The Appeal

Insight Into the Appeal Hearing for Byron Smith from Citizens For Justice, Inc.

“This nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal and rights of all men are diminished when the right of one man is threatened.”

A quote from former President John F.Kennedy

The Appeal Hearing for Byron Smith to the Minnesota Supreme Court took place on September 3, 2015. Justice Lilehaug began to question the Morrison County district court trial procedure of closing the trial to rescind witnesses from the defense list. Justice Stras stated that he was “troubled by this closure.” Justice Dietzen questioned this violation of court rules governing closed hearings to the public as the courtroom closure was “dropped on top of everyone without any notice to anybody.”

Steve Meshbesher, Smith’s attorney, told the justices that Judge Anderson “stopped the proceeding on his own even after I told him he couldn’t do that.” The Judge would then dismiss all the defense witnesses that had participated in the previous burglaries of the Smith home along with two expert witnesses which would have demonstrated the fear that Smith endured for months and his reaction to another break-in compounded by that fear. “This is critical for due process of law,” said Meshbesher. “ The expert witnesses were needed to explain critical incident stress.”

Justice Stras pointed out: Let’s just say (for scenerio’s sake) that Smith could have provided an alibi. The alibi witness would be key. The court room was cleared and outside of public view and key witnesses were not allowed. He also commented that important decisions are to be made in public view. The press viewing is part of the defendant’s right to a fair trial.

Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven stated: “Admissible expert testimony should be allowed. The reactions of victims may be outside the common understanding of the common juror.”

Justice Wright asked about the grand jury charge. Meshbesher explained that by the prosecutor using the “criminal defense lawyer” (wording) it made an implication. The same with the “I’m sorry” of Kifer. There was nothing on the tape to indicate those comments and the prosecutor refers to it in the closing argument when it does not exist. The prosecutor is playing on emotion and not the facts as he is asking for a guilty verdict. The only way to correct this is to have a “do-over.” Justice Barry Anderson stated, “I am troubled by this grand jury proceeding.”

Near the conclusion of the hearing, Prosecutor Wartner addressed the issue about money for headstones to which the Chief Justice asked, “How do we know the money will be used for headstones?”

Judge Anderson had pre-approved each witness prior to the trial and then decided to close the trial and let the attorney’s know he wasn’t allowing defense witnesses and a gag order was enforced which meant no media could be informed of this.

The Citizens for Justice, Inc. are hoping and praying that the Justices will order a new trial. As the quote from JFK states, our nation was founded on equal rights to all men.