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Iowa woman hopes to use “stand your ground” defense

The stand your ground law went into effect on July 1

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A Des Moines woman charged with murder is seeking a judge’s approval to use a “stand your ground” defense despite the law taking effect nearly two months after she allegedly shot and killed her stepfather.

The law says a person doesn’t have to retreat before using deadly force if they think their life is being threatened, The Des Moines Register reported. Defense attorney Montgomery Brown argues it should apply in 29-year-old Sera Alexander’s case because it’ll go to trial after the law took effect July 1.

Alexander is accused of killing her stepfather, Anthony Hartmann, in the basement of her family’s Des Moines home. Family members have said Hartmann had a history of abusive behavior toward his family, according to Brown.

Assistant Polk County Attorney Kevin Hathaway said prosecutors believe they have enough evidence to prove a first-degree murder case against Alexander even if the law applies. Court documents show that Hartmann was shot in the back and prosecutors argue the shooting was unprovoked.

Brown said the state Supreme Court previously has ruled that a defendant can’t continue to serve a sentence if the Legislature changes the law in order to make a sentence less harsh.

At a hearing Tuesday, District Court Judge Robert Blink compared the date of the law going into effect to how the law treats juveniles who commit crimes.

“It remains undisputed that 18 means 18 and that may be arbitrary, but it is the arbitrary tipping point,” Blink said. “And that may be what applies here, too, that the tipping point is the bewitching hour on July 1, even though it would result in disparate treatment of two people who do the same thing.”

Blink has asked attorneys to write additional briefs before making a final decision.

Alexander has been free on bond since May 19.

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