Des Moines, Iowa – A trial began a year to the day of an untimely death for Mark Hruska, who was shot and killed on March 2nd, 2015 by his neighbor, Patrick William Kirwan. Kirwan admitted to shooting and killing Hruska.
Jury selection had just begun on Wednesday when Judge Jeanie Kunkle Vaudt declared a mistrial less than an hour after she first ruled the trial could move forward with the selected jury pool. At issue was Assistant Polk County Attorney Michael Hunter’s answer to a question from a potential juror who asked whether Iowa has the death penalty for defendants convicted of first-degree murder. The juror said he was originally from Illinois, where the death penalty was legal until 2011.
The prosecutor told the juror at that point on Tuesday the he couldn’t answer the question, but on Wednesday he responded by telling the jury pool that Iowa does not have the death penalty.
The answer goes against decades of case law that says jurors shouldn’t be advised of potential sentences a defendant faces, because the only evidence presented at a trial should factor into whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty.
Kirwan’s lawyers don’t dispute that he killed Mark Hruska, but they are set to argue he was legally insane when he fired the fatal shots.
Ultimately, Judge Vaudt granted the request for a mistrial.
A new trial date was not immediately set.
Mark Hruska was the son of Mike Hruska and Sharon Hruska, both of Charles City.