OSKALOOSA – The Iowa Court of Appeals upheld a jury verdict that Luke Van Hemert was guilty of second degree murder in the 2018 murder of Marquis Todd.
Van Hemert argued that the court was wrong to deny him immunity under basic Iowa law. He also argued that his lawyer was ineffective and that there was insufficient evidence to support the conviction.
The Iowa Court of Appeals ruled against each of these points in upholding the conviction.
Van Hemert was sentenced to 50 years in prison in August 2019. A jury found him guilty in April 2019 after less than three hours of deliberation.
Todd, a former student of William Penn, was stabbed to death on March 1, 2018, on the lawn of Van Hemert’s residence. The stabbing, prosecutors said, was the result of an altercation that began when a car driven by Mikeal Donaldson slid a vehicle driven by Van Hemert aside.
Donaldson left and returned to campus, but later returned with Todd and another to find Van Hemert so he could pay for the damage to the vehicle.
A fight between Van Hemert and Todd ensues. It ended soon after when Todd believed he had been shot with a taser. Instead, he was stabbed.
The Iowa Court of Appeals ruled that the stabbing was not in self-defense for Van Hemert, and that the evidence supported his murder conviction.
“Substantial evidence corroborates the jury’s conclusions that Van Hemert acted without justification and with premeditation,” the court wrote.
Regarding Van Hemert’s argument that counsel is ineffective, the appeals court said this was a matter to be dealt with through a post-conviction appeal instead of a direct appeal.
Kyle Ocker is the group’s editor Oskaloosa Herald and the Ottumwa Mail. He can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Kyle_Ocker.