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Byron Smith Trial: Defense rests its case

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LITTLE FALLS — The defense rested its case Monday in the murder trial of Byron Smith of rural Little Falls. Byron Smith waived his right to testify in court Monday following two days of defense testimony.

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Jurors left the room while Smith spoke before the judge, officially exercising his right to remain silent.

Smith is on trial for first-degree murder in the Thanksgiving Day 2012 shooting deaths of Nick Brady and Haile Kifer.

A fourth motion for a mistrial since Byron Smith’s murder trial began, Apr. 21, was denied.

Defense attorney Steven Meshbesher asked Judge Douglas Anderson to allow a mistrial following the prosecution’s questioning of Little Falls resident John Dillion Lange.

The trial was recessed until Monday afternoon.

Lange, a witness for the defense, was asked about his relationship to Mr. Smith.

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

Lange also testified that Smith has lived at his parents’ rural Little Falls home since the shootings occurred.

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.”

“I’m asking for a mistrial,” he told Judge Anderson.

Orput questioned Lange about practicing with his band in Smith’s garage and asked if the band was kicked out.

Lange maintained that the band left on its own accord to practice at another location.

Lange’s mother, Kathleen Lange, also testified , acknowledging that Smith has lived in her home for the 16 months since the shooting.

“I believe him to be very honest,” Kathleen Lange said.

Kathleen Lange gave the final defense testimony before Smith's attorneys rested their case Monday.

Closing arguments are expected to begin 9 a.m. Tuesday.

SARAH NELSON KATZENBERGER may be reached at sarah.nelsonkatzenberger@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5879.

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