Des Moines, Iowa – In an 85-page opinion today, the Iowa Supreme Court will send the Peter Veal double-murder case back to District Court.
Veal was convicted in July of 2017 for the Mason City murders of Melinda Kavars and Caleb Christensen, he was also convicted of the attempted murder of Ron Willis. Willis was the State of Iowa’s star witness in the case, he gave bone-chilling details of the night, to everyone in the courtroom. The case was moved from Mason City to Fort Dodge because of media coverage between the murders and 2017.
Since the conviction Veal has been filing appeals to get a new trial. Today’s Supreme Court ruling states that seven of Veals eight appeals were denied including his Batson violation in the striking of the juror claim, the defendant’s
claims of a speedy trial violation, prosecutorial error, evidentiary error, lack of competence to stand trial, and insufficient evidence to sustain his convictions, but the appeal of the jury pool was not denied. The opinion states, “we believe further consideration of the defendant’s fair-cross-section claim is warranted.” Veal is claiming that the jury pool wasn’t diverse, the entire jury for the case was white, with a mixture of men and women. The opinion also stated that the case presents important questions concerning Veals right to an impartial jury drawn from a fair cross-section of the community, as well as a number of other trial-related issues. Veal, an African-American, was charged with killing two people in Mason City and attempting to kill a third. Although the Webster County jury panel contained five African-Americans, no African-American was seated on the jury that actually heard Veal’s case. The State exercised a peremptory strike on the last remaining African-American on the panel because the State’s lead prosecutor, in this case, had also prosecuted her father successfully for murder. Following a jury trial, Veal was convicted. The case will now go back to District Court. The District Court Judge could allow Veal to have a new trial or decided against it. The opinion today does not overrule the conviction and Veal will remain in custody of the State of Iowa during the proceeding.
A member of KIOW’s News team was in the courtroom during the original trial, KIOW will have the latest on this developing story.
Pictures from July 2017