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Continued: Little Falls jury must decide: Was Byron Smith driven to shoot by fear or revenge?

  • Article by: PAM LOUWAGIE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 22, 2014 - 10:41 AM

Smith said he ended up hiding in the basement through the night and into the next morning before calling a neighbor because he was afraid of an accomplice. He thought the neighbor girl’s father might come looking for her, he said.

“The first couple hours I was just shaking and I gradually shifted into worrying,” he said. “I was pretty much afraid to do anything.”

He also realized the incident was over ­­— the intruders were dead — and nothing was going to change by waiting, he said.

“I saw it as a static situation,” he told police. He said he also thought for a bit that although his Thanksgiving was ruined, he didn’t have to ruin it for others by calling authorities that day.

Was it reasonable?

Smith later volunteered to give his fingerprints, agreed to give a sample of his DNA and explained to authorities how they could access the video surveillance he had installed on the exterior of his house.

Jurors will have to decide whether Smith, who faces life in prison if convicted of first-degree murder, acted reasonably that day.

Minnesota law allows a person to 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.”

Opening statements

In opening statements Monday morning, prosecutor Brent Wartner portrayed Smith as a vigilante who sat waiting in his basement in the chair tucked between two bookcases, with loaded weapons, water and food.

He highlighted that Smith had an audio recorder running for six hours before, during and after the shootings. Wartner claimed Smith waited before calling anyone because he “wanted to be ready” for when he thought the neighbor girl’s father would come looking for her.

Defense attorney Steve Meshbesher said Smith shot the two teens — that is not in dispute — but that Smith is not guilty of murder for doing it. He outlined Smith’s life history, including his years in the military, his work with Scouts and later his employment with the U.S. State Department.

“This case is a tragedy, make no mistake about it. There are two people who are dead and I will not attempt to de-emphasize or downplay that reality,” Meshbesher said.

“Mr. Smith is the person who shot and killed those two people, but he is not criminally responsible for their deaths.”

 

Pam Louwagie • 612-673-7102



 

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