Jury heard audio Wednesday of Smith talking to himself after slayings.
LITTLE FALLS, Minn. – In the hours after he killed two teenage intruders in his home, Byron Smith can be heard taking credit for the deaths, referring to the dead teens as “vermin.”
“I felt like I was cleaning up a mess,” he whispers pointedly, apparently to himself, in a monologue captured on a tape recorder he kept in his basement. “I was doing my civic duty.”
Smith had recorded more than six hours of home surveillance-type audio on a hand-held recorder on that fateful Thanksgiving Day in 2012, recordings that also captured him saying, “I don’t see them as human. I see them as vermin.”
Prosecutors played a spliced tape of highlights from the recordings for the jury, including audio before, during and after Smith shot 18-year-old Haile Kifer and 17-year-old Nick Brady amid groans and screams from the teens along with utterances and name-calling from Smith.
The truncated version of the tape was a pivotal point in the prosecution’s case against Smith, who has become a national lightning rod amid widespread debate about how far a homeowner can go to defend himself and his property.
More audio heard
Smith, a retired U.S. State Department employee who set up security systems for embassies, argues that he legally killed the intruders under Minnesota law allowing him to use deadly force to defend himself and avert someone from committing a felony in his home. He claims he was terrified after a series of break-ins at his wooded property on the northern edge of town.
Prosecutors say Smith went well beyond the law by continuing to shoot the unarmed teens once he wounded them and they were no longer a threat.
Juries are instructed to consider the circumstances and whether it’s a decision a reasonable person would have made in light of the danger perceived.
It was the second time the jurors heard audio of the gunshot blasts, groans and screams during the killings as they descended Smith’s basement stairs.
Wednesday, they also heard other audio highlights spliced together by a state investigative agent, who testified that Smith is heard “just talking to himself” periodically for six hours after the shootings.
Before the shootings, Smith can be heard saying, “I realize I don’t have an appointment, but I would like to see one of the lawyers here.”
Kifer’s mom put her face in her hands as the killings were replayed. After the tape played, Smith appeared emotional, his face red.
Defense attorneys later questioned the splicing, pointing out that pieces they consider important were left out.
On the audio, Smith is heard saying, “I’m safe now,” then whispering later: “I feel a little bit safer. Not totally safe. I’m still shaking a bit … I left my house at 11:30. They were both dead by 1.”
Among his other comments that followed:
“I refuse to live in fear,” Smith is heard saying. Then later, “I felt like I was cleaning up a mess, worse than spilled food, worse than vomit.”