Court records say 19-year old Lee Christensen was convicted on July 1st for the June 2015 murder of 19-year old Thomas Bortvit of Estherville.
He had been set to be sentenced on the charge on September 16th. 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 claimed it was 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.
A hearing was held this Tuesday, October 18th to determine to what extent if any the jury was influenced. All twelve of the jurors were questioned, and none of them said that social media had any influence on their decision. The jurors said that after the verdict had been reached, a family member of one of the jurors told the jury about threats posted on Facebook. Police escorted jurors to their vehicles for safety.
Christensen’s attorneys had also asked for a new trial. Judge David Lester gave the defense until Tuesday, October 25th to present any further information, and gave the prosecution until Monday, October 31st to respond. At that point, he will decide whether to hear arguments on the motion for a new trial.
Second Degree Murder is a Class B Felony, and is punishable by up to 50 years in prison.