TV6 Investigates: Prosecutors file resistance to a new trial in 1980 Muscatine murder case

Published: Jul. 29, 2020 at 7:00 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MUSCATINE, Iowa (KWQC) - Muscatine County prosecutors have denied that evidence was suppressed in the case of William Beeman, who is serving life in prison in the 1980 stabbing death of Michiel Winkel at Wildcat Den State Park.

Former Muscatine County Attorney Alan Ostergren, who is assisting with the case, on July 22 filed a 33-page resistance to Beeman’s motion for a new trial.  

“Forty years after the brutal murder of Michiel Winkel her killer seeks a new trial,” he wrote. “He does so by claiming that the prosecution suppressed favorable information.

“He argues that this information shows doubt about his conviction and that he should receive a new trial. But her killer cannot establish any element necessary to entitle him to a new trial. Not one,” wrote Ostergren.

In early June, Beeman’s attorneys wrote in a 43-page motion that there is “important, favorable, and material, previously suppressed and new evidence that petitioner could not have discovered sooner that demonstrates Beeman did not get a fair trial.”

“So much exculpatory evidence that was not run over by his trial team,” Erica Nichols Cook, one of Beeman’s attorneys and the Director of the Wrongful Conviction Division of the State Public Defender’s Office, told TV6 in June.

In the resistance, Ostergren noted that Beeman claimed to have discovered two categories of evidence after the verdict: six witnesses who claimed to have seen Winkel alive after April 21, 1980 and the existence of 11 other potential suspects who were investigated in the case. 

“But a review of the trial transcript and discovery depositions shows that Beeman’s defense team knew enough to fully investigate these leads before trial,” Ostergren wrote. 

He argued in the resistance that Beeman must be able to prove that he discovered evidence after the verdict that could not have been discovered with due diligence; is material and not cumulative; would have changed the result of his trial; and that there is good cause to litigate these issues now.

Beeman, Ostergren argued in the resistance, cannot prove any of these.

He further argued that the new evidence would not have changed the result of the trial and that Beeman made “two highly incriminating statements.”

Ostergren said there is no good cause for a judge to consider a motion for a new trial nearly 40 years after Beeman’s conviction and asked for the dismissal of Beeman’s motion for a new trial.

The hearing on Beeman’s motion is slated for Monday, Aug. 3.

In a response to the July 22 filing by prosecutors, attorneys for Beeman wrote on July 28, “In the end, the case is simple. The State had in its possession, but withheld, plainly exculpatory and material evidence.”

Beeman’s attorneys argued prior to his murder trial, prosecutors had in its possession, but did not disclose, evidence Winkel was seen alive the day after they alleged Beeman killed her, along with ‘essential facts’ about multiple alternative suspects that were investigated.

The defense said prosecutors also failed to disclose a “host of relevant evidence regarding the victim’s family and personal history.”

“Throughout its resistance, the State never once contends that it did, in fact, disclose the evidence Beeman identified. Rather, the State sifts through some of the identified pieces of evidence, claiming that each individual piece, standing alone, is neither exculpatory nor material,” argued Beeman’s attorneys.

Background on the case:

Winkel’s nude body was found at Wildcat Den State Park on April 26, 1980, near a campground just off a walking trail.

A deputy medical examiner at Beeman’s trial testified the 22-year-old had been dead for at least 24 hours because of the state of her body. He testified Winkel had a head wound, lacerations around her neck, and stab wounds to the left chest.

Prosecutors’ theory at trial, according to Beeman’s motion for a new trial, is that Winkel was killed shortly after she was seen by a witness leaving a spa with an unknown male on April 21, 1980.

Prosecutors did not dispute that Beeman had “airtight” alibis on April 22, 1980, making it impossible for him to commit the crime after that, according to the motion.

Prosecutors argued at trial that Beeman picked up Winkel on his motorcycle after she left the spa, drover her out to Wildcat Den State Park, and assaulted and stabbed her to death.

At trial, Beeman presented three alibi witnesses for April 21, 1980, and also called a witness who said she saw Winkel alive the next day.

Beeman, now 63, has argued for years that his confession to the crime was false and he signed it to end an unrecorded interrogation that left him scared and confused.

“We also found his confession and the way in which it was obtained was very problematic and not reliable,” said Nichols.

The motion for post-conviction DNA testing:

In June 2019, attorneys for Beeman filed a motion for post-conviction DNA testing. To read more from filings related to the motion, you can click here.

Copyright 2020 KWQC. All rights reserved.