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Judge Excuses Jurors for Day in Iowa City Landlord Slaying Trial While Defendant Smiles

Justin Marshall is charged with first-degree murder in the 2009 killing of John Versypt in Iowa City.

The first-degree murder trial in the 2009 shooting death of Iowa City landlord John Versypt hit an unexpected delay on Monday after the judge excused jurors for the day.

“Matters have arisen that require discussion outside the presence of the jury.” Judge Sean McPartland said before excusing the 16 jurors for the day, and added that the matters are going to take time to address, according to the Gazette.

No one, including the judge, attorneys or family members of the defendant, explained the reason for the surprising break, but the man on trial, Justin Marshall, 22, smiled as the judge dismissed the jury, the Gazette and the Iowa City Press-Citizen reported.

Justin Marshall, 22, was standing between his two attorneys when the judge dismissed the jury. He had a smile on his face, and he seemed to be grinning at family members. Typically, he’s very stoic, the Gazette reported.

Prior to the proceedings, the county attorney spoke with the victim's widow, the Press-Citizen reports.

Before the proceedings began Monday morning, Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness asked to speak with Janet Versypt, John’s widow. The closed door conversation soon included all of Versypt’s relatives who had come to the trial on Monday.

The family returned and a victim advocate who has attended the trial with the family told them she was “so sorry.”

When Marshall entered the courtroom, he was smiling.

While it is unclear what transpired, Assistant County Attorney Meredith Rich-Chappell acknowledged to the Gazette that she expects the trial to continue.

According to police, Marshall was arrested at 2:15 a.m. on the morning of July 14, 2011, with no incident in Lancaster, TX, and charged with first-degree murder for his involvement in the Oct. 8, 2009 shooting death.

On the date of the murder, police responded to the scene after a report of a shooting at 1958 Broadway St. in the #C building and found Versypt dead with a gunshot wound to the head and a gun lying nearby. Versypt had been apparently been doing work on one of his properties when the shooting occurred.

Witness reports also led to the arrest of Charles William Curtis Thompson, 20, on Feb. 11, 2010 and .

A witness also told police that they had seen Marshall and Thompson with the gun found at the scene the night before the murder.

Thompson already agreed to testify against Marshall and another man as a part of his plea deal, according to court information. Thompson's trial ended in a mistrial when the Johnson County prosecutors used inadmissible evidence. Before his second trial was set to begin, Thompson pleaded down to an accessory to murder charge.

White is set to go on trial for first-degree murder on May 1.

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