Iowa Supreme Court gives convicted killer the chance at a new trial

Peter Veal found guilty in Cerro Gordo County of 1st-degree murder and attempted murder.

Posted: May 24, 2019 1:03 PM
Updated: May 24, 2019 1:14 PM

DES MOINES, Iowa – The Iowa Supreme Court has affirmed the conviction and sentence of a Cerro Gordo County double murderer but says his claims about the racial makeup of his jury should further considered.

Peter Leroy Veal, 33 of Lake Mills, was convicted of two counts of 1st-degree murder and one count of attempted murder and sentenced in September 2017 to two life sentences plus 25 years in prison, to be served consecutively. Veal was arrested and tried for the November 17, 2016, killings in Mason City of Melinda Kavars and Caleb Christensen and the attempted murder of a witness.

Authorities say Kavars was shot in the throat and the gun jammed when Veal tried to shoot the witness, who then ran away. Christensen was then stabbed multiple times.

Veal appealed his conviction and sentence, raising the same issue he fought with prosecutors over during his trial, that African-American were systematically excluded during jury selection. Veal’s two chief complaints were the lack of African-Americans in the jury pool and the prosecution removing the last African-American from jury consideration with a preemptory challenge.

The Iowa Supreme Court has rejected those complaints, pointing out that the final African-American excused from the jury was the daughter of someone Veal’s lead prosecutor had put in prison for murder, kidnapping and sexual abuse. However, in light of recent court decisions related to his claims and new demographic information, the Court orders that Veal be given “a further opportunity to develop his arguments that his Sixth Amendment right to an impartial jury was violated.”

If the district court concludes a violation happened, the Iowa Supreme Court says Veal should be granted a new trial.

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