Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

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August 29, 2013

McGinnis, attorney testify

Knoxville — Convicted murderer Steven Dean McGinnis, along with his criminal trial attorney, Richard Phelps, testified in the closing portions of today's post-conviction relief hearing. 

While on the stand, there was a great deal that Phelps did not recall about the case. The crime occurred in 2008 and did not go to trial until 2009. 

Phelps concurred that the State pared down its witness list 10 days before trial. This included cutting Robin Matrie, the VA recreation worker who also had a personal relationship with McGinnis. Private Investigator Scott Gratias testified earlier in today's hearing that part of his strategy was to implicate Matrie in the murder.

"It didn't matter to me what Mr. Gratias thought," Phelps said. "(Matrie) have inconsistent stories and was also the first on the scene. It was going to be our strategy to have her at the scene of the crime." 

The cut in witnesses came after the Attorney General's Office replaced Assistant AG Scott Brown with Assistant AG Tom Miller. Brown had surgery and could not continue with the trial. 

"It cut out a great deal of what we had planned to do," Phelps said about Matrie's cut from the witness list.

There were three VA doctors called during the criminal trial. According to McGinnis, none of them were treating him at the time of the murder, nor did they have the background information on his condition that Dr. Bruce Sieleni had. Sieleni testified this morning about the years he has treated McGinnis and the severity of McGinnis' post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

Phelps did not have an independent evaluation of McGinnis prepared for the murder trial. The State did hire a doctor, whom McGinnis claimed spent "one hour" with him. In that time, the doctor smoked, drank soda and took phone calls. 

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