Byron Smith's attorneys tell Minnesota Supreme Court murder trial was unfair


Minnesota's highest court is now deliberating over whether Byron Smith, the Little Falls man who was imprisoned for life for killing two teens, had been given a fair trial when he was convicted last year.

Smith's defense lawyers spent much of Thursday trying to persuade state Supreme Court justices that he hadn't, pointing to a "brief courtroom closure" that may have been improper, the Star Tribune reports.

When the attorneys filed their appeal of the conviction earlier this year, they also argued that the presiding judge had made several errors which prevented them from providing Smith a "complete defense."

The six justices questioned both sides about the 2014 court proceedings, the Star Tribune notes, with the prosecutors arguing the courtroom closure – which they said was used to "instruct attorneys" on proper conduct – had "no impact" on the fairness of the trial.

The facts of the case

The 66-year-old Smith was originally put in the defendant's chair over the fatal Thanksgiving 2o12 shooting of cousins Haile Kifer, 18, and Nick Brady, 17, both of whom had broken into Smith's home.

Smith said he'd fired on the pair to defend his property, but prosecutors argued that he acted excessively when he continued to shoot the teens even after they were injured and no longer a threat.

For their part, the juveniles had been linked to other area robberies, and court documents revealed Brady had broken into Smith's house and garage before.

Nonetheless, prosecutors called it a "premeditated ambush," and jurors found him guilty. He was eventually sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of release.

As for how the arguments went on Thursday, WCCO reports the Supreme Court justices "seemed to agree" with Smith's attorneys that the presiding judge was in error when he closed the courtroom during the period in question.

The station points out that the court is not expected to arrive at a decision immediately, and that it could take them several months to hand down a ruling.

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