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Court Upholds Murder Conviction Against Burlington Man

A Burlington man will remain in prison after the Iowa Court of Appeals upheld his 2013 murder conviction. Chico Newman was charged with killing his wife, Crystal  Newman, in their home in the early morning hours of Aug. 9, 2012.

Chico Newman claimed during his jury trial, in August 2013, that his wife killed herself after what he described as an argument over her alleged infidelity. He later said that she was killed by a man with whom she was having an affair.

Despite his claims, a jury convicted him after a 2 1/2 week trial. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole, a sentence he is currently serving in the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison.

Newman appealed his case to the Iowa Court of Appeals, claiming that 1) "the State presented insufficient evidence to convict him and 2) the district court abused its discretion in allowing officers to testify to other suicide scenes involving women and firearms."

The three judge panel announced this month that it affirmed Newman's conviction.

The court wrote in a 48-page ruling that when considering if there was sufficient evidence, "based on our review of the evidence in the record, we conclude overwhelming evidence supports the first-degree murder conviction." The court cited several specific examples throughout the ruling.

  • "The State's witnesses described Chico's controlling behavior during the marriage."
  • "Chico's behavior was evvasive, suggesting guilt."
  • "Chico's statements reveal his guilty knowledge."
  • "Although Chico presented scientific evidence to bolster his defense, the jury could have reasonably concluded 1) the State's scientific evidence clearly established Crystal did not commit suicide and 2) the State's scientific evidence clarified the weaknesses in Chico's scientific evidence."

While Chico Newman's conviction was upheld, the judges did side with him on the second part of his appeal.
Four law enforcement officers testified about what they had seen and witnessed upon arrival at various suicide scenes. In response, the appeals court wrote "we conclude the anecdotal evidence herein was not relevant. We also conclude the evidence was prejudicial to defense counsel's efforts to establish the primary defense for Crystal (Newman) committing suicide."

The judges wrote in the next paragraph, though, that they did not feel the testimony of the officers swayed the jury.

"In short, we are confident the State's case on the first-degree murder charge was so overwhelming that the state would have prevailed in the absence of the officers' anecdotal evidence."

Chico Newman can still appeal his case to the Iowa Supreme Court.

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.