An Iowa judge on Monday denied a request for a new trial for the man convicted of killing jogger Mollie Tibbetts in 2018.
At a lengthy hearing last week, Cristhian Bahena Rivera’s attorneys argued for a new trial after two witnesses told authorities they heard another man admit he killed the 20-year-old Tibbetts and that her death was related to sex trafficking, as CrimeOnline previously reported.
Bahena, a 24-year-old farmhand, was convicted in May, but his sentencing was delayed while attorneys argued over the motion to retry him in light of the new witnesses.
But Judge Joel Yates’s order denied the motion, paving the way for sentencing, now set for August 30, the Des Moines Register reported. Bahena faces a mandatory sentence of life without parole.
The new witnesses came forward during the trial, and the defense opted not to seek a delay while they investigated, Yates wrote, noting that the new witnesses’ testimony would have contradicted Bahena’s own testimony.
Bahena testified that two masked men forced him to participate in Tibbetts murder, but, Yates wrote, “the specific details about how Mollie Tibbetts was murdered are vastly different” from what the new witnesses reported.
“Had both versions of events been presented at trial, the jury would have had to make a credibility determination not between the State’s witnesses and those of the defense, which is a typical scenario, but between the Defendant and his own witness,” he wrote.
The defense also argued that the prosecution failed to turn over evidence related to the investigation of a man accused of sex trafficking in a nearby county in 2018. Yates wrote that there was no reason to believe that such evidence would have changed the outcome of the trial.
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[Featured image: Cristhian Bahena Rivera and Mollie Tibbetts, handouts]