Easter denied new murder trial

Published 5:55 pm Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Sentencing slated for Sept. 15

The man found guilty in April of shooting another man last summer at Myre-Big Island State Park was denied a motion for a new trial last week in Freeborn County District Court.

David Michael Easter, 27, requested a new trial in July, saying there was an error in jury instruction during the trial.

David Easter

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In the decision filed Aug. 30, District Court Judge Steven Schwab cited a Minnesota law that requires a motion for a new trial be filed within 15 days of a jury’s verdict, unless the limit is extended by the court for “good cause” within a 30-day period.

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.

In requesting the new trial, Adrianne McMahon and fellow public attorney Michael Ryan 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.

Freeborn County Attorney David Walker said Schwab issued the proper instruction, regardless of numbers or commentary.

In a motion requesting Schwab reconsider his decision, Easter’s lawyers cited a separate Minnesota Court of Appeals ruling regarding a man who was convicted of first-degree burglary, kidnapping, false imprisonment and numerous felonies in Waseca County District Court. The Appeals Court ruled the 15-day limit did not eliminate the court’s ability to hear a motion for a new trial due to errors made by the district court in the case.

They said the rule does not divest the court of the ability to hear the motion for a new trial.

The possible error in jury instruction was noticed only after the time limit expired, said the lawyers, who noted though a pro se motion for a new trial was filed within the 15-day period in the Court of Appeals case, the untimely motion filed after the 15-day period addressed issues that were not known to the defense within the time frame.

McMahon said the Court of Appeals noted “that if a district court has discretion, but fails to use it, then that failure constitutes an abuse of discretion.”

Walker said in the Court of Appeals case, the court committed errors that resulted in the defense filing a late motion. The Easter case did not contain errors that required a motion outside the time limit, he said.

Sentencing for Easter is scheduled for Sept. 15.

About Sam Wilmes

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

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