Juror reveals details of Byron Smith trial, deliberation - KMSP-TV

Juror reveals details of Byron Smith trial, deliberation

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With the guilty verdict behind them, jurors are returning to their lives -- but one spoke with Fox 9 News to share some perspective on why they convicted Byron Smith of first-degree murder.

The 65-year-old will serve a mandatory life sentence for shooting and killing 17-year-old Nick Brady and 18-year-old Haile Kifer during a break-in at his Little Falls home on Thanksgiving Day. His lawyers have vowed to appeal, but life is already beginning to feel different in Morrison County.

"I think justice was served," juror Wes Hatlestad told Fox 9 News. "We did due diligence."

Hatlestad said the massive amount of photographic evidence, the chilling audio recordings of the slaying, and the taped conversations with police when Smith's lawyer was not present were damning.

"I don't know how it would have been different if he had a lawyer and destroyed his recordings," Hatlestad said. "We'll never know the answer to that."

A sense of normalcy has returned to the trial-weary town of Little Falls, and all the evidence is now available for members of the public to review -- including exhibits of his favorite reading chair, where an armed Smith sat between two bookcases as the teens came down the stairs.

The digital audio recorder Smith used and his high-tech surveillance system were also on display, along with the revolver Smith used to kill Kifer. Her blood is still visible on the sight.

"In the chin, into the cranium," Smith told police when describing the final time he shot Kifer. "The .22 is a pea shooter. It doesn't go through bone very well."

Hatlestad said the case took an emotional toll on everyone, and despite the 3-hour deliberation, he said the jury did its job thoroughly.

"Not boring, very sad, very tragic," he summed up. "Like I said, no winners -- no winners. I'll pray for Byron."

According to Hatlestad, jurors focused intensely on the self-defense and defense of dwelling statutes in Minnesota; however, when all the evidence was added up, he said it was clear that what took place in Smith's basement 17 months ago was cold-blooded murder.

"There's no winners here," Hatlestad said. "It was a tragic, tragic event."

When asked whether he thought Smith could have helped himself by taking the stand in his own defense, Hatlestad said it wouldn't have made a difference after everything they already saw and heard.

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