Man convicted in Northwest Iowa murder granted new trial - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Man convicted in Northwest Iowa murder granted new trial

Photo: MGN Online Photo: MGN Online

New developments in a murder case that inflamed tensions between whites and Hispanics in Northwest Iowa, and led to crackdowns on illegal immigration.

A federal judge has ordered a new trial for Guillermo Escobedo, a man accused in the 1995 murder of a Hawarden, Iowa teen.

Guillermo Escobedo and Cesar Herrarte were convicted of stabbing and killing 19-year-old Justin Younie at a house party in Hawarden.

Both are serving life prison sentences.

U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett said Escobedo should have been granted an automatic mistrial after a juror was dismissed for allegedly bragging about being racist during deliberations.

On the day of the verdict in 1995, Judge Philip Dandos wouldn't say why the juror was dismissed.  However, defense attorney Greg Jones said the juror allegedly made racist remarks about the defendants at a bar in Alton, Iowa.  An alternate juror filled in and jury deliberations went on.

The defense claimed from the beginning that they couldn't get a fair trial in Sioux County because Escobedo and  Herrarte were in the United States illegally.

At the time, the case drew a lot of attention, even in Washington.  Both U.S. Senators from Iowa, Tom Harkin and Charles Grassley used this case as leverage to set up an Immigration and Naturalization office in Iowa.

While awaiting that new trial, Escobedo will remain behind bars.  State prosecutors plan to appeal Judge Bennett's ruling.

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