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Hearing in Little Falls Double Murder Trial: Self-Defense or Overkill

Updated: 03/25/2014 11:53 PM
Created: 03/25/2014 6:00 PM KSTP.com
By: Beth McDonough

Byron Smith says two teens broke into his Little Falls home on Thanksgiving Day of 2012. 

He shot and killed both of them. However, prosecutors say Smith went beyond what the law allowed in defending his home. He's now facing first degree murder charges. 

At Tuesday's hearing at the Morrison County Courthouse, Smith referred KSTP to his attorney Steve Meshbescher for any questions.

"There's a prohibition on us talking to the media. We have to follow the gag order, we're gonna try the case in the courtroom,” Meshbescher said.

A longtime friend of Smith's went on to say Smith is innocent. “He never should've been charged in the first place," his friend said. 

Smith's own words, recorded by police in two separate interviews, could be played in court. Plus, video from surveillance cameras at his home might be shown. 

Prosecutors urged the judge to let jurors listen and see for themselves what happened on that deadly holiday, when 18-year-old Haile Kifer and her 17-year-old-cousin Nick Brady were killed after sneaking into Smith's Little Falls home. Smith insists he feared for his life because of previous home break-ins and Smith was especially afraid of one of the intruders - Brady. 

Smith's attorney filed motions to question Brady's past conduct, alleging a history of violence. Special Prosecutor Pete Orput called those motions irrelevant evidence.

KSTP reporter Beth McDonough learned prosecutors plan to call nearly 60 people to the stand. Investigators, witnesses and neighbors will testify about the circumstances when the teens were allegedly shot separately, shot repeatedly and shot minutes apart. This is raising questions whether the deaths were self-defense or a case of overkill.

Attorneys on both sides filed motions about what questions can and can't be asked of potential jurors. Including what the punishment would be if Smith was convicted. That's a sensitive topic because a lot of homeowners around the area own guns. Some believe the initial shootings might be justified under Minnesota law. 

But once the teens were injured and the threat removed, the shots "after that" are in question.

Family members of both Kifer and Brady were at Tuesday's hearing.

Jury selection begins in two weeks, April 14.


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