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Judge in Cristhian Bahena Rivera case hears arguments to consider new evidence; decision pending

The man found guilty in the murder of Mollie Tibbetts was supposed to be sentenced. Instead his attorneys have filed a motion, asking the court to hear more evidence

MONTEZUMA, Iowa — Updates here: The motion to compel has been denied

KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM COURT

  • Cristhian Bahena Rivera's defense team, Chad and Jennifer Frese, argues there's more evidence to offer in the case 
  • Earlier this week, a motion to compel was filed after two people came forward to potentially corroborate Bahena Rivera's testimony
  • Jennifer Frese says they want an investigation regarding a sex trafficking ring in Poweshiek County and a slough of missing people 
  • Chad Frese says, "there's something rotten in the area - this is not coincidental" 
  • The state resists the request, saying there is no obligation to provide discovery after the completion of a trial
  • Judge Joel Yates is taking the rest of the week to decide how the court will proceed
  • A motion hearing on the new trial request is set for July 27

RELATED: Full interview: Cristhian Bahena Rivera's defense team talks to reporters after requesting new evidence be heard in case surrounding Mollie Tibbetts

A Poweshiek County judge heard arguments Thursday in the murder trial of Cristhian Bahena Rivera, whose defense attorneys claim to have new evidence about who killed Mollie Tibbetts in 2018.

Tibbetts, a 20-year-old University of Iowa student, disappeared while on a run in her hometown of Brooklyn in July 2018. Her body was discovered a month later. 

Bahena Rivera was convicted of murdering her in May.

A motion to compel, filed Tuesday from the defense team, focuses on a man allegedly involved in a sex trafficking ring in the town of New Sharon.

Bahena Rivera's attorneys are asking for the state to produce evidence regarding sex trafficking in Poweshiek County, where the crime happened, as well as pending investigations that involve the story of a Mount Pleasant Correctional Facility inmate the defense says has more information about Tibbetts' killing.

That inmate is the subject of the defense's motion for new trial, which will be the subject of a future court hearing. Judge Joel Yates has agreed to hear testimony from the inmate.

In court Thursday, the State resisted their motion, saying the state is not obligated to provide discovery post-trial. 

"All of the information alleged as a basis for a continuance of the motion and sentencing hearing is directly contrary to the defendant’s statements to police and his testimony at trial," prosecutors wrote in a response filing Wednesday.

"Although the claimed newly discovered evidence relates to the issues in the case since it concerns the death of Mollie Tibbetts, it cannot be said that it probably would have changed the result of the trial," they continue. "As detailed... the information is wholly different than the testimony of the defendant and would have most certainly caused his testimony to be further questioned."

The motion for new trial revolves around two unrelated people defense attorneys say came forward on May 26, the day Bahena Rivera himself testified at trial.

Sentencing, which was originally scheduled for Thursday, will also take place at a later date.

10 a.m. -- Judge Yates says he will decide how to proceed and will issue a written ruling "by week's end."

The court is now trying to decide on their next meeting date.  They will resume on July 27 for a hearing on motions for new trial.

9:52 a.m. -- Judge Yates gives the defense the opportunity to respond.

9:46 a.m. -- The state is resisting the request for them to provide evidence to the case.

9:33 a.m. -- Cristhian Bahena Rivera's defense attorneys explain there is newfound evidence, and argue that it should be brought forward in order for "Cristhian Bahena Rivera to get a fair shot" 

9:30 a.m. -- Court is in session