- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 15, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Two men convicted of second-degree murder for their involvement in the 2013 mob beating death of a Des Moines man in a downtown parking lot will get new trials, the Iowa Court of Appeals ordered Wednesday.

The court said new trials are necessary for James Shorter and Yarvon Russell to determine their role in the death of Richard Daughenbaugh, 40.

Witnesses testified that Daughenbaugh arrived uninvited at a parking lot where dozens of young people were partying. He was punched by Kent Tyler III and knocked to the ground, then kicked and stomped by several partygoers. Daughenbaugh later died of internal injuries.

Shorter and Russell were tried together and convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 50-year prison sentences. Tyler was tried separately, also convicted of second-degree murder and similarly sentenced. But the Iowa Supreme Court tossed out Tyler’s conviction in January.

The state Supreme Court said a jury could have convicted Tyler on two of the prosecution theories - principal liability for punching Daughenbaugh and aiding and abetting the crowd in his beating. A third theory presented by prosecutors, joint criminal conduct, required the state to prove there was a plan in place among the participants - including Tyler - to continue the assault after Tyler’s initial blow that knocked Daughenbaugh to the ground.

Prosecutors often present several theories to juries for which they believe they have evidence to prove a crime. In doing so, they must prove facts of the case support all the theories alleged.

While the justices said there is too much speculation required given the facts of the case, and concluded a new trial was required because the joint criminal conduct theory was not supported by the evidence and should not have been submitted to the jury.

The appeals court said Shorter and Russell must get new trials for the same reasons the state Supreme Court gave.

“Having found the joint criminal conduct theory unsupported by substantial evidence, we reverse and remand for a new trial because we have no way of knowing whether the jury found Russell guilty individually, as an aider and abettor, or under a theory of joint criminal conduct,” the court said.

Shorter and Russell, both 21, have been housed in state prisons. Shorter’s attorney, Jennifer Bonzer, said she told his mother of the new trial and she was thrilled and she’s sure he will be when she talks to him. Russell’s attorney was unavailable for comment.

A spokesman for the Iowa Attorney General’s office, which prosecuted the cases, declined to comment.

Tyler, 21, was transferred from prison to the Polk County Jail in March to await a new trial which is currently scheduled for Sept. 19.

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Follow David Pitt on Twitter at https://twitter.com/davepitt

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This story has been corrected to show that the court’s decision was filed Wednesday, not Tuesday.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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