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08-21-07, 12:00 PM #1
'Self-defense' found to be 2nd-degree murder
A jury convicted John C. Smith of unintentional murder in a stabbing at a Selby Avenue apartment.
The defense said John C. Smith was defending himself and his dwelling when he killed Ramero R. Toney early last Thanksgiving morning. Prosecutors said it was unintentional murder, but murder nonetheless.
A Ramsey County jury agreed with prosecutor Larry Schultz and convicted Smith, 32, on Friday of unintentional second-degree murder.
Toney, 37, was stabbed in the neck Nov. 23, 2006, after scuffling with Smith in a third-floor hallway of an apartment building in the 700 block of Selby Avenue in St. Paul.
According to the criminal complaint, Smith first told police that he and his girlfriend had been asleep in her apartment when Toney kicked in the door, and that he had stabbed Toney as the two men fought.
Later, Smith said all three of them had been drinking at a bar earlier in the day. When they returned to his girlfriend's apartment, the men began arguing about "nothing" and later fought, Smith told police. The complaint said Smith and his girlfriend got Toney out of the apartment but he returned and Smith stabbed him as they fought again.
Schultz told the jury in his closing argument Thursday that, "The stabbing was a fit of rage, a product of anger."
Toney "was unarmed," Schultz said. "How was that an act of self-defense?"
But defense attorney David Gill said Smith was acting both in self-defense and in defense of his dwelling, and he committed no crime. Gill said Toney may have had attention-deficit disorder and, despite being told numerous times to go away, he wouldn't listen.
Gill held up pieces of the apartment's splintered door frame to make his point.
"You stand between the state and a defendant wrongfully accused," Gill told the jury of four men and eight women. "You're his only salvation."
The jury deliberated about 12 hours over two days before returning its verdict. Ramsey County District Judge Michael Fetsch set sentencing for Sept. 28.
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I slow down, and then it occurs to me, I'm not afraid of small children"!
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