The Murder Trial of Byron Smith

April 24, 2014

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Good afternoon:

We are going to take a look at the Byron Smith trial, which is underway in Little Falls, Minnesota. Smith is charged with two counts of premeditated murder for shooting two teenagers to death in the basement of his home on Thanksgiving Day in November 2012. The prosecution claims he ambushed and killed them.

The two teenagers were Nick Brady, 17, and Haile Kifer, 18. They were unarmed.

Smith claims that he feared for his life and was defending himself.

This case is unusual because Smith sat in the basement next to a table with a shotgun rifle and a handgun at the ready and he audio recorded the shootings. He waited until the next day to call a neighbor. The neighbor notified police.

Pam Louwagie of the Minneapolis Star Tribune describes the content of the audio tape played in court on Tuesday.

The Morrison County jury heard glass break, movement, then two shots as Brady groaned “Oh.” Smith responded with another gunshot, saying, “you’re dead.”

Almost immediately after Brady was shot, rustling of the tarp was heard, then a dragging sound, then heavy breathing. Smith had moved Brady’s body to a workshop in his basement to keep blood from staining the basement carpet, he later told authorities.

The audio continued with the sound of a gun reloading, then more deep breaths and the sound of footsteps — first getting fainter and then becoming louder again. A few minutes later, in a quiet, low voice, a female mumbled “Nick.”

Soon, there was another booming gunshot and the sound of Kifer falling down the stairs. Smith quickly said, “Oh, sorry about that.”

“Oh, my god!,” Kifer said, and screamed.

“You’re dying,” Smith responded amid more gunshots. “Bitch.”

After more heavy breathing and a dragging sound, Smith said “bitch” once more. Jurors heard more movement, and the crack of a gun.

/snip/

Testimony on Tuesday afternoon focused on the crime scene investigation, with Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigators detailing the evidence they gathered at Smith’s home, including photographs of the teens’ bodies: Brady’s lay tangled in a camouflage tarp, Kifer’s lay with her bloody midriff exposed, knees bent, a black hoodie tied tightly around her face.

TOMO News prepared this animation:

Under Minnesota law, a person can use deadly force in self-defense under the following circumstances:

609.065 JUSTIFIABLE TAKING OF LIFE.

The intentional taking of the life of another is not authorized by section 609.06, except when necessary in resisting or preventing an offense which the actor reasonably believes exposes the actor or another to great bodily harm or death, or preventing the commission of a felony in the actor’s place of abode.

In other words, the use of deadly force must be reasonably necessary to prevent the commission of a felony in his house.

Since he apparently ambushed them, they were unarmed, and he finished both of them off with kill shots to the head after he had disabled them, there appears to be no doubt that it was not reasonably necessary for him to use deadly force to finish them off.

Crane and I find it very troubling that Hailey Kifer was found “with her bloody midriff exposed, knees bent, a black hoodie tied tightly around her face.”

This suggests a sexual assault post mortem with her hoodie tied to conceal her face so that he would not have to look at her.

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Fred


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