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Continued: Deputy's scolding of jury sparks investigation in Hennepin Co.

  • Article by: DAVID CHANEN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: August 26, 2014 - 10:44 AM

The idea that police always find the right person to be charged is “what we face every time in court,” Ward said.

“The presumption is that Shufford did something, or he wouldn’t be there in court,” he said. “You hope you have the opportunity to level the playing field. As public defenders, you are always outmanned with resources.”

He praised Shufford’s legal team, including law clerk Lindsay Schwab and paralegal Emily Wadley for digging up new information on the prosecution’s witnesses through the Internet.

Ward and Imholte praised prosecutors Mark Griffin and Sarah Vokes, saying they did a good job of presenting the evidence they were given.

But juries want hard evidence, Imholte said. “The strength of the case was the lawyers, and the weakness was their witnesses,” she said.

On July 18, the jury deliberated three hours before acquitting Shufford. He still faces a felony burglary charge unrelated to Walker’s death.

Acquittals unusual

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said his office respects the jury and the job it did. The prosecution’s obligation is to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, he said.

“In this case, the jury believed we didn’t do so and we accept,” he said. “However, we still believe Shufford is guilty.”

Prosecutors had it tough — they didn’t have enough forensic evidence and their witnesses weren’t “members of the church choir,” he said.

“Our standards are high for charging,” Freeman said. “That’s one reason why we get guilty pleas and convictions in 90 percent of our cases.”

Acquittals in murder cases are unusual, and it’s a big deal to get one, but the deputy’s comments took some of the glow off the victory, Imholte said. The attorneys picked a good jury, one that Ward said he sensed “would do the right thing in this case.”

“And they did,” he said. “They followed the law and did exactly what they should have done.”


David Chanen • 612-673-4465

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