At a hearing Thursday in Johnson County court, attorneys debated whether the state’s new "stand your ground" law allows for immunity from prosecution in self-defense cases.
The issue came up after an August shooting in Iowa City’s downtown pedestrian mall. Lamar Wilson is charged with murder, attempted murder and gang participation in the case.
A Johnson County judge has yet to rule on Wilson’s request for immunity based on self-defense. The judge will decide by early next week if he’ll hold a "mini trial" to determine whether Wilson was justified in his use of deadly force.
Wilson’s attorneys say the judge should hold an evidentiary hearing so he can make a decision on dismissing the charges. They say changes to Iowa’s self-defense law put a judge between the defendant and the prosecutor.
Prosecutors say the new law does not create new pre-trial proceedings. They say if a jury finds Wilson not guilty, the new law could protect him from later lawsuits.
Two different stories of what happened the night of the shooting also emerged during Thursday’s hearing.
Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness says Wilson was a gang member. She says he and other gang members brought guns to the ped mall to confront a group arriving from Cedar Rapids that was insulting a friend of Wilson’s who had recently died.
Defense attorney John Bruzek says Wilson was at the ped mall because he often goes there on weekend evenings. He says a group came from Cedar Rapids came to Iowa City with stolen guns and started flashing their guns and threatening people on the ped mall.
Bruzek says Wilson was protecting himself, his sister, and likely others on the ped mall.
The prosecutors noted that the man who was killed did not have a gun. The defense says witnesses described someone else using that man as a "human shield".
The judge also decided to move the trial out of Johnson County but did not announce a new location.