Burglar-killer Byron Smith ‘guilty’ verdict: the reaction

Following the “guilty” verdict in the Byron Smith case, Pam Louwagie of the Strib reports, “Efforts were made to obfuscate what this was and turn it into some type of referendum about being able to protect one’s home, [prosecutor Pete] Orput said. ‘This was a case about where the limits are,’ Sheriff Michel Wetzel said in news conference after the verdicts.”

For the Brainerd Dispatch, Sarah Nelson Katzenberger provides a long recap of the closing arguments. “… state prosecutor Pete Orput told the jury the case is ‘a serious, but very simple case.’ … Orput said the shooting deaths of Brady and Kifer were intentional and done with premeditation — that Smith planned, prepared, determined and considered what he was doing before he did.”

Dave Unze in the St. Cloud Times writes, “Defense attorney Steve Meshbesher said Smith would appeal the case. One focus of that appeal will be how much the jury didn’t get to hear about Kifer and Brady, he said. Meshbesher had tried to present evidence to the jury about their involvement in other crimes, and photos of Brady on his Facebook page holding firearms. But Judge Douglas Anderson ruled before the trial that such evidence was not admissible, a decision with which Meshbesher clearly disagreed.” 

The Daily Mail of Britain knows how to goose a story. Laura Collins tells her readers, “Now, for the first time, MailOnline can reveal the story the jury DIDN’T hear, the history suppressed by the prosecution and the truth behind the hideous explosion of violence in Smith’s Little Falls home that Thanksgiving morning. Because though the prosecution argued that Smith did not know whom he was pulling the trigger on that day, he did know both his teenage victims. And it was that prior relationship that sparked the fatal sequence of events when it went sour five months earlier in the summer of 2012.”

The Strib was ready with an editorial. “For many who followed the case, the recordings provided all of the evidence necessary to conclude that Smith had planned the execution-style killings in retribution for the break-ins. … For obvious reasons, there are limits to the ‘castle doctrine,’ and Smith crossed the line between a reasonable self-defense and premeditated murder. It took the jury just three hours to return the verdict.”

Glen Taylor is on board with the lifetime ban on Donald Sterling. Says Laura Yuen at MPR, “Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor said he backs the decision by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to ban Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling from the organization for life for making racist remarks. … As chairman of the NBA’s Board of Governors, Taylor said he will head a committee that is already working to change the team’s ownership to another party, possibly by force.”

The Strib’s Jerry Zgoda notes Taylor to talked to Sterling, who argued he’d been taped illegally in a private discussion. The Strib’s Patrick Reusse has an upbeat take, noting society’s evolution from the brush-off of Calvin Griffith’s racist remarks in Waseca 36 years ago to Sterling’s lifetime ban today.

The GleanToday in roads, Part One: The PiPress says, “If Minnesota drivers hit something, they would be required to stop and investigate what they hit under a bill passed Tuesday by the House. The measure, sent to Gov. Mark Dayton on a 124-3 vote, would make it clear that ‘not knowing what was struck’ is no longer a legal defense for those accused of a hit-and-run collision, the bill’s sponsor, DFL Rep. Paul Rosenthal … . The vote came one week after Amy Senser, the wife of former Minnesota Viking Joe Senser, was released from prison … .”

Today in Roads, Part Two: Mary Divine of the PiPress says, “As part of the massive reconstruction of Minnesota 36 next to the new St. Croix River bridge, the right-on, right-off access road about a quarter-mile west of Osgood Avenue would be closed. Minnesota Transportation Department officials said the closure has been planned for the roadway since 1995 in line with its practice of trying to consolidate access to highway corridors. But [Joseph’s Restaurant of Stillwater owner Joe] Kohler and other business owners are hoping to change the mind of MnDOT project manager Jon Chiglo.”

Today in Roads, Part Three: The Strib’s Eric Roper on the ongoing battle between Minneapolis cabbies and appsters Lyft and Uber. Basically, the hacks say the hackers face far less onerous regulation and fees. An intriguing development: City Council Member Jacob Frey says the solution may be reducing regulations on the cabbies.

Take one blonde, add an adult beverage, som un-ladylike language and a playoff hockey game and you’ve got … viral video. Via Bleacher Report… from the Wild v. Avs Game 6. The copy believes the not-exactly shy darling in question is saying, “Whip his ass, Charlie!” to Wild center Charlie Coyle. “The Lady in Pink” was born. “As it turns out, the fan in question appears to be a woman named Alyssa Nelson. Judging by her Twitter profile, she is a Hooters waitress and the biggest Minnesota Wild fan imaginable.” Game 7 is tonight in Denver.

