Byron Smith verdict: Guilty of first-degree murder - New York News

VERDICT: Byron Smith guilty of first-degree murder

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Byron Smith returns to the Morrison County Courthouse for the reading of the verdict. Photo by Bill Keller / Fox 9 News. Byron Smith returns to the Morrison County Courthouse for the reading of the verdict. Photo by Bill Keller / Fox 9 News.
LITTLE FALLS, Minn. (KMSP) -

Byron Smith has been found guilty of first-degree murder in the Thanksgiving 2012 shooting deaths of Nick Brady and Haile Kifer in Little Falls, Minn. The jury returned a unanimous verdict on all 4 counts after just 3 hours of deliberations.

The 4 counts included two charges of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder for the shootings of Brady and Kifer in Smith's basement.

THE REACTION

Family and friends of Haile Kifer and Nick Brady could be seen crying in courtroom as the verdict was read.

Kifer's aunt, Laurie Skipper, said the audio recordings of the shootings, played multiple times during the trial, will “forever haunt us.”

"We will never see Haile again this side of heaven,” she said.

"It’s really hard to put into words,” said Kimberly Brady, Nick's mom. “Nick had a magnetic personality. He found happiness in all he did."

Nick Brady's grandmother called Byron Smith a "sour, old recluse who thought he was above the law,” adding that he executed two kids for a "foolish mistake."

BYRON SMITH: NO COMMENT

Given the chance to speak in court, Byron Smith had very few words: "Thank you for offer. I decline."

SENTENCING

Prosecutor Pete Orput wants consecutive life sentences for Smith.

The judge has no discretion with sentencing on the first-degree murder charges, which carry an automatic life sentence. The court declined a second life sentence.

Smith was remanded into custody after the case was closed in court. Morrison County authorities released his booking photo by Tuesday afternoon.

THE TRIAL: TERRIFIED HOMEOWNER VS BURGLAR HUNTER

Defense attorney Steve Meshbesher used his closing arguments to paint Smith as a terrified homeowner who acted with courage in the face of another break-in. He argued that, in Minnesota, homeowners have the right to kill in their own home if they fear for their life and safety.

RECAP: Closing arguments in Byron Smith trial

“Nick Brady and Haile Kifer didn’t care,” Meshbesher said. “They simply don’t care.”

Brady and Kifer were shot and killed by Smith in the basement of his Little Falls home on Thanksgiving Day 2012. In his closing arguments, Meshbesher blamed the pair of unarmed teens for the choices they made.

“I’m not here to convince you what he did was right,” he told the jury. “It wasn’t nice. But it is legal. It’s not murder.”

“Had they not come in that car, on that day, to do what they were doing on private property, smash a window, crawl inside, we wouldn’t be here today,” Meshbesher said. “It was their actions that caused this whole thing.”

Prosecutor Pete Orput had a much different version of the shootings.

VIDEO: Byron Smith lured teens by hiding car

“I hope they feel for these victims,” Orput said. “I hope they do, despite the fact they were about to commit a burglary.”

Orput used audio recordings of the killings and Smith’s police interrogations to drive home the point that this was a premeditated, cold-blooded ambush.

“Most of us understand teenage kids do stupid things,” Orput said. “This was stupid. It cost them their lives. You believe it’s murder? It was in my view. I hope it is in the jury’s view.”

Orput likened Smith’s actions that day to deer hunting. He baited Brady and Kifer by moving his truck off his property, and then lying-in-wait in the basement with water, snack bars and a couple of guns while sitting in his favorite reading chair.

VIDEO: Byron Smith 'waited like deer hunter'

Orput called it his deer stand.

QUESTION FROM THE JURY

The jury wanted to know: If they find Byron Smith guilty of first-degree murder, do they also have to decide on second-degree murder? Read the jury instructions at http://bit.ly/1mVnWBY

AUDIO RECORDINGS RELEASED

Byron Smith did not take the stand in his own defense during the trial. Instead, he decided to let the recordings he made from that night speak for him -- but they appear to have only damned him instead.

VIDEO: Inside the basement of Byron Smith
Disclaimer: Although edited, this content may be too graphic for some. Viewer discretion is advised.

Shortly after the verdict was delivered, all of the recordings jurors heard -- including the one Smith made the night he shot and killed Brady and Kifer in his home -- were released to the public online.

THE AUDIO: Recorded evidence from the Byron Smith trial
Disclaimer: These files contain disturbing content. Viewer discretion is advised.

It is still unknown why Smith chose to used a digital recorder in addition to the sophisticated home security system that captured more than 6 hours of sounds before, during and after the shooting. The recordings that captured the 9 gunshots he fired on Thanksgiving Day and other monologues on the killings gave jurors a lot of insight into how he viewed the teenaged intruders.

"They weren't human. I don't see them as human," Smith said in his home recording. "I see them as vermin. Social mistakes; social problems."

The recording inside Smith's home began with the sounds of shattering glass as Brady broke in. As he walked into the basement, he was shot three times by Smith, who immediately said, "You're dead."

About 10 minutes later, Smith shot Kifer 6 as she came down the stairs. His rifle jammed after the first, and Smith can be heard saying, "Sorry about that" before he shot her several more times with a handgun and muttered the word "b----."

In other recordings, Smith's equipment captured other thoughts he had about the incident -- including some where he attempts to justify the killing.

"It's all fun and cool and exciting and highly profitable until somebody kills you," he said.

At one point in the home audio recording, Smith even says he was doing his "civic duty," and compares the shooting to cleaning up a mess worse than vomit and "s----."

"Because the law enforcement system wouldn't tackle it, I had to do it -- I had to do it," Smith said.

Smith also described the stairwell where he shot the teens as a "sucker shot."

"People going down strange stairs naturally watch the steps," Smith said.

Toward the end of the home recording, Smith briefly apologized to himself and said, "So much regret."

"I try to be a good person. I try to do what I should, be friendly to other people, help them when I can," Smith said through deep sighs. "I try to be a good citizen, not cheat people, be fair."

Yet, almost as quick as expression of remorse came, it replaced by apparent anger.

"That family raises a bad person like this -- and because I try to be a decent person, they think I'm a patsy, I'm a sucker. They think I'm there for them to take advantage of. Is that the reward for being a good person?" Smith asked. "And then they dump this mess on me? It's not a mess like spilled food, it's not a mess like vomit, it's not even a mess like diarrhea. It's far worse."

THE BYRON SMITH TRIAL

April 28: Defense rests, Byron Smith doesn't testify

April 25: Deputy told Byron Smith to call police 'right away'

April 24: Prosecution rests following autopsy details

April 24: Neighbor says 'I stand by Byron'

April 22: Chilling audio of Little Falls shootings played in court

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