Liggins fourth trial up in the air after defense alleges misconduct

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A judge is now deliberating whether or not Stanley Liggins will head to trial for the fourth time in almost 30 years. 

Liggins is charged with the murder of 9-year-old Jennifer Lewis.

The body of the Rock Island girl was discovered burning in a field near Jefferson Elementary School in Davenport on September 17, 1990. According to prosecutors, Lewis had been sexually abused and strangled. 

Liggins, who has always claimed he’s innocent, was first convicted of the murder in Scott County in 1993, but it was later overturned.

Liggins’ second trial was held in Dubuque County in 1995, and he was once again convicted but it was later overturned.

His third trial in 2018 resulted in a hung jury. 

One of the key witnesses, Antonio Holmes, has testified in each trial over the years that he saw Liggins with Lewis shortly before she was kidnapped. 

On Tuesday, during a pre-trial hearing, Liggins’ defense team argued that Holmes gave a false testimony in exchange for benefits.

Liggins attorney, Aaron Hawbaker, argued that Holmes, a convicted thief, was given a plea agreement in 1992 that would reduce his charges of burglary and theft in exchange for testifying in the Liggins trial. Hawbaker cited that one of the prosecutors involved in those negotations with Holmes at the time was assistant Scott County Attorney, Julie Walton, who is still prosecuting Liggins.

As a result, Liggins’ defense team filed a motion to dismiss the case, a motion to recuse the prosecution and a motion to continue. 

Scott County Attorney, Mike Walton, fired back during Tuesday’s pre-trial hearing, calling the recent motions a delay tactic. 

Walton argued that it’s been known from the start that testifying in the Liggins trial was part of Holmes’ plea deal, but that he was only ever expected to testify “truthfully,” and not in any certain way toward Liggins.

“There has never been any attempt to hide the fact that Holmes was to testify in the Liggins case pursuant to the plea agreement,” said Walton in a statement Tuesday. “The plea agreement was entered as an exhibit in all three trials. That has been clear since the 1993 trial. All this a matter of public record for over twenty years.”

As a result, Walton asked Judge Marlita Greve to deny the motions during the pre-trial hearing. 

“There is nothing hidden, there’s nothing new, there’s nothing recently exposed, there is nothing that doesn’t exist that the defense can’t prepare for the cross examination of Mr. Holmes, and that is why we ask that the court deny all of the recently filed motions by the defense,” said Walton during the hearing. 

Walton called former Scott County Attorney William Davis to testify on behalf of the 1992 plea deal during the pre-trial hearing. 

“Rather than prepare for a five-week trial, rather than meet with witnesses or prepare, now I have to painstakingly go through the record, the same record the defense has access to and has had access to for years, and point out that what they’re claiming is not true.”

Judge Greve will deliberate the findings presented on Tuesday and will have to make a decision about whether or not to move forward with the fourth trial before it’s scheduled to begin Monday, March 11.

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