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Byron Smith appears in court for first time since first-degree murder indictment

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LITTLE FALLS — Byron Smith appeared in court Monday in Morrison County for his second appearance on criminal charges that he murdered two teens last Thanksgiving at his rural Little Falls home.

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Smith was charged in November of 2012 with two counts of second-degree murder for the deaths of Little Falls teens Nicholas Brady and Haile Kifer.

Smith admitted to shooting the teens after the pair allegedly broke into his rural Little Falls home Thanksgiving Day.

Smith appeared with lawyers Steven Meshbesher and Adam Johnson before Morrison County District Judge Douglas Anderson. Family members of the victims and supporters of the defendant filled the courtroom’s gallery seats.

Anderson began the hearing by asking Meshbesher if his client needed the complaint read or his rights explained. Meshbesher declined, saying, “No, and I should note, it’s actually an indictment at this point.”

Smith was indicted in April by a Morrison County grand jury with two counts of first-degree murder.

Meshbesher said the defense had received all of the discovery from the State of Minnesota. Meshbesher requested a contested omnibus hearing regarding issues of statements and physical evidence.

“We will review the indictment itself for its adequacy,” Meshbesher said.

Meshbesher stated there was no need to read the indictment or the prior complaint. “It is now a first-degree indictment,” he said. Meshbesher told Anderson his client wished to delay entering a plea until after his Aug. 30 contested omnibus hearing.

Anderson asked Washington County District Attorney Pete Orput if the state anticipated any additional discovery disclosure. In April, Orput and Washington County First Assistant Brent Wartner took over the states case against Smith.

Orput said the state did not anticipate additional discovery but said Wartner had issues with the discovery to be addressed.

Wartner told Anderson the court requested juvenile files for both Brady and Kifer. “We have disclosed those,” Wartner said. “However, what the court means by juvenile records wasn’t entire clear to us.”

Wartner said what was disclosed was citations and police reports that might be related to the victims. “However, there may be other juvenile records depending on how you weight that,” Wartner said. “We don’t have access to those ... And we don’t believe they are relevant in any way to this case.”

Wartner said if there is something further that Smith’s defense attorneys want in regard to Brady’s and Kifer’s juvenile records they should bring a motion before the court and give the county attorney an opportunity to respond.

“Since this is not something we hold or maintain,” Wartner said.

Anderson clarified that the court’s request included charges — a juvenile record with court proceedings in which either of the victims were named.

Defense attorney Johnson said it was his understanding that the juvenile records would include anything in which either victim were named as juvenile defendants or delinquents.

Wartner asked that the court grant a motion to request further juvenile information by Aug. 7, then allow the Washington County Attorney’s office a week to respond to the motion and the court two weeks to consider them.

Meshbesher agreed to the request.

“I think those dates are reasonable and we have no opposition to them,” Meshbesher said.

As court adjourned, family members of the victims filed out of the courtroom passing within feet of the defendant who had his back to them and was separated from them by a Morrison County Sheriff’s Deputy.

Smith, who was released on bail in Dec. 2012, is due to appear in court Aug. 30 for an omnibus hearing.

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

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