Appeal denied in murder case
Published 9:01 pm Monday, November 19, 2018
Ruling: Court’s instruction error was ‘harmless’
The Minnesota Court of Appeals on Monday rejected an appeal by the man convicted of second-degree murder in fall 2017 in Freeborn County.
David Michael Easter, who filed the appeal in December, challenged his second-degree murder conviction, saying Freeborn County District Court erred when it used the self-defense justifiable taking of life jury instruction — recommended by Easter’s lawyers — instead of a general self-defense instruction. He argued the court “abused its discretion” by sentencing him separately for second-degree murder and carrying a pistol or a firearm without a permit because they stemmed from a single incident.
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Easter said the court exceeded its authority by amending the restitution amount to include $8,597 to the Crime Victims Reparations Board.
In a ruling rejecting Easter’s challenges, Minnesota Court of Appeals Judge John Rodenberg said the court did not abuse its discretion by its sentence.
“The district court’s error in not instructing the jury with the general self-defense instruction was harmless because the justifiable-taking-of-life jury instruction was applicable to the facts as found by the jury,” he wrote. “The district court acted within its discretion by sentencing (Easter) to a presumptive sentence under the sentencing guidelines.
“The district court did not err when it determined that (Easter’s) offenses were two separate incidents, because the unlawful-carrying-of-a-pistol-without-a-permit offense was complete before the second-degree murder offense. Finally, the district did not err when it corrected its clerical error by amending the restitution order.”
Following the ruling, Freeborn County Attorney David Walker spoke highly of the Court of Appeals decision.
“The Court of Appeals decision is the right decision in affirming the district’s decision, so it’s a proper decision,” he said.
Easter was sentenced in connection with the shooting death of Spencer Daniel Brown, 23, on Aug. 23, 2016, at Myre-Big Island State Park.
Brown’s mother, Denise Brown, called the decision “wonderful news,” adding she believes Easter deserves the court’s sentence.
“He deserves the conviction and the sentence and the restitution,” she said.
“It’s like a weight lifted off my shoulders, so that’s a good thing.”
A call placed to Chief Appellate Public Defender Cathryn Middlebrook Monday afternoon was not returned.
See what happened over the weekend in the PM report here.