Try 3 months for $3

Stanley Liggins, left, talks with defense attorney Aaron Hawbaker during a Feb. 23 pretrial motion hearing in Scott County Court in the 1990 death of 9-year-old Jennifer Ann Lewis of Rock Island.

Opening statements are slated to begin Friday in the fourth trial of Stanley Liggins, who is charged in the September 1990 death of 9-year-old Jennifer Lewis.

A jury of nine women and seven men were selected Thursday afternoon following three days of questioning in Black Hawk County District Court. Four will serve as alternates.

Judge Marlita Greve, chief judge of the Seventh Judicial District, swore in jurors Friday before dismissing them for the day.

The trial is slated to last five weeks in Black Hawk County, where the trial was moved due to pretrial publicity.

Liggins, 57, is charged with first-degree murder in Lewis’ death. He is represented by Black Hawk County public defenders Aaron Hawbaker and Nichole Watt.

The case will be tried by Scott County Attorney Mike Walton and Assistant Scott County Attorney Julie Walton.

Lewis’ burning body was discovered in a field near Jefferson Elementary School in Davenport on Sept. 17, 1990.

The Rock Island girl, who would have turned 10 later that week, had been sexually abused, strangled, doused with gasoline and set on fire, prosecutors say.

A search for Lewis began when she did not return home from buying a pack of gum for Liggins at a liquor store near her home earlier that night.

Liggins, an acquaintance of Lewis' mother, Sheri McCormick, and her then-husband, Joseph "Ace" Glenn, quickly developed as a suspect.

Prosecutors say witnesses saw Liggins in a maroon Peugeot talking to Lewis, who was on her bike, about a block from her home before she disappeared.

Witnesses at earlier trials also said they saw the Peugeot near Jefferson school around the time of the fire and that the vehicle smelled like gasoline a day after Lewis was killed.

Liggins has long maintained his innocence.

He was convicted of first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, first-degree sexual abuse and willful injury in February 1993 and was sentenced the following month to life in prison.

The Iowa Supreme Court overturned his conviction in November 1994, saying that prosecutors improperly presented evidence that Liggins sold cocaine. The high court also noted prosecutors failed to prove that the assault, kidnapping and sexual abuse occurred in Iowa and dismissed those charges.

He was retried on the murder charge in 1995 and convicted a second time in Dubuque County after a judge granted a change of venue.

In the years that followed, Liggins filed several motions for a new trial. In November 2013, the Iowa Court of Appeals reversed his second conviction and ordered that he be tried a third time.

In its ruling, the court said 77 police reports were not provided to Liggins' defense team and that prosecutors did not disclose that a key witness was a paid police informant.

His third trial began in late August in Black Hawk County. Greve declared a mistrial Sept. 24 after the jury said they could not arrive at a unanimous verdict after three days of deliberations.

Hawbaker argued at trial that police quickly zeroed in on Liggins as their suspect, ignored evidence that would exonerate him and tried to amplify any evidence that might suggest otherwise. He also argued that police failed to investigate other suspects and that there was no forensic evidence to tie him to Lewis’ death.

Waterloo Courier reporter Jeff Reinitz contributed to this story.

Subscribe to Daily Headlines

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.