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Smith won’t testify in murder trial; closing arguments coming today

LITTLE FALLS — As the defense rested Monday, defense attorney Steven Meshbesher told reporters it was his decision to not have Byron Smith testify.

Smith is on trial in Morrison County for two first-degree murder indictments in the Thanksgiving Day 2012 shooting deaths of Nick Brady and Haile Kifer after the teenagers entered Smith’s rural Little Falls home without permission.

Meshbesher said Smith was willing to take the stand. “He was wanting to do anything,” Meshbesher said. “He was taking my advice.”

Meshbesher wouldn’t comment on whether he was happy with where the case stood as the defense rested.

“There’s two dead people in this case and I don’t like that — that’s sad,” Meshbesher said. “Byron Smith has pled not guilty because he is not guilty.”

Meshbesher said he would not comment on whether he would seek a lesser charge, but did indicate he may address that with Judge Douglas Anderson in an “appropriate context.”

Closing arguments are expected to begin this morning.

Meshbesher said he felt, after reviewing the case over the weekend, that there was just no need for Smith the take the stand. “All he would do is repeat.”

In the first week of the trial, jurors heard audio of the shooting itself recorded on a digital device retrieved from Smith’s basement. They also heard the recording of a statement given by Smith to law enforcement about the shooting after his arrest in November 2012.

Meshbesher didn’t answer questions regarding whether Smith has ever addressed the recordings or why they were made.

“He doesn’t have to,” Meshbesher said. “I’m going to address it for him. I’m his attorney.”

Monday’s proceedings included the defense’s fourth request for a mistrial. The motion was again denied.

Meshbesher asked Anderson to allow a mistrial after the prosecution’s questioning of Little Falls resident John Dillion Lange.

Lange, 16, is Smith’s neighbor, and told the court he and his band were allowed to practice music in Smith’s detached garage.

Meshbesher asked Lange about what his opinion of Smith’s reputation in the community — if he has a reputation for being honest. After several objections from the prosecution, Lange answered that he thought Smith was an honest person.

State prosecutor Pete Orput asked Lange, “It’s real known around here that you don’t mess with that guy — isn’t that true?”

Objections from the defense prevented Lange from answering and led to Meshbesher stating the questioning was “absolutely improper.”