Easter requests new jury trial

Published 7:06 pm Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Lawyers: Issue with jury instruction is reason why

The man found guilty in the shooting death of another man last summer at Myre-Big Island State Park is requesting a new trial.

In a motion filed Monday in Freeborn County District Court, lawyers for David Michael Easter, 27, said there was an error in jury instruction during his trial.

David Easter

Easter was found guilty in April of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Spencer Daniel Brown, 23, last summer. He claimed self-defense in the man’s death. He was convicted after a jury trial.

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In the motion, public defenders Michael Ryan and Adrianne McMahon said though they wanted to use a general self-defense jury instruction during Easter’s trial, Judge Steven Schwab allowed a justifiable taking-of-a-life jury instruction. They said they did not believe they had a valid legal basis to object to the jury instruction at the time, given legal commentary and footnotes.

They cited a Minnesota Court of Appeals ruling issued July 10 involving the murder conviction of a St. Paul woman that states it is an error for a district court to use an unmodified justifiable taking-of-a-life jury instruction when a defendant asserts self-defense and claims the death was accidental.

They said discrepancies exist between jury instructions, the jury instructions number and footnotes accompanying the instructions.

Freeborn County David Walker said the defense’s assertions over conflicts is “lame,” because the judge has the duty to issue the proper instruction, regardless of numbers or commentary.

Easter’s lawyers said they became aware of the conflict with jury instructions while reviewing the Court of Appeals case.

“Had I known at trial that the court was not required to use the (justifiable taking-of-a-life jury instruction) when the defense claims the death was unintended, I would have objected to the jury instructions using (justifiable taking-of-a-life jury instruction) at the time of the trial,” they said. “I would have moved the court to use (a general self-defense jury instruction) instead.”

Walker said he disagreed with the request for a new trial and does not believe Schwab made an error regarding jury instruction.

“It appears that the ground is based upon a jury instruction, and they are essentially claiming that the defense should have requested an instruction that tells the jury that if this is an accidental killing or if the killing was not intended, that the jury instruction should be different than it was,” he said.

A hearing date has not been scheduled.

Sentencing for Easter is scheduled for Sept. 15. He faces a presumptive sentence of more than 25 years in prison.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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