The judge in the trial of Cristhian Bahena Rivera on Monday denied a motion for a new trial, stating the outcome was unlikely to be changed.
Judge Joel D. Yates issued his ruling after hearing arguments July 27 from Bahena Rivera’s attorneys, Chad and Jennifer Frese, that a possible confession of another person and other evidence stemming from a current Poweshiek County missing persons case and investigations into human trafficking could be relevant to the murder of Mollie Tibbetts in 2018.
Bahena Rivera, a native of Mexico who was employed by a dairy farm near Brooklyn, was convicted of first-degree murder in Tibbetts’ death May 28. The Freses filed motions for a new trial and arrest of judgment on July 8 and a supplemental new-trial motion was filed July 14.
Yates said in order to order a new trial, any new evidence must be discovered after the verdict, could not be discovered during trial with due diligence, is material to the case and would have changed the outcome.
The judge also delved into the Freses’ argument that the prosecution violated provisions covered by Brady v. Maryland, a case where prosecutors withheld evidence that was favorable to the defendant.
In the analysis of the arguments, Yates stated that the report of the alleged confession was made to the Department of Corrections on May 26, before the jury had started deliberations. Also, Assistant Attorney General Scott Brown shared that information with the Freses, and there was no request to continue the trial because of it.
Later, Yates reports that a secondary report of the confession includes the fact that the alleged confessor was “high on methamphetamine” at the time of the statement. While the statement could have bolstered the defense’s case, the drug use could have undermined his credibility.
In the order of denial of the motions, Yates set a new date of Aug. 30 for Bahena Rivera’s sentencing. The defendant faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.