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Judge: Iowa jail must let murder suspect meet with lawyers

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Security officials at an Iowa jail must allow a man charged with killing a state trooper to meet privately with his lawyers, a judge ordered Thursday.

Staff at the Black Hawk County jail in Waterloo had refused to allow Michael Lang — who is awaiting trial for murder in the shooting of Iowa State Patrol Sgt. Jim Smith — to meet with his lawyers outside their presence. They argued that taking their eyes off Lang would pose a unique threat given his alleged hatred of law enforcement.

Attorneys and investigators from the public defender’s office in Waterloo say that deputies refused to leave a jail conference room in May when they went to meet with Lang. They later asked Judge Joel Dalrymple to grant them “meaningful and confidential” access to their client to discuss facts and evidence of the case, including audio and video.

Defense lawyers argued that access to counsel is required under constitutional guarantees for criminal suspects, and that Lang wasn’t more threatening than other murder defendants with whom they have previously met.

In a ruling Thursday, Dalrymple said he was mindful of the safety concerns but that he was confident the jail can take steps to protect staff, inmates and the defense team while allowing Lang to meet with his lawyers “outside the audible presence” of guards.

He said staff can search the defense team to ensure they do not bring in concerning contraband and that Lang can be restrained during meetings and searched before and after them.

“The court’s greatest concern is the constitutional rights of the defendant to have unfettered access to counsel and to engage in attorney-client communication under those constitutional protections,” Dalrymple wrote.

Lang, 41, has been held at the jail since April 21 on a $3 million cash-only bond.

Authorities say Lang shot and killed Smith, a 27-year veteran of the patrol, at Lang’s Grundy Center home on April 9 as Smith led a tactical team inside to arrest him. Lang had been wanted for assaulting a police officer after a traffic pursuit that evening.

After Smith was killed, a standoff continued for hours as two other officers took cover in Lang’s basement. Troopers in an armored personnel carrier entered the home after negotiations broke down, and they fired on Lang after he allegedly shot at them. Lang was shot three times in the head and chest but survived.

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