65 year-old Byron Smith, of Little Falls, Minnesota, is standing trial for two counts of murder this week in a closely watched proceeding for those concerned with the extent to which one is allowed to use lethal force in defending one’s own home.
Smith lives in a quiet neighborhood in the sleepy 8000-population town of Little Falls, Minnesota. Smith had been a victim of multiple burglaries, including at least twice by local high school students 17 year-old Nick Brady and 18 year-old Haile Kifer. As Smith defense attorney stated in his opening remarks to the jurors at Smith’s trial on two counts of premeditated (first degree) murder, Smith became scared and paranoid and began to carry with him a Mini-14 .22 caliber gun.
The basic facts of Smith encounter with Brady and Kifer are not vigorously disputed by the the prosecution and defense. Smith was holed up in the basement of his home, with a loaded gun, some energy bars and a sports drink. Brady and Kifer broke a window and ones again entered Smith’s home uninvited. As Brady descended down the basement stairs, while Kifer walked around upstairs, Smith fired two shots at Brady, with the second shot hitting Brady in the face. Smith placed Brady’s body on a tarp and dragged him inside the basement, reloaded the gun and continued to wait. As Kifer descended down the stairs, Smith ones again fired his gun, this time several more shots than before. Smith dragged Kifer’s body towards Brady’s, and after hearing Kifer supposedly gasp, Smith fired another shot through Kifer’s skull at point blank range.
In the context of this case, the defense is arguing that under Minnesota law, a person has the right to use lethal force to prevent a felony from occurring inside the person’s home and that Smith simply exercised that right by shooting the two teenagers. The prosecution is instead relying on Smith’s lying in wait in the basement and his cold, brutal method of executing the two unarmed teenagers to argue that Smith should be found guilty of premeditated murder.
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