Ryan D. Petersen doesn’t refute that there’s enough evidence to convict him of fatally shooting St. Paul law clerk Chase Passauer in April — all he’s contesting is the allegation that his actions were planned rather than a spontaneous act of “unreasonable and delusional rage.”
The distinction could mean the difference between automatic life in prison for the 37-year-old if he’s convicted of first-degree premeditated murder or a maximum of 40 years in prison if he’s convicted of second-degree murder with intent. He is also charged with illegal possession of a firearm.
Ramsey County District Judge William Leary is expected to issue a verdict in the case at 9 a.m. Friday. Petersen, of St. Paul, waived his right to a jury trial.
Defense attorney Gary Wolf said in his closing arguments Wednesday that with Petersen’s permission, he would only argue that premeditation had not been proven.
Seeking clarification, Leary asked Petersen if he had conceded to all other elements of the charges and was only contesting premeditation.
“Yes, sir,” Petersen said.
Petersen testified Tuesday he texted and called his attorney, Dan Adkins, on April 7 about a parking issue outside of his business and became upset that Adkins wasn’t more responsive.
Petersen told the court that he drove to North Star Criminal Defense in the Cathedral Hill neighborhood to fire Adkins, and that he shot 23-year-old Passauer because of an “emotional explosion” triggered by Adkins’ absence.
Adkins was representing Petersen at the time for drunken driving and for allegedly assaulting a police officer.
Wolf and Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Rick Dusterhoft cast starkly different light on the reliability and motives of key witnesses whose various statements to police and courtroom testimony appeared confusing or contradictory. Chief among them was Kari Schill, Petersen’s former partner of 22 years and the mother of his children.
Dusterhoft said in his closing arguments that Petersen told Schill that he was going to go shoot his attorney on the day he killed Passauer. He acknowledged that Schill didn’t divulge that detail in her first interview with police, but noted that she later revealed it in another interview and also recounted it in courtroom.
Dusterhoft said that premeditation could also be inferred from Petersen’s actions that day: He brought a gun to the office and all eight shots he fired struck Passauer.
Wolf argued that Schill was unreliable and only divulged the exchange with Petersen after being granted immunity from prosecution for helping Petersen.
“I’m very pleased with the prosecution,” said Passauer’s father, Christopher Passauer. “I don’t know if there’s ever a perfect case, but I tell you what, they’re pretty darn close.”