Defense, prosecution file motions for court to consider in trial for death of Mollie Tibbetts

In the case against Cristhian Bahena Rivera, accused of first-degree murder, both the prosecution and defense filed motions for the court to consider.


Cristhian Bahena Rivera appears for an evidence suppression hearing at the Poweshiek County Courthouse on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019 in Montezuma. Brian Powers/The Register

Rachel Schilke, News Editor

Ahead of the trial for the man accused of killing former University of Iowa student Mollie Tibbetts, both the prosecution and defense filed motions asking to bar certain types of evidence on Tuesday.

The defense requested four items to be prohibited during the trial. If approved, the state of Iowa would be prohibited from:

  • Telling the jury about the defendant’s prior criminal convictions
  • Allowing officers called as witnesses to give the opinion as to defendant Cristhian Bahena Rivera’s actions appearing “suspicious, strange, or incriminating”
  • Telling the jury allegations against Bahena Rivera’s prior criminal convictions or “bad acts”
  • Using any transcript of any interview played in court

The prosecution requested the court to:

  • Not allow the defense to make statements or arguments to the jury related to the length of punishment
  • Prevent the defense from referencing the administration of polygraph examinations
  • Hold a pretrial for any witnesses called to testify concerning the statement of Bahena Rivera or any other statements being made on behalf of Bahena Rivera
  • Prohibit the defense from using statement regarding comments made on Aug. 20 or 21, 2018
  • Exclude photographs of Bahena Rivera at gathering with young children or his children

The trial, set for May 17, will be held in Scott County Courthouse in Davenport, Iowa.

The original court date was set for Feb. 4, 2020 but was postponed until Sept. 29, 2020 after a request was made for the Iowa Supreme Court to review an appeal regarding an evidence-suppression hearing held in November 2019.

In July 2020, the date was postponed again until Jan. 25, 2021, with the parties citing COVID-19 as a reason to delay the proceedings.

The court date was delayed for a third time – again due to COVID-19 – in December 2020, pushing the trial’s date to May 17.

Bahena Rivera is accused of stabbing Tibbetts to death in July 2018. In August 2018, Bahena Rivera led authorities to her body. If convicted, he will be charged with first-degree murder and serve life in prison.

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