Jury begins deliberations in Arkfeld trial

UPDATE: Shortly after noon today, the jury in the Rob Arkfeld trial returned a verdict of Guilty of Serious Injury by Vehicle.  No other information as to when sentencing will be is available at this time

SHELBY COUNTY — Testimony in the trial for Robert Arkfeld, Jr. concluded late Friday afternoon. After deliberating for several hours, Judge Jennifer Benson Bahr released the jurors late Friday night. Deliberations will resume Monday morning at the Shelby County Courthouse.
 On September 22, 2022, Arkfeld pulled from his driveway in a 2005 International tractor and struck a 2011 Harley Davidson Motorcycle driven by 31-year-old Timothy Steven McFarland of Emerson.  McFarland died at the scene.
On April 20, 2023 Arkfeld was charged with Homicide by Vehicle, operating under the influence, a class B felony.
Jury selection was completed Tuesday.  After opening statements, a number of law enforcement officers were called for questioning, including Captain Chad Butler with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and Iowa State Patrol Trooper Alex Long.  Long was questioned about his involvement with the September 2022 accident and his documentation of it.  A copy of his report was used as evidence, along with photographs of damage to the front end of the tractor, results of the sobriety test, and many questions about fatigue and trauma.  It was emphasized there was no alcohol in Arkfeld’s system.
 Shelby County Chief Deputy Cody Eckles was also called to the stand.  He is a certified Drug Recognition Expert (DRE). Eckles stated when he first saw Arkfeld, he was lethargic, was involuntary twitching his fingers and shoulders and mumbled while speaking.  Gabe Madson, a DRE from Harrison County,  was also on scene about  half-way through Arkfeld’s questioning.
Iowa State Trooper Kent Haas said he was called to “manage the scene” and observed a hard, blue plastic eyeglass case on the grass “within throwing distance” of the accident site, approximately 60 yards away from the point of impact.
 “It was fresh,” Trooper Haas testified, adding there was no dust or dew on the case. “It didn’t belong where it was.” Haas said the case contained a pair of eyeglasses and a “pharmaceutical fold” and plastic bag, both containing a “white powdery substance consistent with cocaine.” Haas said the case and glasses were both submitted for DNA testing.
Joseph Morrett, a criminalist with the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation (DCI) was called to the stand. However, his testimony was halted when defense attorney Robert G. Rehkemper III questioned the validity of the blood sample taken from Arkfeld following the accident. Judge Bahr requested the return of witness State Trooper Long, who had testified in the case Wednesday.
After Trooper Long was further questioned from both sides of counsel about his recollection of the blood draw, Bahr said the court needed to “protect the integrity of process”.
Judge Bahr said the foundation of the blood withdrawal was “still lacking”, and would not allow Morrett to be questioned on the blood toxicology report. Morrett was allowed to return to the stand, and was questioned about the toxicology report of Arkfeld’s urine sample, which tested positive for cocaethalyne metabolites. Morrett testified the urine sample was negative for other substances. Morett also said the DNA retrieved from the eyeglasses and the case Trooper Haas found matched Arkfeld’s.
Following Morrett’s testimony, the state rested. The defense called Lance Platt of Platt & Associates, a DWI/DRE expert from Texas. Platt testified he had reviewed the specifics of the case, including video of the scene, the case report, DRE evaluation, and the two 911 calls following the accident, including the one made by Arkfeld. Platt said Arkfeld spoke in a “clear tone but was obviously upset”. He stated once law enforcement officials came on the scene, Arkfeld became quiet and withdrawn, which Platt said was “consistent with trauma”.
Platt testified through his observations of the field sobriety testing, he did not see any indicators of Arkfeld having cocaine in his system.
Witnesses for the defense also included  Brandon Schwery, who was driving a pickup behind Arkfeld when the accident occurred and  called 911, and an expert who discussed the speed of which both Arkfeld and McFarland were travelling when the accident occurred.
Arkfeld waived his right to testify Friday afternoon, and Rehkemper requested a motion of acquittal of the homicide by vehicle - operating under the influence charge, saying there was “No evidence of casual connection”. Judge Bahr denied the motion, due to the observation of law enforcement, plus the metabolites found in Arkfeld’s system.
The jury then heard closing statements from both sides. Prosecuting attorney Monty Platz said, “McFarland’s death would not have happened without the conduct of the defendant.”
Rehkemper said the state’s case “lacked integrity.” He said it was an “absolute accident. Arkfeld co-operated his way into the defendant’s seat. He did everything he was asked to do.”
The jury reconvened for deliberations Monday morning. As of press time, no decision had been reached.




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