Attorneys in the Byron Smith murder trial in Little Falls finished choosing a jury Wednesday afternoon, state court officials said, but opening statements in the case will not begin until Monday morning.
A total of 14 jurors — seven women and seven men — were picked from a pool of 130 originally summoned. Two of the jurors will become alternates.
Smith, 65, is charged in the killings of 18-year-old Haile Kifer and 17-year-old Nick Brady, who broke into his home on Thanksgiving Day 2012.
Smith is claiming he acted in defense of himself and his home in shooting the teens as they descended his basement stairs about 10 minutes apart. Prosecutors say he went too far by continuing to shoot the teens, who were already wounded.
In Minnesota, a person can justifiably take a life to avert death or great bodily harm, or to prevent a felony in his or her home. Juries are instructed to consider the circumstances and whether it was a decision “a reasonable person would have made in light of the danger perceived.”
The trial will likely include an audio recording that Smith, a retired U.S. State Department employee, had made during the shootings. Prosecutors say Smith can be heard uttering “you’re dead” after shooting Brady three times and calling Kifer “bitch” as he shot her. He said he dragged each into his workshop and fired a final shot beneath Kifer’s chin and into her cranium, describing it to authorities as a “good, clean finishing shot.”
Defense attorneys say Smith was terrified after enduring several prior break-ins at his home on the backwaters of the Mississippi River. Smith didn’t know how many people were breaking in and whether they were armed, the defense contends.
Smith faces life in prison if found guilty of first-degree murder.
Potential jurors were asked whether they had surveillance systems in their homes and whether they or their relatives are members of the National Rifle Association.
Pam Louwagie • 612-673-7102