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Iowa SUPCO Hears Arguments In Estherville Murder Appeal

Estherville, Iowa — The Iowa Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Red Oak Tuesday evening in a review of an Iowa Court of Appeals decision that reversed a murder conviction in an Estherville case.

An Emmet County jury found Lee Samuel Christiansen of Estherville guilty of second-degree murder in the 2016 shooting death of Thomas Bortvit. Bortvit had been seeing a woman Christiansen had dated and his defense argued he should be found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Christiansen appealed the verdict alleging jurors found him guilty of a more serious charge because of a Facebook post threatening a riot if he wasn’t found guilty of first-degree murder. Assistant Attorney General Tyler Buller asked the Supreme Court justices to vacate the appeals court’s ruling that the jury was prejudice, arguing it was based on innuendo, and not the fact finding used in the district court’s decision.

Iowa City Attorney Leon Spies represented Christiansen, and argued social media tainted the jury’s ruling.

Justice Edward Mansfield questioned whether the alleged Facebook post had any impact in the jury’s murder conviction.

Chief Justice Mark Cady says the justices will continue to deliberate on the case, and file a ruling within “a couple of months.”

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