A hearing in the case of Kyle Roider took place last Wednesday at the Monroe County Courthouse, but Judge Julia Gomric ordered the courtroom sealed from the media and the public, citing discussions of Roider’s psychiatric evaluations.
Roider, 31, of Waterloo, is charged with first-degree murder and aggravated battery in the Jan. 9. 2019 slaying of 35-year-old Steven Becker in Waterloo.
The purpose of last Wednesday’s hearing was for Roider’s attorney, T.J. Matthes, and the state to argue the defense’s motion to bifurcate the trial.
If granted, that would allow Matthes to present multiple defenses in the case.
“Essentially, what you’re saying is that you have defenses that are sort of in conflict, and you’re asking the court to essentially have more than one trial,” Monroe County State’s Attorney Chris Hitzemann explained. “If you did your first defense and you were found guilty, you could have a second trial with your second defense. The evidence that goes to support those would only be admissible in each of those trials.”
The exact reasons for the motion to bifurcate is not public, as Gomric has sealed most records in the case.
Last month, for example, the court ordered all search warrant documents in the case sealed and impounded “for the compelling reasons that the continuing investigation would be compromised by disclosure and this investigation has required the participation of persons whose identity and safety may be compromised by releasing the information.”
One public document shows the court recently ordered Dr. Daniel Cuneo, a clinical psychologist, to evaluate Roider to determine if he could present an insanity defense.
The result of that evaluation is sealed.
Cuneo also evaluated Roider on Gomric’s order last year, but that was to determine if he was fit to stand trial. The court ruled that he was.
Regardless of the reason, Hitzemann said it is far from certain Gomric would grant the motion to bifurcate the trial.
According to Hitzemann, some states have outright refused to allow for bifurcation and some states, like Illinois, have case law indicating bifurcation is permissible, but there is a dearth of appellate cases setting the standard for when that can occur.
Bifurcated or not, Roider’s trial is currently scheduled to start Nov. 16.