MAHASKA COUNTY – More than six dozen people gathered in the Mahaska County District Court on Tuesday morning to select 12 jurors and two deputies for the second degree murder trial of Luke Ryan Van Hemert. The selection took about four off followed by opening statements from both sides.
Van Hemert is accused of stabbing Marquis Todd, a student of William Penn, during an altercation on March 1, 2018. Todd succumbed to these injuries that night. Nearly half of the jurors answered questions from Iowa Assistant District Attorney Andrew Prosser and defense attorney Allen Cook III before the last 14 were seated.
The jury of nine women and four men began by listening to Prosser read the trial brief, which contained the basic facts of the case, then began to outline what he and Mahaska County District Attorney Andrew Ritland will bring. .
VanHemert, wearing a black suit coat and pants, a white shirt and dark striped tie, listened to the proceedings, occasionally consulting his defense team of Nicole Jensen and Cook.
Prosser said the state’s case must show the burden of proof in four areas, 1. On March 1, Van Hemert stabbed Todd; 2. Todd died from stab wounds; 3. Van Hemert acted with malice and foresight in killing Todd; and 4. Prove that the stabbing was not justified.
Cook told jurors Todd died as a result of poor decisions made by himself and his friends, Mikeal Donaldson and D’Angelo Allen. He said the fender-bender that initiated the showdown happened without Todd involved. He died following an altercation at Van Hemert’s home on North Third Street in Oskaloosa.
Cook opened his statements by expressing sympathy on behalf of Van Hemert and the defense team to Todd’s family. Todd’s family and friends walked into the courtroom just after the lunch break. Some of William Penn’s students wore black Marquis Todd shirts to support the family.
The trial will resume at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
RD Keep is the editor of The New Sharon Sun and covers the trial in partnership with The Oskaloosa Herald. He can be reached at [email protected]