SELF DEFENSE VS. MURDER: Strategies at play in Little Falls - KMSP-TV

SELF DEFENSE VS. MURDER: Strategies at play in Little Falls

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If someone breaks in, how far can a person go to protect self and property? That's the question at the heart of the first-degree murder trial of Byron Smith, who shot two teenagers in Little Falls.

Smith is accused of premeditated, first-degree murder in the Thanksgiving Day shooting that ended the lives of 17-year-old Nick Brady and 18-year-old Hallie Kifer, two teenaged cousins who were linked to other area robberies.

With the jury selection process finished, opening statements are expected to get underway on Monday morning -- and the strategies of the defense attorney and prosecutor are bound to be radically different.

Even veteran defense attorney Jeff Degree admits he believes the prosecution appears to have the upper hand in proving that Smith took things beyond the scope of the law -- but when it comes to an a jury, he says the defense will need to play up how scared someone would be during a break-in.

"I think the law is clear for the prosecution, but the facts -- and the way people feel about it -- might lead them to disregard the law, frankly," Degree said.

For the prosecution, it's not the break-in -- but the breakdown of events afterward -- that could close the case.

"The emphasis is going to be on what took place after they were already shot," Degree predicted.

The criminal complaint states that Smith shot Kifer and Brady multiple times, admitted to using "more shots than" were needed, and even gloated about firing a "good, clean finishing shot." He did not immediately report the shooting to police, either. Instead, he had a neighbor call on his behalf the next day.

"This wasn't a snap decision that this guy made," Degree contends. "Maybe it was at first, but he clearly wet and followed up and shot again in the first case, got a second gun in the second case, sat there, didn't call police -- there's a lot of facts the prosecution can point to that will be helpful to their case."

Yet, Degree said the case is not an indefensible one.

"They have some bad, bad facts to contend with, but at the same time, I think jurors will not be real impressed with these two kids that were clearly breaking into this person's house," Degree acknowledged.

The break-in will be the focal point for the defense, and Degree said it the fact that the trial is in a rural area will be an asset for that argument.

"A lot of times, you'll see defendants trying to move their trials," Degree said. "This is a case, I think, they wanted to have in a rural area because you have a lot of cabin owners and homeowners who do feel vulnerable out in the rural areas in which they live."

Smith is charged also charged with two counts of second-degree intentional murder because the first-degree charges could be hard to prove.

The jury is comprised of half men, half women, and at least one NRA member.

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