LITTLE FALLS, Minn. (AP) - A Minnesota man charged with fatally shooting two teenagers who broke into his home on Thanksgiving Day in 2012 chose not to testify in his own behalf Monday, and his defense rested after calling three character witnesses and a private detective who sought to bolster the homeowner’s claim of self-defense.
Byron Smith, 65, of Little Falls, told Morrison County District Judge Douglas Anderson he understood his rights. He’s charged with first- and second-degree murder in the deaths of 18-year-old Haile Kifer and 17-year-old Nick Brady. The retired U.S. State Department security officer told investigators he was defending himself when he shot the two cousins in his basement because he feared for his life after several break-ins.
The case has fueled debate over how far people can go in defending themselves in their homes. Smith sat downstairs and waited for the two cousins. Prosecutors argue that he went too far when he continued to shoot the unarmed teens even after they posed no danger. Smith also waited a day to report the killings to police. The defense says Smith was fearful in part because some of his guns were stolen in earlier burglaries.
Anderson set closing arguments for Tuesday morning.
The judge told the jury that Minnesota law allows people to use deadly force in self-defense if they fear death or great bodily harm, or to prevent a felony from being committed in one’s dwelling. He said a defendant has no duty to retreat, but that a defendant’s actions must have been “reasonable under the circumstances.” He also told them to follow the law as he explained it, “even if you believe the law is or should be different.”
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota’s new online voter registration system must be shut down because it was improperly established, a judge ordered Monday. But the Legislature could quickly turn it back on.
Ramsey County District Judge John Guthmann said in his ruling that Democratic Secretary of State Mark Ritchie was wrong to set it up without legislative permission. He ruled that Ritchie must close the system down by midnight Tuesday. Any registrations previously made through the site will be valid.
The ruling comes in a lawsuit brought by two conservative groups and a collection of Republican legislators, who said they deserved a chance to help shape the portal.
Mindful of the possible ruling, the Legislature has been considering bills this session to allow online registration to continue by putting in place security standards and anti-fraud provisions.
“If the Legislature believed that the existing online voter registration tool was already legally authorized, there would be no need for new legislation,” Guthmann wrote in his order.