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Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • Editorial: Smith got what he deserved, but jurors didn’t hear the full story

  • Now, before we proceed, let it be known that the view in this space today – as someone who closely followed the case of Byron Smith, 65, in Little Falls, Minn. from the day he shot and killed two teen intruders to the moment he was convicted of first degree murder two days ago – is that Smith got what he deserved.
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  •     Now, before we proceed, let it be known that the view in this space today – as someone who closely followed the case of Byron Smith, 65, in Little Falls, Minn. from the day he shot and killed two teen intruders to the moment he was convicted of first degree murder two days ago – is that Smith got what he deserved.   
        If this was seen as a “stand your ground” or “your home is your castle” case, it was a stand-your-ground case on steroids. Smith had been victimized by burglars and thieves on multiple occasions before Nick Brady, 17, and Haile Kifer, 18, made the mistake of breaking into his home on Thanksgiving Day 2012.   
        But on that day, Smith, whether he was incredibly fearful for his safety, unhinged mentally, or completely fed up with kids breaking into his home – maybe it was a combination of all three – went beyond standing his ground. Compared by prosecutors with a deer hunter perched with his gun in his stand, Smith parked his pickup elsewhere to make it seem as though he wasn’t home. He grabbed something to drink, some snacks, and a good book as he got comfortable in a basement chair. He also had two guns and a tarp nearby for any bodies he might need to bundle up, and to keep blood off his carpet. He also turned on a recording device.   
        According to the recording, when Brady came down first, Smith blew him away, and taunted him a bit in the process. He did the same when Kifer came down the steps a few minutes later, shooting her several times as she screams. He shot nine times in all. Afterward, as the recording continued, Smith talked to himself, and compared his victims to “vermin.”  
        Smith did more than stand his ground, and did more than simply defend himself. He murdered two people.   
        But, according to what jurors were allowed to hear, Smith more than stood his ground against two entirely innocent teens who for whatever reason decided to bust into someone’s house on Thanksgiving. The judge had previously denied a request by Smith’s attorney to introduce evidence that indicated Brady and Kifer were less than completely innocent, that they’d broken into homes in the area before – Brady even broke into Smith’s home previously – and that they may have had substance abuse issues. Kifer was found to be under the influence of cough syrup chemicals when she died.    
        Aren’t we reminded every day of how accountable and responsible we need to be, about how a seemingly small mistake can come back to haunt us? Heck, even something as minuscule as an unwise Facebook post or Twitter tweet might prevent us from getting a job.   
    Page 2 of 2 -     But in our criminal justice system, in the interest of having a jury focus only on the case before them and the facts relating only to that specific case, someone’s previous malfeasance is often ruled inadmissable. As a result, juries are often not told the full story.   
        Would knowing about Brady and Kifer’s history have swayed the jury deciding Smith’s fate? Probably not. Hopefully not. He didn’t have to do what he did, period, and, generally speaking, the two teens were decent kids, active in school, outgoing, and all that good stuff. They committed a crime and could have and should have been punished by the justice system.   
        But all the jury of Smith’s peers heard about was the positive attributes of Brady and Kifer. There was more to the story.
        
       

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