Closing arguments are set for Tuesday morning in the trial of Byron Smith. The 65-year-old Little Falls man is facing two counts of first degree murder in the deaths of two teenage cousins who broke into his home in 2012.
Smith has admitted shooting and wounding, then killing the intruders.
In the final hour of testimony on Monday, jurors heard three defense witnesses testify about Smith's character. Bruce Smith mentioned his younger brother's work with the Eagle Scouts and said Byron is, "highly regarded by everyone that has known our family."
Neighbor Kathleen Lange and her 16-year-old son John Lange each told the court that Smith has a reputation for honesty in the Little Falls community.
Jurors will have to balance that testimony with all that they saw and heard last week: autopsy photos of 17-year-old Nicholas Brady and 18-year-old Haile Kifer after they'd been shot at close range; audio Smith recorded himself of the break in and shootings in which he was heard saying the teens were vermin; and Smith's interview with investigators in which he said he killed Kifer with a quote "finishing shot".
Smith made it clear to the judge and jury that he will not testify in his own defense. Outside the courtroom, Smith's attorney Steven Meshbesher said his client, in effect, already testified when he spoke to police.
"He was willing, he was wanting to do anything...he was taking my advice. When I reviewed this over the weekend...all he'd do is repeat what he already said," Meshbesher said.
Meshbesher would not say if he'll ask the judge if the jury could consider lesser charges -- such as manslaughter.
With the facts of the case made clear in both witness testimony and the audio recordings, Meshbesher hopes to convince the jury that Smith acted in self defense and out of fear for his life when he killed Brady and Kifer.
It's legal in Minnesota to shoot and kill someone in your home if you feel you're in danger, or to stop a felony in progress. The law says there's no duty to retreat. While the two dead teens were not armed, Smith has said he was afraid he'd be killed with a shotgun that was stolen in one of several previous burglaries.
Prosecutors say Smith crossed the line between self defense and murder. They say once Smith shot and wounded the teens, the threat was over and he should have called police. Instead, he kept the bodies in his basement before calling a neighbor the next day.
Nicholas Brady's grandfather Steve Shaeffel said it's been a brutal six days for the teens' families. Family members have said little publicly before and during the trial. However after final testimony yesterday, Schaeffel said he has faith in America's justice system and the case prosecutors put together.
"The defense attorney has been out every day talking and talking and talking. We chose not to. We think the case was presented fairly," Schaeffel said.
The prosecution and defense will each make a final pitch to jurors this morning. After giving instructions to the jury, Judge Douglas Anderson told them to pack overnight bags because they'll be sequestered until they reach a verdict.