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Koehn seeks new trial in baby murder conviction

By Bob Steenson,

The Alta Vista man who was convicted of first-degree murder for the death of his infant son is seeking to have his conviction thrown out and to have a new trial.

Attorneys for Zachary Koehn, age 28, filed a motion in arrest of judgment and a motion for a new trial recently in Chickasaw County District Court.

Zachary Koehn
Zachary Koehn

Such motions are routinely filed after a conviction and ask the district court judge who heard the original case to rule that serious legal errors occurred during the trial and so no judgment should be entered on the conviction and the case should be reset to where it was before the trial started.

Koehn was convicted last month in a trial that was moved to Henry County. He was convicted of first-degree murder and child endangerment for the death of his son, Sterling Koehn, who was 4 months old and was found dead in a baby swing in Koehn and the mother’s Alta Vista apartment in August 2017.

Prosecutors said evidence showed the baby’s diaper had not been changed in more than a week, and blamed an infection from diaper rash, along with malnutrition and dehydration, as the cause of the baby’s death.

Koehn’s attorneys, Steven Drahozal and Les Blaire III, argued in their new motions for a new trial that the evidence did not prove Koehn intentionally caused his son’s death.

“At best, the evidence showed that the defendant neglected S.K.,” the motions said. The attorneys used Sterling Koehn’s initials in the legal documents.

“In other words, at best, the state introduced evidence that the defendant’s inaction rather than actions contributed to S.K.’s death,” the motion said

The motions argue that evidence at the trial showed that Koehn had made efforts to provide for the baby’s care, and that the state murder law does not cover inaction.

It is rare for such motions to be granted at the district court level.

An actual appeal of the verdict and/or the sentence would be filed with the Iowa Supreme Court and if the appeal is granted it is heard before the Iowa Court of Appeals or the Iowa Supreme Court.

Jurors found Koehn guilty after less than an hour of deliberation. A conviction of first-degree murder in Iowa requires a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. Sentencing for Koehn has been set for next Tuesday.

The baby’s mother, Cheyanne Harris, has also been charged in the case and will be tried separately. The judge has agreed to also move that case out of Chickasaw County, but a trial date has not been set.