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Suspect in St. Paul law clerk shooting could get life in prison after charges upped

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The man accused of fatally shooting Chase Passauer in a St. Paul law office is now facing life in prison if he's convicted.

Ryan David Petersen, 37, was initially charged with second-degree murder in the death of Passauer, a 23-year-old law clerk at North Star Criminal Defense. If found guilty, the sentence was up to 40 years in prison.

Petersen though was indicted by a grand jury on three counts this week, including premeditated first-degree murder – which carries a mandatory life sentence if convicted. He was also indicted on charges of intentional second-degree murder, and possessing a firearm when he wasn't eligible to have one.

Why is a grand jury needed?

Minnesota law says only grand juries can decide to charge someone with first-degree murder, or other charges that carry a mandatory sentence of life in prison.

The grand jury in this case was made up of 23 randomly selected people, who meet in secret to hear evidence, the Ramsey County Attorney's Office says. At least 12 of them have to agree in order to get an indictment.

The grand jury doesn’t decide guilt or innocence. Instead, it deliberates in private to decide if there’s enough evidence to charge the accused person with a crime.

According to the charges, Petersen walked into North Star Criminal Defense and shot Passauer six times in the stomach on April 7, after Petersen had trouble reaching his lawyer. You can read the full criminal complaint here.

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