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Comments (32)

  1. Submitted by THOMAS REYNOLDS on 04/30/2014 - 07:07 am.

    Too Far

    Did he go too far? Maybe… guilty of first or second degree murder probably not. Were these two innocent young people shot down in the prime of life or two drug crazed thieves shot down after terrorizing a homeowner? This certainly shows how we view criminal behavior by teens as a “Mistake” and acceptable.

    • Submitted by Pat Berg on 04/30/2014 - 08:33 am.

      Blame the victim?

      Attorney Meshbesher certainly appears to subscribe to that school of thought.

      Just as in rape, the actions of the victim don’t serve as an excuse for the perpetrator to carry through with the crime. And since these children were unarmed, they certainly qualify as victims here.

      • Submitted by Reilly Liebhard on 05/01/2014 - 07:22 pm.

        General thoughts

        Attacks on Meshbesher are uncalled for. Like any attorney, he is under a professional obligation to advocate for the interests of his client.

        As for the rape analogy: I agree with the verdict against Smith, as the facts of this particular case make clear that he was out for revenge rather than defense. But comparing the general proposition that a person has the right to take reasonable measures to protect their home and bodily safety to the misogynist canard that provocative dress justifies rape? That’s profoundly insulting to the millions of Americans who support the former.

        • Submitted by Pat Berg on 05/02/2014 - 07:02 am.

          Talk about missing the point

          I was only talking about “blame the victim”.

          Those kids didn’t “deserve what they got” no matter how much wordsmithing anyone wants to do to make it seem like somehow they did.

      • Submitted by Steve Hoffman on 05/04/2014 - 01:44 pm.


        Oh really? CHILDREN? Old enough to drive, to marry, to use drugs and break into an old man’s house to steal his stuff, and you’re casting them as golden-haired toddlers? Give me a break. I just wish the Waseca Teen Would-Be Spree Killer had come to light BEFORE Smith’s trial, rather than right after.

        • Submitted by Pat Berg on 05/05/2014 - 11:43 am.

          Okay fine

          I just took another look at their ages and Kifer was, indeed, 18.

          So I guess that justifies shooting her in cold blood?

    • Submitted by Jackson Cage on 04/30/2014 - 08:45 am.

      Judgment Day in Little Falls

      According to Ms. Collins and Mr. Reynolds, somehow Byron Smith should be given a free pass to murder if we decide, after a summation of the victim’s lives, they really weren’t good people. Thankfully, the jury got this exactly right. Their past behavior had zero to do with Smith’s decision to execute them.

      • Submitted by Reilly Liebhard on 05/01/2014 - 07:04 pm.

        Past acts

        You’re absolutely correct. Even a person inclined to support Smith would have a hard time arguing that the past acts of Brady and Kifer had any probative value toward Smith’s state of mind regarding threat. When they broke into the home, Smith did not know them as “Brady and Kifer, who in the past have done X, Y, and Z”. He knew them only as two unidentified individuals breaking into his home.

  2. Submitted by Pat Berg on 04/30/2014 - 07:13 am.

    “Hit and Run” Bill text

    Here is the bill text (which amends language in existing statute 169.09) for those who are interested:


  3. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 04/30/2014 - 07:13 am.

    Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on Sterling’s girlfriend

    “She was like a sexy nanny playing ‘pin the fried chicken on the Sambo.’ She blindfolded him and spun him around until he was just blathering all sorts of incoherent racist sound bites that had the news media peeing themselves with glee.”

    I guess you could say Sterling had a rather shallow relationship with his mistress.

    Sterling is being excoriated and is going to be punished by the NBA for what he THINKS. I would be surprised if they get a unanimous vote from those NBA owners. Maybe what THEY think, now or in future, will be the next headline. Maybe racist thinking is not the only cause which could cost them their precious investment in an NBA franchise.

    They might want to slow down and consider, “What’s next ? Could the value of my investment be destroyed by a surreptitious taping of me saying something stupid ? If my franchise hangs by such a thin thread, what is the real worth of an NBA franchise ?”

    Although they are vain, these people own NBA teams primarily to make money.

    • Submitted by Jackson Cage on 04/30/2014 - 08:42 am.

      Steve, it’s a “Franchise”

      The product is the NBA, not one of it’s franchises. You think it’s OK for one racist part-owner of the NBA to destroy the value for the other part-owners? So if I own a McDonalds in St. Paul and another McDonalds owner in MInneapolis goes on a racist-infused marketing campaign of his own….oh well, “that’s just what he thinks”? I’m continually amazed by people who just don’t get the concept of free speech.

      • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 04/30/2014 - 10:02 am.

        Your misunderstanding is COMPLETE

        I have absolutely no idea where you get “You think it’s OK…”. Better read what I wrote again.

        Perhaps your “…racist-infused marketing campaign” indicates that you think Sterling gave permission to tape and distribute a recording which shows him to be a petulant, immature, racist boor. It was obviously surreptitious. It was private. There is no valid comparison with your example of racist marketing.

        Mr. Jabbar was concerned with the fact that an apparently illegal recording of a private conversation could go unquestioned by virtually everyone reacting to the matter, including the President of the United States.

        In Abdul-Jabbar’s words at http://time.com/79590/donald-sterling-kareem-abdul-jabbar-racism/:

        “Shouldn’t we be equally angered by the fact that his private, intimate conversation was taped and then leaked to the media? Didn’t we just call to task the NSA for intruding into American citizen’s privacy in such an un-American way? Although the impact is similar to Mitt Romney’s comments that were secretly taped, the difference is that Romney was giving a public speech. The making and release of this tape is so sleazy that just listening to it makes me feel like an accomplice to the crime. We didn’t steal the cake but we’re all gorging ourselves on it.”

        • Submitted by Matt Haas on 04/30/2014 - 10:59 am.

          Last I checked

          It was Mr. Sterling’s choice to surround himself with folks of questionable character. Regardless of the source, the tape became public knowledge. What would you have the NBA do? Tell the public “move along, nothing to see here” as they have repeatedly with Mr. Sterling? There’s not a particularly good actor in this scenario but from a simply business related aspect, they made the only call possible. The court of public opinion would not allow any other.

        • Submitted by Lance Groth on 04/30/2014 - 01:19 pm.

          Taping not secret, according to her

          The “girlfriend” claims that she routinely recorded conversations with Sterling (as his “archivist”), and that she often played portions back to him because he would forget what he said, and thus he had every reason to think she would be recording his racist rant. Is she telling the truth? I don’t know, I wouldn’t trust what either of them says, but at the least it is not clear that he was ambushed with a secret recording.

          Either way, he isn’t being punished for what he thinks, he’s being punished for what he said. He does have a history of it, you know. He all but ran black people out of apartment buildings that he owned. His fellow owners have been uncomfortable with his racism for years, and he finally gave them an excuse to run him out. I don’t feel sorry for him in the least.

          • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 04/30/2014 - 02:40 pm.

            Matt & Lance: I take your points, but…

            …maybe I’m not making my point well enough. Sterling’s girlfriend has got a great story there explaining why she was taping; in fact, it’s so good, Sterling is now in conversation with her attorney about how he can “make this go away”, as she has lots more where that came from !! Of course, she is also saying there was a third party present, too, and THAT party must be the leaker. And I’m not saying the NBA should have done nothing, either.

            I’m just making a couple observations, first, that it wouldn’t surprise me if the NBA owners think twice before that vote. Mark Cuban, one of those owners, says it better than me:

            Here’s how Mark Cuban was quoted:

            “What Donald said was wrong,” Cuban said. “It was abhorrent. There’s no place for racism in the NBA, any business I’m associated with, and I don’t want to be associated with people who have that position.

            “But at the same time, that’s a decision I make. I think you’ve got to be very, very careful when you start making blanket statements about what people say and think, as opposed to what they do. It’s a very, very slippery slope.

            “Again, there’s no excuse for his positions. There’s no excuse for what he said. There’s no excuse for anybody to support racism. There’s no place for it in our league, but there’s a very, very, very slippery slope.

            “If it’s about racism and we’re ready to kick people out of the league, OK? Then what about homophobia? What about somebody who doesn’t like a particular religion. What about somebody who’s anti-semitic What about a xenophobe?

            “In this country, people are allowed to be morons.”

            The second point is about privacy. But it’s obvious there is no respect for privacy any more, not even in the White House !! And as a society, we are almost 100% in our contempt for the notion that we are wronged when people trash our privacy, as we have been convinced by our government that really, WE HAVE NO RIGHT OF PRIVACY. So when a guy like Sterling, because he appears to be a real reptile, has his privacy trashed, that’s not even an issue to most of us. Only two I know of: Abdul-Jabbar, and me.

            • Submitted by Jackson Cage on 04/30/2014 - 04:19 pm.

