Rivera’s Change in Legal Representation Likely a Strategic Move According to Legal Experts

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DES MOINES,  Iowa --  The Tibbetts family says it is turning the page after they laid their 20 - year - old daughter, Mollie, to rest over the weekend. They are calling others to focus on Mollie's life, not the person who took it.

The man accused of killing the University of Iowa student was scheduled to be back in court this week but Cristhian Rivera has waived the hearing and hired new legal representation instead.

Rivera's previous lawyer, Allan Richards, is out and attorneys Chad and Jennifer Frese are in. The husband and wife team work for separate law firms in Marshalltown. This is the first case they've worked on together but not the first time they have worked with a member of Rivera's family.

Chad Frese tells Channel 13, the high - profile case is calling for hyper focused attention. According to one legal expert, a change in representation could come down to strategy.

"As a defense attorney, I’m always thinking about how to thread the needle ya know," says James Benzoni. Benzoni is an immigration attorney in Des Moines. He says Rivera's legal status adds to the public's interest in the trial but is something he expects the judge and prosecutors will try to stay away from.

"I think the government, the state and the federal, want to be very careful to make sure that there is a fair trial and that it doesn’t come back to them that they were unfair for raising Mr. Rivera’s immigration status, whatever it is," he says.

However, the suspect's status could influence a fair jury selection. Benzoni says Governor Reynold's comment about a broken immigration system following Rivera's arrest, is proof of that.

"When a politician comments, it has a tendency to put their thumb on a the scale of justice and justice is supposed to be impartial."

Rivera's new lawyers have withdrawn all motions filed by Rivera's previous representation.

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