By Terry Lehrke, News Editor
Just 15 potential jurors were interviewed today, April 14, the first day of jury selection in the Byron Smith murder trial. Six were accepted — two men and four women.
Smith is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of teen cousins Haile Kifer, 18, and Nick Brady, 17, when he said they were burglarizing his Little Falls home on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 22, 2012.
Potential jurors were reminded that Smith is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and that it is the burden of the prosecution to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Defense attorney Steve Meshbesher asked most of the questions, including whether potential jurors could wait to listen to all of the evidence in the case and, if the prosecution did not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, if they could vote not guilty. He pointed to his client, Smith, asking whether they could find him not guilty if that’s what they felt the evidence reflected.
Jury selection continues tomorrow at 9 a.m.
Judge Douglas Anderson set aside two weeks for the trial — this week for jury selection and following week for the trial. However, at a pretrial hearing, Washington County Attorney Peter Orput, who is prosecuting the case, estimated the prosecution would need a full week to present its case. Orput is being assisted by attorney Brent Wartner.
Meshbesher estimated the defense team would need three – five days for its case. That would be followed by closing arguments. Meshbesher is being assisted by attorney Adam Johnson
The prosecution will present its case first, starting Monday, April 21, at 9 a.m.
Jurors selected were cautioned by Judge Anderson not to read newspapers, listen to radio news, watch TV news or speak to the press until after the trial had ended.