A jury needed only three hours to find Byron David Smith guilty on two counts of premeditated murder in the first and second degree in connection with the killing of two teens who broke into his Little Falls home on Thanksgiving Day in 2012.
The jury rejected Smith’s defense that he was acting in self-defense when he killed the intruders. The case spurred debate about how far a homeowner can go to protect his dwelling. Under Minnesota law a person may use deadly force to prevent a felony from taking place in his or her home, but the homeowner’s actions must be considered reasonable under the circumstances. Based on the evidence, the jury felt that Smith’s action went beyond reasonable in protecting his home.
The issue with this case is that there’s no definitive line to which we can say Smith was justified or unjust in the killing. Unlike a DUI or a speeding ticket – unless there is malfunctioning equipment – there’s pretty clear evidence that a person was over the legal driving/speed limit. In this case, the defense painted a picture of a man who took matters into his own hands after suffering through numerous break-ins on his property. The prosecution likened Smith to a hunter in a deer stand, lying in wait for the unsuspecting teens.
Ultimately the jury sided with the prosecution, believing that Smith went far and beyond “reasonable circumstances” when it comes to defending one’s property. Smith was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Sympathy All Around
Sometimes it’s difficult to take a step back and look at the big picture. As a defense firm, people often automatically believe we think everyone is innocent, and while it is our job to get the best possible arrangement for our clients, we certainly have the capability of deciphering right from wrong. No parties are completely in the clear, and when you try to see things from a neutral perspective, you come to the conclusion that the Little Falls case is a tragedy all around.
It’s a tragedy that a man was so fearful in his own home that he was driven to protect it by all means necessary. It’s tragic that two teens paid the ultimate price for a foolish mistake. Show me one person who claims to never have gotten into trouble as a teen and I’ll show you a liar. It’s sad that these teens had nowhere else they’d rather be on Thanksgiving Day. It’s sad that Smith couldn’t humanize with the wounded teens as they lay in the basement.
All in all, two lives were lost and another will end in a jail cell. It’s easy to be angry or upset in the wake of a highly emotional trial, but don’t dwell on those emotions. Focus on all the good there is in the world, and do your part to make it a better place. Play catch with your kids, tell your spouse you love them. Life is fleeting. Cherish it.
Related source: Pioneer Press
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