The Star Tribune is asking the state's high court for permission to file a brief criticizing a courtroom closure during the trial of Byron Smith, the Little Falls man convicted last spring of killing two teenage intruders.
An attorney for the newspaper wrote in a request filed Monday that the Star Tribune would have opposed the courtroom closing on the day of opening statements.
Smith's case is on appeal while he serves two life sentences for shooting cousins Nicholas Brady and Haile Kifer after they broke into his home in late 2012. His trial raised questions about how far a homeowner can go to defend himself and his residence.
Prosecutors contended that Smith crossed the line by continuing to shoot the teens after they were no longer a threat. They said Smith sat waiting in his basement, then coldly executed them as they descended his stairs about 10 minutes apart.
Smith had claimed he was terrified after prior break-ins at his property, where intruders stole guns and other items. One of his attorneys, Steve Meshbesher, said he wasn't allowed to show jurors all the evidence that he felt was necessary.
Meshbesher said Monday that he objected to the court's closing at the time. He had been arguing to let the jury hear testimony from friends of Brady who had participated in or knew of prior burglaries with Brady at Smith's property.
Judge Douglas Anderson ruled against allowing the testimony.
The Star Tribune's filing said the newspaper does not intend to take a position regarding a proper remedy for an errant courtroom closure.
"The public and the press — and not just the defendant – have significant interests in seeing that rules designed to protect their rights of access to criminal proceedings are followed," the newspaper argued.