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Judge rules on "gag" issue in Smith murder case

Posted by: Richard Meryhew Updated: March 4, 2013 - 5:28 PM

Turns out, there'll be no pre-trial "gag" on the attorneys working the Byron Smith murder case.

That's the ruling out of Little Falls, where Morrison County District Judge Douglas Anderson has denied a request by Smith's attorney to restrict case lawyers from discussing the case with the media.

In rejecting the motion by Steven Meshbesher, Smith's attorney, Anderson ruled that he expects attorneys on both sides, "to adhere to the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct," particularly the rule that restricts attorneys "from making extrajudicial statements that the lawyer 'knows or reasonably should know...will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing a jury trial in a pending criminal matter.' "

Anderson wrote that adhering to the rule should "strike a balance between protecting the right to a fair trial and safeguarding the right of free expression."

In filing a motion last month asking for restrictions, Meshbesher argued that some public statements by prosecutor Pete Orput were inflammatory and could prejudice Smith's right to a fair trial.

Meshbesher's request followed a motion by Orput asking that defense attorneys be kept from releasing documents, audio recordings and other evidence before trial in order to ensure a fair trial.

Anderson ruled earlier last week that the case attorneys cannot publicly release case evidence before trial, unless ordered by the court.

Smith, 64, faces two counts of second-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Nick Brady, 17, and Brady's cousin, Haile Kifer, 18, after they broke into his Little Falls home on Thanksgiving Day. According to prosecutors and a criminal complaint, Smith shot them several times each in the basement of his home, then left their bodies in a basement workroom for a day before investigators were called to the home.

Smith's next court hearing is scheduled for May 6 in Morrison County.

 

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