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Defendant in Mpls. stabbing death now says it was self-defense

  • Article by: ABBY SIMONS
  • Star Tribune
  • December 6, 2011 - 2:55 PM

A Minneapolis police detective testified Monday that Chrishaun "CeCe" McDonald was "conversational and intelligent" during questioning hours after being arrested for allegedly killing a man during a scuffle outside a Minneapolis bar in early June.

During a hearing Monday in Hennpein County District Court, Sgt. Christopher Gaiters said McDonald, 23, a person in transition from a man to a woman who is charged with second-degree intentional murder in the death of 47-year-old Dean Schmitz, did not seem intoxicated or in severe pain despite having received stitches in her face just before the 100-minute interview early in the morning of June 5. McDonald never asked for an attorney and waived the right to remain silent, he said.

"During part of the interview, she was able to physically get out of the chair and demonstrate what happened and point it out on maps," Gaiters told Assistant County Attorney Debra Lund. "At times there was crying and sometimes laughing. She was very conversational."

McDonald was walking with a group of friends past the Schooner Tavern at about 12:30 a.m. when words were exchanged between the group and Schmitz and other bar patrons who were outside smoking.

A fight ensued, and a woman allegedly threw a glass and cut McDonald's face. According to witnesses, Schmitz pulled McDonald out of the melee and said "You stabbed me." McDonald allegedly replied "Yes I did" and walked away.

Schmitz died at the scene from a stab wound tot he chest. After the fight, McDonald allegedly told police that a pair of scissors were taken out to scare Schmitz and he ran into them during the fight.

McDonald later denied stabbing Schmitz, but on Monday, filed a claim of self-defense resulting in accidental death.

McDonald turned down an offer by prosecutors to plead guilty to first-degree manslaughter and serve seven years in prison. A trial is scheduled for Jan. 9. McDonald is currently free on bail.

Gaiters' testimony came in response to a motion by McDonald's attorney, Hersch Izek, to bar the videotaped interview from McDonald's trial because his client was under duress after spending three hours in the emergency room following the 12:30 a.m. incident, then having to wait three more hours before undergoing questioning by Gaiters and Sgt. John Holthusen.

Izek pressed Gaiters on whether they used a "Good Cop, Bad Cop" scenario to press McDonald into confessing. Gaiters maintained that they treated McDonald courteously throughout the interview.

"You're looking to get a confession?" Izek asked.

"We're looking to get her side of the story, sir," Gaiters responded.

"When you have a prime suspect, you're looking for them to confess?" Izek countered.

"We're looking for the truth, sir," Gaiters said.

District Judge Daniel Moreno will rule on whether to admit the interview in the future.

Other pending motions include one by Hennepin County prosecutors to obtain a letter McDonald sent to a Star Tribune reporter that read "None of this mess wouldn't be happening if it weren't for the victim and his group being rude and disrespectful to people they never knew" and adding that the confession was "a big mistake" for trying to cover up for a friend who did it.

Attorneys for the newspaper have opposed the motion. Moreno will decide soon whether the letter must be turned over.

Abby Simons • 612-673-4921

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