Prosecutor Warns Jury Pool: Details of Trial Won't Be Easy

Jury selection starts in 2018 stabbing death of Mollie Tibbetts in Iowa
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 17, 2021 2:18 PM CDT
Prosecutor Says Trial in Iowa Student's Death Won't Be Easy
In this Nov. 14, 2019 photo, Cristhian Bahena Rivera appears for a hearing at the Poweshiek County Courthouse in Montezuma, Iowa. Rivera, 26, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Mollie Tibbetts, 20, who disappeared in July 2018 while out for a run in her hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa.   (Brian Powers/The Des Moines Register via AP File)/The Des Moines Register via AP)

A prosecutor warned prospective jurors Monday that the trial of a Mexican national charged in the 2018 fatal stabbing of a University of Iowa student will include graphic evidence that will be emotionally difficult to see and hear. Prosecutor Scott Brown said the first-degree murder trial of Cristhian Bahena Rivera in the death of 20-year-old Mollie Tibbetts will feature testimony about the stab wounds she suffered after going for a run. "It’s not going to be pleasant," he said. Brown spoke during jury selection at an events center in Davenport, where lawyers began working to whittle down a 175-person pool to 12 jurors and three alternates. Jury selection is expected to continue Tuesday before a two-week trial at the Scott County Courthouse.

Legal experts say ensuring a fair trial for Rivera, a farm laborer who is suspected of entering the country illegally as a teenager, will be difficult given the circumstances of the case, per the AP. Rivera’s arrest inflamed anger over illegal immigration, with then-President Trump calling Rivera a killer who exploited lax immigration laws and Iowa’s governor calling him a predator. The case deepened anxieties about random violence against women, since Tibbetts was attacked while jogging in her small town of Brooklyn, Iowa. Rivera, 26, has been jailed since his arrest in August 2018. He wore a dress shirt and navy slacks Monday and listened through headphones as an interpreter translated the proceedings into Spanish. He’s likely to face a jury that will be predominantly white in a state that Trump carried in 2020. (Read what Tibbetts' dad said in a eulogy for her.)

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