Pre-trial publicity, prejudice factors in Northwood change of venue request

Published 2:18 pm Wednesday, October 9, 2013

NORTHWOOD — Pre-trial publicity and prejudice are the two reasons a Northwood homicide suspect’s public defender has asked for a change of venue.

Public defender Susan R. Flander wrote in a motion — filed last week in Worth County District Court — that coverage of Tyrone Robin Washington Jr., 39, and the Aug. 5 stabbing death of his ex-girlfriend Justina Marie Smith, 30, dominated the news in the small county.

Smith died from sharp-force injuries in Northwood’s Swensrud Park, and Washington has since been charged with first-degree murder in her death.

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Flander argued that because the minority population in Worth County is small, it would be unlikely that any minority would be called as a potential juror for her client, who is black.

“There is such a degree of prejudice in Worth County, there is a substantial likelihood that a fair and impartial trial cannot be preserved with a jury selected from Worth County,” Flander wrote.

Worth County District Court Judge Colleen Weiland is slated to hear the motion and a second motion to push back the trial during a hearing Oct. 28.

Washington’s trial had been slated for Oct. 30. He has waived his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial.

Iowa State Patrol troopers arrested Washington in Scott County, Iowa, after he allegedly stabbed Smith in the park, then fled the scene in her car, a silver 2003 Pontiac Grand Prix.

Washington was spotted later that day on Interstate 80 in Cedar County, Iowa, before allegedly leading police on a high-speed chase ending in Scott County, where he reportedly drove through corn and bean fields along the interstate.

He is being held in the Worth County jail on a $500,000 cash-only bond.