UPDATE

A jury today found an Earlville, Iowa, hog farmer guilty of murdering his wife with a corn rake.

Todd M. Mullis 43, flanked by his attorneys, grimaced and shook his head slightly as the verdict was read on the sixth day of his first-degree murder trial at the Dubuque County Courthouse. The 12-person jury deliberated for a total of about seven and a half hours Friday and today before returning the verdict.

In Iowa, a conviction of first-degree murder brings an automatic sentence of life in prison without parole.

Mullis killed his wife, Amy Mullis, with a corn rake on Nov. 10, then tried to make it look like an accident. Prosecutors said he was enraged over her latest affair.

Amy Mullis’ family members hugged each other and some were in tears when Iowa District Judge Thomas Bitter read the verdict.

“We aren’t going to have any comments,” said Jeff Fuller, of Eldora, Iowa, as the courtroom was clearing afterward.

Tears streamed down his face.

Fuller is Amy Mullis’ brother and testified on the first day of testimony in the trial.

The prosecution was led by Delaware County's county attorney, John Bernau, and Iowa Assistant Attorney General Maureen Hughes.

“I’m happy for the family and maybe I’ll have more for you after sentencing,” Bernau said when asked to comment after the verdict was read.

Hughes said in the prosecution’s closing argument that Todd Mullis had been considering killing his wife for years. She said he waited for Amy Mullis to undergo a medical procedure as a way of providing an excuse for why she would fall on a corn rake.

The defense argued that someone else killed Amy Mullis on that morning while Todd Mullis and his son worked in a nearby barn.

Defense attorney Gerald “Jake” Feuerhelm said he was disappointed with the verdict and that his client would appeal.

“We’ll sort things out and talk to Todd about that and go from there,” Feuerhelm said.

Feuerhelm said it was too early to assess the defense’s prospects with that appeal.

“Obviously, you go through your notes and look at all the witnesses and make a determination about court rulings and the whole gamut of how the trial rolled out,” he said.

Todd Mullis remained silent in the aftermath of the verdict. He looked at several of his family members in the gallery as bailiffs shackled him in chains. Defense attorneys stared down at the tabletop in front of them.

Mullis' attorneys successfully petitioned for the trial to be moved from Delaware County due to pretrial publicity.

The trial started Sept. 16 with jury selection in Dubuque and immediately attracted national attention. Court TV showed the trial live, while stories of the proceedings were shared by outlets such as The New York Times and Washington Post.

Opening statements were delivered on Sept. 17, with both sides acknowledging that Amy Mullis had been killed but disagreeing on whether Todd Mullis was responsible.

The couple's 14-year-old son also testified that day. He was with his mom and dad that morning when they were working in a hog barn on the family's farm. Todd Mullis said his wife was dizzy from a recent medical procedure, so she stopped doing tasks in the barn and went to retrieve a pet carrier from a nearby shed at his request.

Todd Mullis later asked his son to check on Amy Mullis. The teen found her impaled by the corn rake.

During a deposition, the teen reported that his dad only was out of his sight for one minute, 40 seconds. During his testimony last week, though, he admitted that time estimate was inaccurate.

On Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, Todd Mullis took the stand. He answered questions about Google searches performed on his iPad for phrases such as “killing unfaithful women," “what happened to cheating spouses in historic Aztec tribes.” "was killing more accepted centuries ago" and "did ancient cultures kill adulterers." He denied performing any searches about cheating spouses.

The jury deliberated for about two and a half hours Friday before being excused for the weekend. Deliberations resumed at 9 a.m. and briefly halted around lunch, when jurors submitted a written question to Iowa District Judge Thomas Bitter at 11:50 a.m.

The jurors asked for a definition of “UTC time” and if the times of internet searches listed on Google records submitted as state’s evidence reflected Iowa’s time zone. The searches were done on Todd Mullis’ iPad.

The defense had argued that UTC time is the successor of Greenwich Mean Time, so that searches that appeared to have been made in the early morning hours – often before 3 a.m. – on the Google list actually were performed in the early evenings because of the time difference between Central Time and UTC.

Bitter’s written response to the jury was that no additional evidence would be presented.

Deliberations then continued until around 2 p.m., when the court attendant was alerted to the jury reaching the verdict.

Family members and other spectators gathered in the north courtroom as attorneys took their position at their respective tables.

Todd Mullis was led in by a bailiff, and Bitter cautioned the gallery against any outbursts.

“This is an emotional case on both sides,” he said. “I expect no disruption of any kind. I want this proceeding to go smoothly.”

A sentencing hearing has not been set yet.

ORIGINAL

Deliberations continue this afternoon in Dubuque in the trial of an Earlville, Iowa, man accused of killing his wife, and the attorneys involved recently gathered for a ruling by the judge.

After deliberating since 9 a.m., the jury submitted a written question to Iowa District Judge Thomas Bitter at 11:50 a.m.

The jurors asked for a definition of “UTC time” and if the times of internet searches listed on Google records submitted as state’s evidence reflected Iowa’s time zone.

The defense had argued that UTC time is the successor of Greenwich Mean Time, so that searches that appeared to have been made in the early morning hours – often before 3 a.m. – on the Google list actually were performed in the early evenings because of the time difference between Central Time and UTC.

Bitter’s written response to the jury was that no additional evidence would be presented.

Mullis appeared by closed-circuit TV as Bitter and the attorneys gathered for the ruling on the jurors’ question.

Mullis, 43, is accused of killing Amy Mullis with a corn rake on Nov. 10, then trying to make it look like an accident. Prosecutors said he was enraged over her latest affair. 

The murder trial was moved to Dubuque over concerns about pretrial publicity. It started on Sept. 16 with jury selection.

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