Victims of the State

3 Cases

Johnson County, IA 

James Hall

Mar 13, 1973 (Iowa City)

James W. Hall was convicted of the strangulation murder of Sarah Ann Ottens in a coeducational dormitory at the University of Iowa. Ottens, 21, was a UI nursing student who hailed from Morrison, IL while Hall, 20, was a former UI football player who hailed from Toledo, OH. The murder occurred during spring break. Hall's conviction was overturned in late 1983 due to the withholding of evidence by the prosecution. Charges against Hall were subsequently dropped. Years later Hall was convicted of the Mar. 20, 1992 strangulation murder of 31-year-old Susan Hajek. This murder occurred in Cedar Rapids, IA.  (Archives)  [12/08]

Polk County, IA 

David Flores

Apr 8, 1996 (Des Moines)

David Flores was convicted of murdering 42-year-old Phyllis Davis, a bank executive. He was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. During a rolling gun battle between two motor vehicles, an errant bullet killed Davis. Davis died within seconds as her car rolled into the intersection of University Ave. and Ninth St. It was not entirely clear that Flores was in one of the battling motor vehicles, and if he was, that he fired the bullet that killed Davis. However, the erratic behavior of Flores' girlfriend and her refusal to answer some questions during the trial led to Flores' conviction. Child welfare advocates had threatened to take away the girlfriend's child, which they eventually did.

On the day of Flores' sentencing, the jury foreman, Samuel McCrorey, who helped convict Flores, went public with his belief that Flores was actually innocent. McCrorey said he had doubts Flores was even at the scene. The judge harshly chastised McCrorey for going public with his regrets. The judge's criticism faulted McCrorey for presumably embarrassing other jurors, who had agreed not to talk publicly about their deliberations.

In 2003, evidence surfaced that a gang member told the FBI and the Los Angeles police prior to Flores' trial that another man, Raphael Robinson, shot Davis. The FBI interview had been in the custody of the Polk County Attorney for some time. A June 2008 court hearing is scheduled to consider the new evidence.  (Des Moines Register)  [3/08]

Pottawattamie County, IA 

Harrington & McGhee

July 21, 1977

Terry J. Harrington and Curtis W. McGhee Jr. were convicted of murdering John Schweer, a retired police captain working as a night security guard at the McIntyre Oldsmobile dealership in Council Bluffs. Harrington's conviction was later overturned and he was released in 2003. In overturning the conviction, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that several police reports pointing to another suspect were not turned over to the defense; the court also noted that a witness testified at a post-conviction hearing that he lied at Harrington's trial because police and prosecutors pressured him. McGhee, who was convicted on the same evidence, accepted a time-served sentence and was released.  (Harrington v. State) (McGhee v. County)  [12/10]