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Judge to Sentence Osborn in 2010 Murder Case

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IOWA CITY, Iowa - A 29-year-old murder suspect accused of killing his live-in girlfriend on March 7, 2010, in Johnson County is expected to plead guilty to second-degree murder on Friday, a charge that comes with a mandatory sentence of up to 50 years in prison.

Eric Osborn was arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder more than two years ago after investigators said he admitted to hitting Sarah McKay, 34, with a baseball bat and strangling her. His case was scheduled to go to trial July 10, but Johnson County District Attorney Janet Lyness said he's expected to agree to a plea deal.

First, however, Lyness said a judge must decide whether a possible conflict of interest exists within the Public Defender's office, which was representing McKay in a separate case at the time she died and is now representing her accused killer, according to court documents.

According to a motion the Johnson County Attorney's Office filed requesting a hearing on the possible conflict, the Iowa City-based Public Defender's office represented McKay first in 2000 in connection with a drunken driving case, again in 2008 when she was accused of driving while revoked and in another 2008 case in which she was accused of drunken driving a second time and domestic assault causing bodily injury.

Osborn was the alleged victim in the domestic abuse assault allegation, according to court documents.

On Jan. 19, 2009, McKay's probation in that case was extended until April 9, 2010, and she was still on probation when she died March 7, 2010.

One of the prosecution's witnesses, James Alvin Kaufmann also was represented by the local public defender's office in several cases in 1995 and 2005.

Although the same public defenders that represented Kaufmann and McKay are not representing Osborn, "the state believes that the public defender's previous representation of Sarah McKay and of James Kaufmann and the information that the office obtained during that representation may create an actual conflict of interest with (Osborn)."

If a judge rules there is a conflict of interest, Osborn would be appointed new attorneys and his case would remain headed toward trial. If a judge finds there is not a conflict, Osborn would be allowed to accept a plea agreement that could land him in prison for up to 50 years on a second-degree murder conviction.

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