              Steve, two points

              1st, Cuban is proving that people are allowed to be morons by opening his mouth. You have every right to spout filth and hatred as a personal view. But be mindful that that also has business implications. Both Cuban and you seem to forget he’s not damaging just the Clippers, he’s damaging the entire NBA. The other owners don’t have to sit and suffer while Sterling ruins their business and reputation.

              2nd, again…….are you arguing about the message or the messenger? It’s not jusy you and Kareem that are bothered by the privacy issue. The rest of us just think it pales in comparison to the rest of the story.

            • Submitted by Matt Haas on 04/30/2014 - 06:25 pm.

              You are correct

              People ARE allowed to be morons. That, however, does not disqualify them from facing the consequences for behaving as such.

        • Submitted by Jackson Cage on 04/30/2014 - 04:11 pm.

          No need to re-read

          When you go with the “attack the messenger” defense, you’ve already lost the argument.

  4. Submitted by Greg Price on 04/30/2014 - 08:36 am.

    Did he go too far…

    Mr Smith probably did…however the judge & jury did as well.
    Those kids were not there to visit and bring him some cookies…they were criminals in process of a crime.

    A life sentence was not warranted here. You should be able to defend yourself and your home against those who would do you harm.

    My $.02

    Greg Price

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 04/30/2014 - 12:38 pm.

      Byron Smith

      You’re perfectly fine killing a burglar who has entered your house–that part isn’t in question here. Take the shot, kill the girl, and that’s the end of the story.

      The equation changes though if you shoot and simply wound the suspect. If it’s determined that the person is armed and is making an attempt to kill or wound you, then you’re justified in taking another shot, which may kill or wound the suspect.

      Where Mr. Smith deviated from those scenarios is he did not have an armed and active suspect. He had a couple of people who were instead alive and unconscious, still breathing and no longer a threat. That was the time to stop shooting them and instead call 911 to get an ambulance to the house. Instead Mr. Smith choose to continue shooting until the people were dead, even though he had the time and means to evaluate the situation and could have chosen a course of action that would have made him safe in his home as well as the kids alive and in prison.

      • Submitted by jason myron on 04/30/2014 - 01:42 pm.

        Listen to the audio…

        this was premeditated murder. Its no wonder that the jury took only three hours to come to their decision. I’m a gun owner and certainly have no qualms about defending my family, but setting a trap, parking my car to make it look like I wasn’t at home, unscrewing light bulbs, activating a cell phone jammer, having tarp ready to wrap the bodies and after seeing them on surveillance and listening to glass break, sitting in a chair waiting in the dark with a loaded weapon without calling 911, shooting the first kid multiple times, still not calling 911, waiting for the second kid to come down the stairs, shooting her, taunting her, putting the gun under her chin and executing her while she was completely incapacitated and no longer a threat? That’s not home defense. In the tape after the killings, he clearly tries to rationalize his actions to himself. I think the damning part was where he says something to the affect of “maybe the cops would find them, maybe they would be charged, maybe they would be prosecuted, maybe they would be sentenced and maybe they would do six months, then they would be back for revenge.”

    • Submitted by Marc Post on 04/30/2014 - 01:30 pm.

      Defending his home?

      He was done with that when his victims were lying on the floor, helpless, with bullet holes in them. When he chose to execute them while they were helpless, he became a vigilante murderer.

      For burglary, his sentence for them was death. He only got life for executing two young people.

      What about their right to a trial? He got one.

  5. Submitted by Lynnell Mickelsen on 04/30/2014 - 08:53 am.

    The Daily Mail story on Byron Smith is fascinating…

    ….. It gives a far fuller picture of the context than I’ve read anywhere else. I wish someone from the Strib or Pi-Press had done a similar longer piece. The Daily Mail story starts out pretty sensational and “pro-Smith”, but it also emphasizes that the burglars are just kids. By the end, the reader has a deeper sense of the tragedy of the whole thing.

    All that being said, I agree with the jury’s verdict. Byron Smith decided to be judge, jury and executioner for…..two teenage burglars?!?!? He’s guilty.

    • Submitted by James Hamilton on 04/30/2014 - 01:46 pm.

      Why Smith might just have a shot on appeal

      I did not know that Smith had a prior relatiionship with those he killed, one that extended to them working for him and being invited into his home.

      While I don’t think it would have gotten him off, he could have argued that the shock of learning who they were pushed him over the edge and into killing them. The jury could have acquitted on first degree murder, if they’d accepted the argument, convicting him of second degree murder and letting him escape an automatic life sentence for first degree murder.

      Personally, I think it unlikely that he could have avoided conviction on first degree murder, given his own recordings. Time will tell what the appellate courts think.

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