys, the court and the prosecutor, and he also said he would not attend the hearing.

According to Iowa law, a defendant must be present for sentencing and the judge has discretion regarding restraint or control over a defendant in court.

Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden said there was no legal grounds for a new trial or mistrial.

"Mr. Power was clearly attempting to sabotage his trial and he shouldn't be allowed to profit from his behavior," Vander Sanden said.

Vander Sanden was referring to Power throwing the water on Steve Addington, his other attorney who wasn't present for the hearing.

Vander Sanden also asked the court to impose a no contact order to prevent Power from sending further letters or phone calls to his office and the staff attorneys, and for the defense attorneys. Power wrote numerous letters which were "malicious" and "vile" to his office.

Dunn declined to comment during the hearing.

Power, who remained calm during the hearing, said he never wrote any letters to Vander Sanden and said he should have received a mistrial because the jurors saw him pour the water on his attorney. He also claimed he had ineffective counsel.

"I'm innocent of this crime and the county attorney is just thirsty to convict someone," Power said. "My attorney has nothing to say - that proves my point that he's ineffective."

Hoover-Grinde denied Power's motion for mistrial, saying the evidence at trial showed his was guilty of the crime beyond reasonable doubt.

"According to the law, a defendant may not profit from his behavior or acts (during trial)," Hoover-Grinde said. "The timing (of the water incident) was a scheme to get a new trial."

Hoover-Grinde also ordered Power to pay $150,000 in restitution to Bevins' estate and to reimburse $7,500 to the Iowa Crime Victim Compensation Program for funeral expenses.

Police responded to a 911 call from Phillip Bemer, Bevin's friend, saying he was on the phone with Bevins when he heard her screaming at someone to get out and then heard gurgling sounds before the call cut off.

Officers testified when they arrived, Bevins' door was dead bolted and after trying to kick the door in, they had to break a window to get inside. They found Power inside hiding by an entry door.

Bevins was found inside unconscious lying on the floor with pajama pants tightly tied around her neck, according to testimony. She died the next day. The cause of death was ligature strangulation.

Power testified during the trial that he didn't kill Bevins and blamed the crime on two other men.

Police testified the two other men Power accused were investigated and neither were ever suspects in this crime.
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