Looking at strategies of the prosecution and defense in the Cristhian Bahena Rivera trial

Cristhian Bahena Rivera has been charged with first-degree murder for the death of Mollie Tibbetts
Looking at strategies of the prosecution and defense in the Cristhian Bahena Rivera trial
Updated: May. 20, 2021 at 12:47 AM CDT

DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - Six witnesses were called to the stand Wednesday on day one of the Cristhian Bahena Rivera murder trial. He was charged with first-degree murder in the death of University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts in 2018.

In opening statements, prosecutor Bart Klaver told the jury that video evidence, DNA, and a partial confession by Bahena Rivera will become crucial to proving his guilt.

“There can be no other conclusion than that the defendant killed Mollie Tibbetts. And I’ll ask you to return a verdict, the only verdict that the evidence demands. That you find the defendant guilty in the first degree,” Poweshiek County Attorney Bart Klaver said.

One of the key witnesses to testify Wednesday was Tibbetts’ boyfriend who did not agree to voluntarily testify because he said he didn’t want to be in the same room as the defendant.

During cross-examination, the defense tried to cast doubt on Dalton Jack’s activities the day Tibbetts went missing.

“You have no recollection of texting Mollie at 8:18 PM on July 18 saying ‘My data straight up won’t work?” Defense attorney Chad Frese asked.

“I don’t,” Jack responded.

“The last message you sent your girlfriend on the day she went missing?” Frese asked.

“Correct,” Jack replied.

Davenport-based criminal defense attorney Andrea Jaegar, who is not affiliated with the case, said generally speaking a common defense strategy is the state’s burden of proof.

“They can’t prove it, they haven’t met their burden and therefore the defendant is not guilty as a constitutional matter, as a legal matter,” she said, “That could be the strategy here. It could also be a strategy to provide an alternative theory, an alternative explanation. That’s also quite common with defense strategies.”

The prosecution will continue calling witnesses when court resumes Thursday and often there’s a strategy in the witness order. Either trying to create a broad picture of what happened or start with people who knew the victim to build emotion.

“Those people provide a lot of the background scene as well as the human element. The emotional element of it all. At some point they’ll need to transition to law enforcement,” Jaegar said.

Cross-examination can also be a key part for the defense, but often can come across as harsh because of the type of questioning.

The trial resumes at 8:30 Thursday.

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