SIOUX CITY -- A Sioux City teenager charged with the fatal stabbing of his ex-girlfriend and a friend has chosen to have a judge, instead of a jury, decide his case.
District Judge Tod Deck on Wednesday granted Tran Walker's waiver of his right to a jury trial. Deck will preside over the bench trial, scheduled to begin April 30 in Woodbury County District Court.
Walker's attorney, public defender Jennifer Solberg, on Tuesday filed Walker's written waiver, in which he affirmed that he understood that by waiving his right to a jury trial, Deck alone, rather that 12 jurors, would decide his guilt or innocence.
Walker, 19, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of first-degree murder for the Jan. 28, 2018, stabbing deaths of Paiten Sullivan, 17, and Felipe Negron Jr., 18, both of Sioux City.
According to court documents, Walker began stabbing Sullivan while they were in a vehicle at Jay Avenue and South Cecelia Street. Police believe Negron, a mutual friend, was driving before he was fatally stabbed while trying to protect Sullivan.
Walker told police he wanted Sullivan "to feel the pain he was feeling" since she had broken up with him, court documents said.
On Wednesday, Deck issued an order stating that he would not make a preliminary ruling on the admissibility of Facebook records that prosecutors claim prove Walker's intent, motive and choice of weapon for the slayings.
At a hearing last week, First Assistant Woodbury County Attorney Mark Campbell provided records obtained from Facebook that included messages sent from Walker's account to Negron's account. Among the messages were arrangements for the three to meet on the night of the stabbing and messages sent from Walker's account to Sullivan's account in which the sender wrote that if Sullivan were to leave Walker it "would be enough to make him want to kill."
Solberg said someone else could have signed into Walker's account and sent those messages, and written records don't prove that the messages were sent by the account owner.
Deck ruled that Campbell has shown the records came from Facebook and accurately show activity that occurred on or through the social media site.
At trial, Deck said, the prosecution must present evidence that Walker wrote the messages. Deck said he would rule on their admissibility if and when the records are offered as evidence.
If found guilty as charged, Walker would face a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.