Thursday, 21 July 2011

FILICIDE: Iowa: Michelle Kehoe appeal rejected

Josh O'Leary : July 13 2011

The Iowa Court of Appeals has upheld the 2009 conviction of Michelle Kehoe, the Coralville mother who was sentenced to life in prison after murdering her 2-year-old son and attempting to kill her then 7-year-old son.
In a ruling filed Wednesday, the appeals court struck down Kehoe's contention that her legal counsel, Waterloo-based public defenders Andrea Dryer and David Stout, was ineffective.
Jurors needed just two hours of deliberation at the end of a week-long trial in November 2009 to level guilty verdicts against Kehoe, now 38, for first-degree murder, attempted murder and child endangerment causing serious injury.
Kehoe had argued in her appeal that her counsel failed to challenge the constitutionality of Iowa's laws defining the insanity defense.
She said her counsel also was ineffective because it failed to request jury instruction on the consequences of a not guilty verdict by reason of insanity, and for failing to object to an element of the jury instruction on the attempted murder charge.
In the trial, Kehoe's defense did not contest Kehoe's actions against the children but had argued that her mental state at the time of the attacks prevented her from being held accountable. The jury ultimately rejected her insanity defense, and in addition to the life sentence for murder, gave her 25 years for attempted murder and 10 years for endangerment.
The appeals court, citing a U.S. Supreme Court decision and other cases, ruled that Kehoe's due process rights were not violated by Iowa law, nor was there any violation of state and federal cruel or unusual punishment clauses. The court also found that Kehoe's counsel had no duty to object to jury instruction.
Therefore, Kehoe's trial counsel was not ineffective for failing to challenge the constitutionality of Iowa's laws, nor was it at fault for not contesting aspects of jury instruction.
According to authorities, Kehoe took 2-year-old Seth and her other son, Sean, who was 7 at the time, to a remote area near Littleton in northeast Iowa in October 2008. Police and prosecutors said Kehoe placed duct tape over her sons' eyes, mouths and hands and cut their throats with a hunting knife she had bought a month earlier. She then cut her own throat. Seth died as a result of his injuries, but Sean survived.
Police said Kehoe wrote a note to make it appear as though they were abducted by a fictitious assailant, and she made similar claims to investigators before allegedly admitting to the crime.
A call left for Mark Smith, the state appellate defender representing Kehoe, was not returned Wednesday, nor was a message left at the public defender's office in Waterloo.

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