A Scott County judge has denied a motion to dismiss the case against Stanley Liggins, who in May will be tried a third time in the 1990 strangulation death of a Rock Island girl.
In a written ruling filed Wednesday, Seventh Judicial District Chief Judge Marlita Greve wrote that dismissing a criminal case on procedural due process grounds is “extremely rare” and is a disfavored remedy in all cases cited by both prosecutors and the defense.
“Admittedly this case has a unique procedural history; however, Liggins has had the benefit of our criminal justice system wherein his prior convictions have been reversed,” Greve wrote in her ruling. “He remains charged with murder, but is not convicted. He has the right to a fair trial on that charge.”
She further wrote in her order, “He does not have a right to have the charge dismissed even though he may feel there were some fundamental fairness issues in the history of this case. His remedy, as has been ordered by several courts, is a retrial.”
Prosecutors say Liggins strangled Jennifer Ann Lewis, 9, of Rock Island and burned her remains on a Davenport school playground on Sept. 17, 1990. She also was sexually abused, according to prosecutors.
He was tried twice in the girl's death in the 1990s, once in Scott County and the second time in Dubuque after he was granted a change of venue.
Liggins was convicted in both trials and sentenced to life in prison. The Iowa Supreme Court overturned the first conviction, and on Nov. 6, 2013, the Iowa Court of Appeals reversed the second conviction.
Greve last month ruled that Liggins’ third trial will be held May 22 in Black Hawk County because of heavy media coverage in the Quad-Cities. He is charged with first-degree murder, willful injury causing serious injury, first-degree sexual abuse, first-degree kidnapping and first-degree arson.
The motion to dismiss, filed in April, was one of multiple pretrial motions argued late last month.
Defense attorney Derek Jones argued that Liggins, 55, was denied due process as a result of what he said was the withholding of 77 police reports from the defense in his prior trials.
He further claimed that prosecutors did not disclose that a witness in Liggins' previous trials was a paid police informant.
"Our ability to defend this case has been crippled by time, and it is because Mr. Liggins' rights were violated," Jones argued at a Feb. 22 hearing. "Offering us a new trial does not fix those problems. That remedy is inappropriate. Dismissal is the appropriate remedy in this case."
Scott County Attorney Mike Walton argued that of the 77 reports cited by the defense, attorneys addressed only four that they deemed exculpatory.
Walton added that three courts determined that the reports ultimately were not material and that had the defense had them, it likely would not have affected the outcome of the case.
Prosecutors also argued that the paid informant who testified at trial was not paid in connection with Liggins’ case. They also argued that the proper remedy is not a dismissal, but a retrial, which already has been granted to Liggins.