Defense rests, Byron Smith doesn't testify in Little Falls murde - KMSP-TV

Defense rests, Byron Smith doesn't testify in Little Falls murder trial

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LITTLE FALLS, Minn. (KMSP) -

Byron Smith didn’t say anything on the walk into the Morrison County courtroom Monday morning, and he wasn’t saying anything in court either. The 65-year-old opted against taking the stand in his own defense.

“That was my decision,” defense attorney Steve Meshbesher said. “I advised him that he didn’t have to. When we reviewed it over the weekend, there was no need for it. All he would do is repeat what he said.”

Instead, the defense allowed all the audio recordings, the killings and the interrogations to tell Smith’s side of the story -- that he was a man terrified in his own home following a rash of burglaries back in 2012.

Smith is charged with first-degree murder in the Thanksgiving 2012 shooting deaths of Haile Kifer and Nick Brady – two teenaged cousins who broke into his Little Falls home; however, jurors could also convict him on lesser charges of second-degree murder.

The defense wrapped up its case before lunch, calling several final character witnesses including Smith’s older brother, Bruce.

Perhaps the most passionate exchange of the trial occurred when neighbor John Lange’s 16-year-old son was called to testify. The Langes live a couple houses down from Byron Smith. In fact, we learned Smith moved in with the family after the deadly home invasion.

The defense called the younger Lange to speak to Smith’s honesty, and that's when prosecutor Pete Orput tried to ask him if Smith was feared in the neighborhood. Smith’s attorney strongly objected, even demanding a mistrial. The boy’s father was enraged.

“Very out of line,” Lange said. “You don’t treat people like that.”

Drama aside, the jury is now ready for closing arguments to begin at 9 a.m. on Tuesday morning, with Smith’s fate hanging in the balance.

Nick Brady’s grandfather, Steve Schaeffel, insists you have to trust the system.

“It doesn’t always work out in favor of what we all want,” he said. “I am very confident in the system and confident in the case that is presented.”

The jurors will be sequestered during deliberations, which means they will not be allowed to go home until they reach a unanimous verdict.


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