CLARION — After more than 18 hours of deliberations, a Wright County jury found Noah Crooks guilty Monday afternoon of second-degree murder and not guilty of assault with intent to commit sexual abuse in the March 2012 shooting death of his mother, Gretchen.
“We believe that the evidence supported the charges. The jury had reasonable doubt. We respect that decision,” said Mitchell County Attorney Mark Walk.
Crooks, 14, will remain under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court until he turns 18.
Crooks was originally charged with first-degree murder which means the defendant acted with premeditation and had a specific intent to kill.
The charge of second-degree murder does not require either of those elements for a conviction.
“Their deliberation shows they put a lot of time, a lot of effort into this. And it wasn’t an easy decision for them to reach. We thank them so much for the time they put into this because it couldn’t be easy,” Walk said.
“If I was speculating I would say it’s a compromise verdict. My best guess is that there were probably some people who wanted not guilty by reason of insanity, others who wanted first-degree.
“The compromise was probably, here again speculating which I shouldn’t do, we’ll come down to second-degree if you’ll come off not guilty by reason of insanity. I could be completely wrong but that’s my thought.”
Crooks will remain in a juvenile facility at either Waterloo or Eldora until his 18th birthday.
“Then at 18, or shortly before that, he will come back before this same court. They will make a determination of whether he should be discharged at that time or whether he should be sentenced at that time; whether he should be supervised at that time. The problem is no one knows what’s going to happen when he turns 18,” Walk said.
Defense attorney William Kutmus told Noah’s father William Crooks following the announcement that he was pleased with the verdict.
“They were out close to 19 hours. It tells me it’s a very thinking jury. It’s a very discerning jury. They clearly found not guilty as far as the sexual assault on his mother was concerned. And secondly on second-degree murder.
“In effect what that means is that they held that there was a diminished capacity on the part of his mental illness that precluded him from having premeditation and specific intent. That’s why it wasn’t first-degree murder.
“I can’t quarrel with that decision even though I asked for not guilty by reason of insanity,” Kutmus said.
Crooks showed no emotion as the verdict was announced shortly before 2 p.m. Monday.
“I think he was not guilty by reason of insanity but by the same token, I can understand that jury’s verdict,” Kutmus said.
“It was a long and arduous trial. I’ve got to compliment the state. I thought the state did an excellent job. It was a very difficult case for everyone. There’s no winners,” Kutmus said.
The trial, moved from Mitchell County on a change of venue, began April 30.