Staley granted immunity
The Red Oak Express
Kevin Staley will not face prosecution in the shooting death of Devin Davis.
Staley’s trial was set to begin at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 13 on a charge of voluntary manslaughter. However, on Feb. 12, Fourth Judicial District Court Judge James S. Heckerman ruled that Staley be granted immunity in the incident based on Iowa’s Stand Your Ground Law.
Multiple sources indicate Staley is the first defendant in Iowa to be granted immunity from prosecution under the new law, which went into effect in July, 2017. The State Attorney’s office could not confirm if Staley’s case is the first. The ruling means Staley’s case will set a legal precedent in Iowa in future cases where Stand Your Ground is used as a legal defense.
County Attorney Bruce Swanson outlined how the Stand Your Ground law impacted the case against Staley.
“The two guys were lying in wait for Staley after he was lured to that location. He allegedly was engaged in a drug transaction, but the DCI never found any drugs and no charges were filed. The judge found based on the incident, and the fact that a licensed weapon and a concealed weapons permit, that he was lawfully where he was, and faced with the type of force from the two assailants, he was justified in using his weapon,” Swanson said.
Swanson added, a pretrial mini-trial was held prior to the scheduled trial date Tuesday, Feb. 13. Judge Heckerman reviewed testimony and other evidence and ruled, based on the evidence and the statute, that Staley was immune to prosecution.
“The judge ordered me, as the state attorney, not to prosecute him. The case is basically dismissed because if I can’t prosecute him, there’s no case for me to move forward with,” Swanson said.
As for why Staley went to his mother’s house following the shooting, Swanson said Staley’s testimony was he was unaware he’d shot Davis.
“Staley said he did not realize he had hit him. He said Davis fell away, and Staley said he (Staley)ran away. That was one weakness in the Stand Your Ground defense, but when the court looked at the totality of the case, it didn’t feel it was unreasonable after all that had just happened, he would run home and hide,” commented Swanson.
The full details of the incident on Oct. 11 have been made available in the judge’s filing:
On Oct. 11, 2017 at approximately 4:15 a.m., Montgomery County Communications received a 911 call reporting a male suffering from a gunshot. Medical personnel arrived to find a deceased male later identified as Devin Davis.
Alex Wiechman and Kevin Duane Staley are on neighborhood surveillance video proceeding down an alley near 206 E. Grimes St. at 3:29 a.m. Alex Wiechman states that the two met for an exchange of illegal substances and the two proceeded on their way separately.
Alex Wiechman later stated during depositions that his encounter with Staley was solely for the purposes of luring him to this location for Davis and Robert Wiechman so they can attack the defendant.
After Alex Wiechman leaves, Davis and Robert Wiechman attack Staley wearing hoodies and bandanas to cover their faces. Robert Wiechman states they waited in the alley to ambush Staley due to Davis’ prior hatred toward Staley. Davis screamed and attacked Staley, knocking him to the ground. Staley simultaneously retrieved a licensed and registered firearm from his waist and shot at Davis one time. The bullet entered the center of Davis’ chest.
Robert Wiechman and Davis fled the alleyway and with the assistance of Robert Wiechman, Davis made it to the front of the house located at 206 E. Grimes St. where he collapsed and was later pronounced dead. A knife was later found near the body of Davis.
The Defendant ran to his mother’s residence where he was found sleeping at 12:45 p.m. the same day. The gun was also found at the residence.
Staley denies any illegal substance involvement and neither party was found to be in possession of illegal substances. Neither was charged with any illegal substance violations.
In his ruling, Judge Heckerman said Iowa has not developed procedures to determine immunity under the law, so his ruling was based on precedent set in other states where the Stand Your Ground law is in effect.
In his ruling, Judge Heckerman said, ‘Staley found himself in a dark alley with two masked men screaming and running towards him. The perceived threat became real when he was struck by Davis. The parties did not retreat upon striking Staley, but continued to be a threat. A reasonable person being attacked in a dark alley by masked men would believe their life to be in jeopardy. The court finds that Staley had reason to believe risk to his life and/or injury.’
Judge Heckerman then ruled as to whether he was lawfully present and did not engage in illegal activity, which is another requirement for immunity under Stand Your Ground. Alex Wiechman testified that Staley was lured to the location under the pretense of a drug transaction, and Staley denied the testimony. County Attorney Bruce Swanson said the Iowa DCI investigated and neither Staley nor Alex Wiechman were found in possession of drugs, and no drugs were located during a search of the residence when Staley was arrested by authorities.
Heckerman ruled, “The court finds that any reference to this transaction would not likely be admissible at trial and does not in any way hinder the implications of the immunity provision. The defendant was not charged with this transaction. The defendant was not found in possession of any illegal substance. A search warrant conducted on the residence where Staley was staying found no indications of illegal substances. Additionally, assuming this transaction did occur, the transaction was completed and Alex Wiechman had gone to another house prior to Staley being attacked in the alley.
Judge Heckerman ruled Staley was eligible for the Stand Your Ground defense, and said Staley was not the aggressor and was merely walking down the alley when accosted. The court’s finding was that defendant Kevin Staley should be granted immunity, and the judge ordered Staley be granted and immunity and be released forthwith.