Details emerge in murder case

Published 9:57 am Thursday, July 9, 2015

Prosecution, defense deliver opening statements

By Mary Pieper, Mason City Globe Gazette

FORT DODGE, Iowa — Tyrone Washington Jr. stabbed Justina Smith 12 times with a knife in a park in Northwood on Aug. 5, 2013, said Iowa Assistant Attorney General Tyler Smith during opening statements in Washington’s first-degree murder trial Wednesday.

Tyrone Washington Jr.

Tyrone Washington Jr.

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Justina Smith reached for her cell phone and, with her dying breath, tried to speak to a 911 dispatcher, Tyler Smith said.

Washington, who was leaving in Justina Smith’s car, got out and went back to her, according to the prosecutor.

“He kicked a helpless, dying woman in the head,” he said. “He crushed her nose.”

Tyler Smith said the jury will hear that 911 call, which ended in a dial tone after Washington kicked his ex-girlfriend.

Charles Kenville, Washington’s attorney, said his 41-year-old client was acting in self-defense.

He said Justina Smith pulled out a knife and attempted to attack Washington. Kenville said Tyrone Jones, who was also present, participated in the attack.

“It was two against one, and one of those people was armed with a knife,” he said.

Washington, who had recently moved to Northwood, and Justina Smith, 30, a lifelong resident of the Northwood area, met in June 2013, Tyler Smith said.

By July the relationship had turned violent, according to the prosecutor. He said Washington choked the 5-foot-3 mother of two. He was later arrested for violating a no-contact order.

Tyler Smith said Justina Smith wrote to the court on Aug. 2 asking that the no-contact order be kept in place.

On Aug. 4 Washington showed up at her apartment and saw another man was visiting her.

“The next day he killed her,” the prosecutor said.

Justina Smith arranged to meet Washington in Swensrud Park at 11:30 a.m. on Aug. 5 so he could return her apartment key to her, according to Tyler Smith. He said she brought along a friend, Tyler Jones “just in case.”

The prosecutor said Washington led law enforcement on a high-speed chase with speeds of 100 mph after stabbing Justina Smith.

Kenville asked the jurors to “keep an open mind.”

He described the incident in which Washington allegedly strangled Justina Smith in July as a “mutually combative situation.”

He said Washington, who grew up in Chicago, fled the police because “he was scared.”

Kenville said in earlier dealings with the police, “he was not listened to.”

Twelve jurors and one alternate were selected Wednesday afternoon. One of the potential jurors in the panel of 35 from which the jury was selected was African-American. He was selected to be on the jury.

The racial makeup of the jury has been an ongoing issue in the case, which was moved to Webster County due to concerns about the small number of African-Americans in Worth County.

The first trial in May was halted after District Judge Colleen Weiland granted a defense motion to strike the entire jury pool when it was discovered there were no African-Americans among them. Kenville argued this hurt his chances of his client receiving a fair trial.

On Tuesday during the first day of jury selection for Washington’s current trial, three of the more than 200 prospective jurors had identified themselves as African-American on their juror questionnaires.

Kenville filed a motion to strike the jury pool, arguing he still felt the number of African-Americans was under-representative of Webster County, which has an estimated African-American population of between 4 and 5 percent. This time Weiland overruled the motion.

Presentation of evidence begins at 9 a.m. Thursday.