Court records say 19-year old Lee Christensen was convicted by an Emmet County jury for the June 2015 murder of 19-year old Thomas Bortvit of Estherville.
He had been set to be sentenced on the charge in September. But Christensen’s legal counsel filed a motion stating that Christensen’s Iowa and US Constitutional rights to a fair trial and due process of law were violated in the trial due to a number of factors. They say that it’s possible that some of the jurors made their decision because of social media posts, specifically a Facebook post, or by community comments about threats of public disorder or violence if Christensen was not convicted of First Degree Murder.
Judge David Lester wrote in his opinion that while the court cannot conduct a polling of the jury after they have declared their verdict and have been released from service, the Court can and will hold a hearing to provide Christensen the opportunity to prove the allegations of possible jury influence. The judge says Christensen will have the right to subpoena the jurors in the case as witnesses and offer evidence in support of his allegations. The State will have the same rights.
Christensen’s attorneys had also asked for a new trial, but Judge Lester wrote that the Court would reserve ruling on that motion until the hearing was over.
The hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, October 18th in Emmet County District Court in Estherville.
Second Degree Murder is a Class B Felony, and is punishable by up to 50 years in prison.