- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Homeowner: 2 teens shot were ‘vermin,’ not human

LITTLE FALLS, Minn. (AP) - Jurors listened Wednesday as a man called two teenagers who broke into his central Minnesota home “vermin” on an audio recording shortly after fatally shooting them.

Byron Smith also could be heard saying he was doing his “civic duty” on the recording, which was played during his trial. He is charged with first-degree premeditated murder in the deaths of 18-year-old Haile Kifer and 17-year-old Nick Brady.

Smith, 65, claims he feared for his life that Thanksgiving Day in 2012 and shot the teens in self-defense.

He had an audio recorder running during the shootings, and prosecutors have been playing the recording at trial. On the part played Wednesday, Smith was heard saying, “They weren’t human. I don’t see them as human. I see them as vermin.”



“I was doing my civic duty,” Smith was heard saying in another part. “I had to do it.”

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Signups via Minn. health exchange pass 200,000

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The operators of Minnesota’s state-run health exchange say a little more than 200,000 people have signed up for coverage through the exchange.

MNsure interim chief executive Scott Leitz says the exact number is 200,174.

March 31 was the deadline for most people to get coverage or face a tax penalty. The number of enrollees has been slowly climbing as the state continues to process people who started their application before the deadline. The state had set a goal of 135,000 people soon after the MNsure website launched last October and suffered severe technical issues.

MNsure recently signed a nearly $5 million contract with Deloitte Consulting to manage an overhaul of the website and computer systems.

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GOP cries foul over tax-cut letter naming Dayton

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota Republicans say the state Department of Revenue shouldn’t have cited Gov. Mark Dayton’s role in enacting recent tax breaks in a letter sent to people who might benefit.

Republican state senators argued Wednesday that use of Dayton’s name in the letter turned it into a political document. The letter went to some people who qualified for additional deductions or credits because of a bill passed in March.

It starts with a message that Dayton signed the bill and then offers routine information about claiming the breaks. A similar 2010 letter from the Revenue Department included then-Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s name.

Dayton spokesman Linden Zakula calls the GOP criticism “another baseless attack” and says nothing in Minnesota law prohibits the Revenue Department from mentioning a governor’s name in an official letter.

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Supreme Court reverses sex offender’s commitment

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The Minnesota Supreme Court took the unusual step Wednesday of reversing the commitment of a man to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program and sent the case back to a lower court for further proceedings that could result in him going free.

The high court reaffirmed its previous rulings requiring that sex offenders must be found to be “highly likely” to reoffend before courts civilly commit them to the state’s secure treatment program, which is the subject of a constitutional challenge in federal court and a debate in the Legislature. But the high court justices said judges need to make formal findings of fact on whether less restrictive treatment programs are available.

Questions remain over whether the sex offender program is constitutional because only two men have ever been released on any kind of provisional discharge. Justice Alan Page wrote a pointed but nonbinding concurrence saying the Legislature has created “a single one-size-fits-all” system without adequate facilities and treatment programs and has failed to provide less restrictive alternatives.

“It is equally clear that we, as a court, have failed in our obligations to ensure that commitment … is not merely a form of preventive detention,” Page wrote.

Eric Janus, president and dean of the William Mitchell College of Law, said the state’s appellate courts have decided about 400 sex offender commitment cases and that “you can count on fewer than the fingers of two hands the number of cases that have been reversed.” Janus also noted that Page has been a “persistent critic” of the program and has dissented in several previous cases.

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