An admitted thief and crackhead will go to prison for the beating death of a 35-year-old man who had gone out for drinks with coworkers in downtown Minneapolis in November 2005.
Brian Trimble showed little emotion Thursday as Hennepin County District Judge Gary Larson read the verdict of the jury that had been deliberating since late Tuesday. But some of the family and friends of Tom Dahl, who have attended the trial of more than a week, sniffled and wiped at tears.
"I think it was a mistake that he maybe does regret," said Kathy Dahl, the widow. The couple have two children, ages 15 and 7. Trimble was acquitted of second-degree intentional murder and convicted on two charges: second-degree unintentional murder and first-degree manslaughter.
"It's really kind of a relief to have this part of the process over and have someone be held responsible," Kathy Dahl said.
Both she and Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Amy Sweasy said they were pleased with the verdict. In her closing argument earlier this week, Sweasy said Dahl was a good guy with a good job who "was randomly, senselessly, brutally beaten to death by this defendant."
Sentencing was set for Feb. 12, and Sweasy said Trimble could get between 12 and 15 years. "I still feel Minneapolis is very safe," Kathy Dahl said. "I don't personally feel unsafe. I just think it was unlucky."
County public defenders Shannon Elkins and Charles Weber said there will be an appeal. "We're absolutely convinced it was the wrong verdict," Weber said. "We are convinced of our client's innocence." Asked whether that wasn't a common refrain for criminal defense attorneys, Weber responded, "We're both devastated by this verdict."
On Dahl's fatal evening, he and co-workers initially went to Lyon's Pub. He gave the remaining cash in his wallet to a colleague for a ride home. Then he and two others took a cab to Cuzzy's on Washington Av. N. At 11:30 p.m., the other two walked to their nearby home, leaving Dahl.
"He's lost. He doesn't know where he's going. He doesn't know how he's getting home," Sweasy said.
According to the prosecution, Trimble was looking for money to buy crack when he encountered Dahl in a parking lot. Dahl was wearing a leather jacket and carrying a laptop computer.
"He's the panhandler's jackpot," she said. She claimed Trimble hit him four times with a stick. Dahl, whose blood-alcohol was 0.23 percent at the time, died later at Hennepin County Medical Center. But Weber said Dahl's injuries - to the front, back and top of his head - indicated multiple attackers. He claimed that if Trimble had beaten him, he would have had splinters on his hands and clothes.
He also said Trimble was encountered by police standing over Dahl's body, trying to wave down officers. "A guilty man would have run," Weber said. "Trimble is a runner. He has a conviction for felony fleeing." Although Trimble's DNA was found in Dahl's pockets, he explained that it was from stealing his wallet. Weber encouraged the jury to acquit because of the paucity of forensic evidence.
"Does a guilty man who's just beaten a man to death and relieved him of his wallet just stand there?" Weber asked. But Sweasy said she was "absolutely" convinced of Trimble's guilt.
Jury foreman Rick Hauritz said the decision was the "consensus of the group" derived from a "series of factors." He declined to be more specific, but said, "It was very difficult."
Rochelle Olson - 612-673-1747