BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – The trial of a 28-year-old Morning Sun man who’s accused of leaving the scene of the accident where his girlfriend was killed got underway Tuesday morning with jury selection.
Damian Hamann, 28, of Morning Sun, is charged with leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in the death of Sadie Alvarado, 20, of Muscatine. Alvarado’s body was discovered along a ditch southwest of West Point on the morning of Aug. 5. Hamann turned himself into the Lee County Sheriff’s office that same evening and was released the next day on a pretrial release. Leaving the scene of a death accident is a class D felony in Iowa. Class D felonies carry a maximum five-year prison sentence and a $75,000 fine.
Jury selection began shortly after 9 a.m. when Assistant Lee County Attorney Bruce McDonald questioned a pool of 27 potential jurors on whether they would be able to be objective in the case.
McDonald told the potential jurors that the state wasn’t providing evidence that Hamann had anything to do with Alvarado’s death, but violated the law when he left the scene of the accident without checking on her welfare after she jumped from his vehicle following a night at the Lee County races.
“By law, he had a duty to stop. Anyone who thinks they can’t hold him accountable for that, I wanna know right now.”
Keokuk attorney Curt Dial asked the pool if they understood the difference of criminal cases’ requirement of “beyond reasonable doubt’ and a civil burden of “the preponderance of evidence”.
He also told the jury pool that the state was burdened with proving all aspects of the case beyond a reasonable doubt.
After about two hours of questioning the potential jurors, a pool of 13 was selected and opening statements were made.
During his opening statement, Dial said a lot of the information in the case isn’t disputed.
“A lot of what you will hear is not in dispute,” Dial told the jury. “Damian did not stop after she jumped out and he went home.”
But Dial said Hamann texted a friend after Alvarado jumped from the vehicle and said the two had a fight and she would probably be walking back to his house.
“It’s his duty to stop if he knew she was injured. But he didn’t know that she was injured and he didn’t know that she had died. He believed she was fine and would be walking back to his friend’s house.”
Dial said the state is in possession of text messages from Hamann’s phone to a friend who lived in the area that show he was unaware of any of the consequences of Alvarado jumping from the moving vehicle.
McDonald said testimony will show that Hamann and Alvarado were at the races the night before the early morning incident and were on their way back to Morning Sun when the woman was angry and jumped from the moving vehicle.
He said evidence will also show that she died from a blunt force trauma to her head as a result of jumping from the truck and that Hamann didn’t stop and didn’t go back to check and see if Alvarado was all right.
“He took off,” McDonald said.
The state will begin presenting its case Tuesday afternoon in front of District Judge Michael Schilling. The trial is expected to last two to three days including deliberations.