Double murder trial’s venue to be moved
‘I'm calling it quits,’ judge says, citing numerous concerns
FORT DODGE – After nearing the point of exhausting a large jury pool and receiving reports of jury tampering, Judge Kurt Stoebe has ruled a change of venue is necessary to find a jury that can deliver a fair and impartial verdict for Tanner King as he faces two first-degree murder charges and one count of attempted murder.
The decision was made after nearly two full days of jury selection that barely scratched the surface of voir dire questioning in open court to allow prosecution and defense attorneys to tailor a jury to their specific concerns.
Stoebe said the court believes there is sufficient evidence “that such a degree of prejudice exists” in Webster County that there is a “substantial likelihood a fair and impartial trial cannot be preserved.”
Concerns cited by state prosecuting attorney Susan Krisco included comments from jurors about their prior knowledge of King’s convictions with arson, burglary and attempted escape, and how their prejudicial nature might impact objective judgment in the case at hand.
But the judge said the jury tampering was “probably the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
“The communications that were made to the two jurors which were revealed to us were shocking,” he said in another courtroom while jurors waited in the primary one. “It came from responsible parties … and it tainted those jurors.”
Stoebe said he believes that the shocking report, only a day and a half into jury selection, is indicative of what to expect for the trial in coming days.
Webster County jurors were released immediately after his decision Tuesday afternoon. The new venue for King’s trial will be determined after conferring with court administration officials.
King is accused of shooting two brothers, Marion Rhodes, 37, and El Dominic Rhodes, 34, to death and nearly hitting a third man in October after an alleged conflict over a drug transaction.