Facebook Post May Lead to New Trial for Estherville Man Convicted of Murder

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ESTHERVILLE, Iowa  —  An Estherville man who was sentenced to 50 years for killing another man could be granted a new trial because of a Facebook post.

The Des Moines Register reports Lee Christensen was convicted of first degree murder in 2016 for the murder of 19-year-old Thomas Bortvit. An appeal filed by Christensen’s lawyers says he was interested in a woman Bortvit was dating. Police arrested Christensen after authorities say he told his father where to find Bortvit’s body.

A Facebook post is also cited in that appeal. Amy Peterson is a reporter for the Estherville Daily News and was covering the trial.  She made a post before the jury came back with a verdict saying she had heard rumors the town would riot if Christensen was not found guilty. Although jurors were told not to consult social media, the appeal says one juror logged onto Facebook and accepted a friend request during a lunch break.

The court will now have to decide whether that could have violated the rules and impacted the case. The Iowa Court of Appeals isn’t expected to make a decision until later this year.