MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On Monday, the murder trial begins for a Little Falls man who admitted to killing two teenagers inside his home.
Byron Smith told investigators he shot and killed 18-year-old Haile Kifer and 17-year-old Nick Brady after they broke into his home on Thanksgiving Day of 2012. He was charged with two counts of first-degree murder.
When Smith has his day in court, the focus won’t be on whether he’s responsible for the shooting deaths. Instead, attorneys on both sides will argue whether he was within his legal right to take their lives after the teens broke into his home.
“If you’ve got someone breaking into your house, and it looks like they’re about to commit a felony, you can use deadly force as long as it’s reasonable. That’s the standard,” said Joe Tamburino of Caplan and Tamburino Law Firm.
Joe Tamburino, a defense attorney who’s not involved with the case, explained that a key argument for prosecutors will be Smith’s statement to police.
In the criminal complaint, Smith described shooting the teens multiple times and told investigators “I want him dead” while speaking about Brady. He also described the shooting of Kifer as “a good clean finishing shot.”
“That is going to be really problematic because when you say to someone, ‘hey, I did this and I did it as a finishing shot,’ basically what you could be saying is I intended to do it and the threat was over,” said Tamburino.
But Tamburino also expects Smith’s attorney, Steve Meshbesher, to point out how earlier break-ins may have influenced his actions that day.
“Mr. Meshbesher’s going to be painting the picture of a person who has suffered burglaries before and did the only thing he thought was reasonable to do which was to protect his home using deadly force,” Tamburino said.
Surveillance video and audio recordings of that day may also be used as evidence to determine whether Smith used reasonable action to defend his home.
“If it looks like these individuals are coming in to do harm, you know, it looks like they might have something on them like a weapon. Or, if it looks like they are going to commit some felony inside then that’s going to help him. If it looks like two dumb kids who popped a window because it looks like no one was home, they don’t have any weapons and they’re not doing anything in the house, that’ll harm him,” Tamburino said.
This trial is expected to last about two weeks. Washington County Attorney Pete Orput is handling the case for the prosecution. He was called in as a special assistant to Morrison County as that office had a conflict of interest in the case.