WATERLOO – A judge has declared a mistrial in a Dubuque County murder trial that had been moved to Waterloo for a venue change.
District Court Judge Thomas Bitter granted the defense’s request to scuttle the trial of Eric Dewayne Campbell Jr. on Thursday after three days of testimony when a witness, who didn’t know Campbell at the time of the crime and had previously been unable to identify Campbell, mentioned his name while she was on the stand.
“I’m concerned that it was too key of an issue for us to look past it or give a curative instruction or sweep it under the rug,” Bitter said.
“Some things when they get said, and you put that in people’s heads, you just can’t unsay it. You can’t tell them to erase it from their brains. When this got said, it made the hair on my neck stand up as if that could be problematic,” he said.
Campbell, 31, of Dubuque, is charged with murder and robbery in the April 2, 2016, botched holdup at the Table Mound Mobile Home Park that resulted in the death of Collin Brown, 21. Prosecutors allege Campbell came up with the plan to rob Brown because he needed money and then entered Brown’s mobile home with two others. When Brown fled from the mobile home, one of the others shot him.
Leading up to Thursday’s breakdown, witness Taylor Shaw, who was the alleged driver in the plot, told jurors she picked up Tacari “Carl” Minifee and Imere Hall in Dubuque and a third man she didn’t know and couldn’t identify because his hood was pulled up also entered her Pontiac G6.
Shaw said she drove the three to the mobile home park in Key West after someone in another vehicle pointed out Brown’s mobile home. She said they parked and Minifee, Hall and “Eric” exited her vehicle — effectively naming Campbell as the third man.
Assistant Iowa Attorney General Douglas Hammerand attempted to fix the slipup, reminding Shaw she wasn’t able to identify the third man.
But defense attorney Aaron Hawbaker objected to the identification, and he requested a mistrial.
“The majority of the case is the identity of the third person in that car,” Hawbaker said. “They could say ‘but you really didn’t know’ until they are blue in the face. It doesn’t matter. That jury is assuming she either knew or has come to learn, and there is no way to undo it.”
The utterance posed a problem for the defense as Shaw is the only state’s witness who was at the scene of the robbery when it happened, and other prosecution witnesses — who weren’t at the scene — could only testify about statements Campbell made before and following the crime.
Bitter said he didn’t believe Shaw, who has testified in trials of others charged in the case, had attempted to sabotage Campbell’s trial.
A new trial date hasn’t been set.
Minifee and Hall were convicted of murder and robbery in trials earlier this year and sentenced to prison.