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Judge orders new trial in Sioux County murder case

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ORANGE CITY, Iowa -- A Spirit Lake, Iowa, man has been granted a new trial because of a mistake made while choosing the jury for his first trial.

District Judge Jeffrey Neary ruled Wednesday that court precedents do not provide a clear answer, but Gregg Winterfeld should be granted a new trial because he and his lawyer were mistakenly allowed fewer peremptory strikes of potential jurors than called for in Iowa criminal rules.

Gregg Winterfeld mugshot

Winterfeld

Winterfeld, 71, stood trial for first-degree murder in Sioux County District Court in April for the May 9, 2020, shooting death of Grant Wilson during a disturbance in a rural Sioux County home. The jury found him guilty of the lesser charge of second-degree murder.

Neary last month delayed Winterfeld's sentencing after realizing that both sides were given six peremptory strikes of potential jurors rather than the 10 called for in trials involving Class A felonies such as first-degree murder. Trials involving all other felony charges allow six strikes.

District Judge Patrick Tott, the case's initial presiding judge, in November filed an order after a pretrial conference in which he outlined a 26-member jury pool from which each side would strike six people, leaving 12 jurors and two alternates.

After a change in court scheduling, Neary was appointed to preside over the trial on March 2, less than a month before the trial began. Neary followed Tott's order on jury selection.

Neither side objected to the lesser number of strikes at trial. Sioux County Attorney Thomas Kunstle, in arguing against a new trial, said the defense failed to "preserve error" in the case by not raising an objection during jury selection and it was now too late.

Winterfeld's attorney, Brendan Kelly, said the error warranted a new trial.

District Court Judge, Jeffrey A. Neary: District 3B

Neary

Neary said in his 17-page ruling that none of the cases attorneys cited were "directly on point" with Winterfeld's situation but in order for justice to be served properly, Winterfeld should receive a new trial. Neary further ruled that Winterfeld will stand trial for second-degree murder, rather than first-degree murder, because he was found guilty of the lesser charge.

A new trial date has yet to be set.

Winterfeld is charged with shooting Wilson, 58, of Cleghorn, Iowa, at a rural Ireton, Iowa, house. Sheriff's deputies who responded to an emergency call found Wilson dead inside the house. A woman inside the house at the time of the shooting was not harmed. According to court documents, Winterfeld and Wilson were arguing when Winterfeld pulled out a Ruger .22-caliber revolver and shot Wilson in the forehead.

The three in the house had been drinking beer and whisky throughout the day prior to the shooting, court documents said.

Kelly filed court documents stating that Winterfeld acted in self-defense.

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