35-year sentence in bizarre killing of SL businessman
Both prosecuting and defense attorneys appear satisfied with the second-degree murder verdict of Jon McGee of Urbandale last week in Des Moines.
McGee, 24, was convicted of the stabbing death of Terry Graham, 52, a traveling businessman working for Liberty Foods of Storm Lake.
Graham, married and a former Sioux City minister, allegedly met McGee on a chat room on gay.com and arranged to meet at a hotel near Des Moines. It was there that McGee killed Graham with a stab wound to the neck.
With the second-degree murder conviction, McGee will serve a minimum of 35 years of his 50-year sentence before he is eligible for parole.
"I think that the jurors worked very hard," said Assistant Polk County Attorney Steve Foritano. With a 35-year minimum, said Foritano, "He'll be there a significant amount of time."
The jury had choices including first-degree murder with a life sentence, down to innocent by reason of insanity.
Foritano recalled speaking with the Graham family after the verdict. "I think they're satisfied," Foritano said. "It's a tragedy for both families. But it was a chance for them to see the criminal justice system at work."
Defense attorney Peter Berger said Friday had no plans to appeal.
"I'm satisfied with it and I think it's a fair verdict," Berger said. "Clearly, this was not a first-degree murder case. The state could not prove that Mr. McGee committed premeditated murder against Mr. Graham."
Berger pointed to trial testimony that McGee had earlier expressed homicidal thoughts before having met Graham. "He went into the hospital to seek treatment," Berger said.
He had allegedly stopped taking medication.
After having stabbed Graham at the hotel, said Berger, "He looked down at his hand and saw the knife." He later said he did not remember the act of stabbing. Berger said McGee tried to help Graham and called the police.
"The verdict makes a lot of sense," Berger said. "I didn't think first-degree murder was really an option in this case."
Berger did not seem disappointed that the jury of eight men and four women did not return a verdict of innocent by reason of insanity.
"Once I present the case to the jury I totally accept their verdict," Berger said. "I'm at peace with either of the two verdicts that they could have rendered. They really worked hard on this. I don't look at it as a compromise. I think the evidence would have supported either verdict, second-degree murder or not guilty by reason of insanity. That's what juries are for."