An Ottumwa public defender was appointed to represent Purham in the first-degree murder trial.
An Ottumwa public defender has been appointed to represent Jaron "Wikked West" Purham, one of two men accused of killing a Burlington High School student in March 2016.
Allen L. Cook III accepted the appointment to represent the 25-year-old Purham, who is facing first-degree murder charges in the killing of Kedarie Johnson, a 16-year-old gender-fluid youth whose tortured and bullet riddled body was found in the late evening hours of March 2, 2016, dumped in an alley behind a residence on South Hill.
According to records in Des Moines County District Court, Cooke recently filed a written plea of not guilty on behalf of Purham. He also waived Purham's right to a speedy trial.
Purham was scheduled to appear for arraignment on the murder charges 8 a.m. Monday in Des Moines County District Court, but since Cooke has already filed a written plea of not guilty and waived Purham's speedy trial rights, he will not be required to appear in court Monday.
His case will be placed on the trial docket with dozens of other cases.
The trial date for Purham will be determined at a later date. It is not known if Cooke will ask for a change of venue in Purham's trial. It also has not been decided which of the five district judges in the 8th Judicial District will preside at his trial.
Cooke was appointed by District Judge Michael Schilling to represent Purham after the Des Moines County Public Defender's Office asked to withdraw because of numerous conflicts of interest. Schilling made the appointment after Purham filed documents indicating he was indigent and unable to pay his own legal fees.
"Counsel has reviewed the lists of the state's witnesses and has determined a conflict of interest exists with (the Des Moines County Public Defender's Office) due to the large number of the state's witnesses against the defendant having been past clients of the Burlington Office of the State Public Defender," wrote D.J. Arbabha, who heads the pubic defender's office in Judicial District 8B.
Arbabha said his office also was allowed to withdraw from representing Purham's co-defendant, Jorge "Lumni" Sanders-Galvez, 23, for the same reason. The court eventually appointed Curtis Dial and Ron Ellerhoff, two area attorneys in private practice.
He said the state public defender's office has contacted the Ottumwa office of the State Public Defender and Cooke has agreed to have their attorneys represent Purham.
Sanders-Galvez was convicted Nov. 3 of first-degree murder following a two-week trial in South Lee County District Court. His trial was moved from Des Moines County to Lee County on a defense request for a change of venue because of pretrial publicity.
He will be sentenced by District Judge Mary Ann Brown 3 p.m. Dec. 18 in Des Moines County District Court. Under Iowa law, he faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison.
According to court documents, Laura Roan, an assistant Iowa state attorney, also has entered her appearance for the state. She will assist Des Moines County Attorney Amy Beavers in the prosecution of Purham. It has not been announced if Christopher Perras, a U.S. Department of Justice civil rights attorney based in Washington, D.C., also will assist in the prosecution of Purham.
The team of Beavers, Roan and Perras prosecuted Sanders-Galvez during his recent trial. The jury deliberated about an hour before returning its guilty verdict.
Perras joined Beavers and Roan in prosecuting Sanders-Galvez after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions initiated the decision to send Perras to Burlington to provide his expertise in prosecuting cases with elements of a hate crime. Perras has practiced law in federal courts in states including Iowa, Kansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Kentucky and Alabama.
In August, a grand jury was convened in U.S. District Court in Davenport to determine if federal hate crime charges should be filed against the two men. The grand jury has met at least twice to hear testimony from witnesses, many of which also testified at the Sanders-Galvez trial.
It is not known when prosecutors will decide if the two men should face trial in federal district court on hate crime charges.
According to court officials, despite the fact Sanders-Galvez and Purham were charged with murder in state court, they could face murder charges involving elements of a hate crime in federal court. If they are tried and convicted in federal court, they could face the death penalty because a firearm was used in the hate crime killing of Johnson.
Federal prosecutors became interested in the case after learning Johnson was a gender-fluid youth who freely and without fear alternated his lifestyle between boy and girl on a regular basis and also had two Facebook pages: Kedarie for his male persona and Kandicee for when he wanted to present as a female.
Perras told the jury in opening statements during the Sanders-Galvez trial that Johnson was abducted as he walked alone near the Hy-Vee at 9th and Angular streets dressed as a girl.
According to Perras, Sanders-Galvez and Purham became angry with Johnson at a home on South Madison Avenue, where they took him to have sex when they discovered he wasn't the "petite female" they thought he was, but was actually a boy.
“They (Sanders-Galvez and Purham) became angry when they discovered during the sexual act that Kedarie was biologically male,” Perras wrote. “They became enraged; and then, over the next hour, suffocated Kedarie by stuffing a plastic bag down his throat and wrapping a plastic bag around his head, threw him in their car, drove to another part of town, dumped him in an alley, poured bleach on him and shot him several times until he bled to death.”
Purham remains in the Lee County Jail in Montrose in lieu of a $2 million cash-only bond.
Sanders-Galvez is held in the Des Moines County Jail without bond pending his sentencing next month.