Trials & Litigation

Judge denies mistrial after juror faints during autopsy testimony

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An Iowa murder trial over the slaying last year of a homeless man who was choked to death in a church parking lot was interrupted Thursday morning when a juror fainted during testimony by a forensic pathologist that included graphic autopsy photos.

Sixth Judicial District Chief Judge Patrick Grady excused the juror, due to health concerns, but denied a request for a mistrial after allowing defense attorney David Grinde to question the remaining jurors about whether the incident would affect their view of the case against defendant Travis Standlee, according to the Gazette, KCRG and KWWL.

Grinde argued that the juror passing out during the autopsy testimony could sway other members of the panel toward the prosecution, because of the additional emphasis the incident placed on the injuries suffered by homicide victim Raymond Ursino, 56. He also pointed out that one of the nurses who assisted the juror who fainted is an extended family member of the victim and had been sitting in the gallery.

Opening statements were made in the Cedar Rapids case on Wednesday and the trial is expected to continue through much of next week.

Standlee, now 44, was initially arrested on Sept. 9, a few days after Ursino’s death, then released on Sept. 10 when the Linn County attorney said more evidence was needed to charge him, an earlier story in the Gazette reported. On Sept. 11, the body of 41-year-old Sharon Mead was found. Authorities said she suffered injuries similar to Ursino’s.

Standlee is now charged with first-degree murder in both cases, but is scheduled to stand trial separately, later this year, in Mead’s death.

Related coverage:

The Gazette: “Prosecutor says video will show Travis Standlee strangling Raymond Ursino”

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