BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
KEOKUK – Close to three hours into jury selection, 1st-degree murder suspect Adam McCain had a change of tack and decided to have his fate decided by a district judge.
McCain, 25, of Fort Madison is on trial for the stabbing death of CaLove Sackman, then 27 of Keokuk, on February 5. His trial is being held at the South Lee County Courthouse in Keokuk.
After whittling down a jury call of 59 Lee County residents to a pool of 37 for questioning, District 8B Chief Judge Mary Ann Brown called a lunch. At 1:30 p.m. with the jurors and Lee County Attorney Ross Braden and Asst. County Attorney Jonathan Stensvaag, at the plantiff’s table, Brown called the two attorneys into chambers.
At 2:10 p.m. Brown returned without the attorneys and told the potential jurors there had been an “interesting” twist to the case.
“Court isn’t always like television. It’s not that exciting, but every now and then you have something interesting happen and today something interesting has happened,” Brown said.
She then told the jury that McCain had decided to waive his right to a jury trial and instead has asked to have a bench trial, which is a trial in front of the judge without a jury present.
She then dismissed the jury to cheers and applause because there were no other trials set for the month and the jurors were excused at 2:15 p.m.
Braden said it was an unusual turn of events.
“I was surprised, at this point, that he would waive a jury trial,” Braden said.
“I don’t think he liked how it was looking as far as a jury pool. I was very surprised.”
Braden said it was the first time he’d experienced that at this point after starting voir dire and selecting a jury.
“People do, for different reasons, ask to have their case tried by a judge, but usually before this point,” Braden said.
The trial will now begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday morning in front of Brown.
Starting with 59 potential jurors in the morning, 14 were excused after both questioning in open court and questioning in Brown’s chambers. At about 12:25 Brown was able to seat 37 jurors for questioning to get to 12 and three alternates.
Brown said the trial was expected to last until Wednesday or Thursday of next week, with a break on Monday due to other court hearings.
McCain is charged with stabbing Sackman multiple times on the night of Feb. 5 in the parking lot of River City Mall after the two had an argument, according to arrest reports.
First-degree murder is a Class A felony in Iowa punishable by life in prison without parole.