State Response Issued in Markus Kaarma Request For New Trial
The State of Montana issued its response late Tuesday afternoon to arguments put forth by attorneys for convicted murderer Markus Kaarma in asking for a new trial.
Nate Holloway with Paul Ryan and Associates, who represented Kaarma during his trial for deliberate homicide in the death of German exchange student Diren Dede, said on Tuesday, this is the next step in attempting to convince the state's highest court that Kaarma deserves a new trial.
Holloway said the defense has appealed on five main issues; Jury instructions relating to Kaarma's affirmative defense of his justifiable use of force, pretrial publicity and a change of venue, challenge for cause in the case of one if the jurors selected to hear the case, rebuttal character evidence and Detective Baker's opinion and interpretation of blood evidence.
Regarding jury instructions, Holloway said the jury was not properly instructed before beginning its deliberations.
"In short, the jury should not have been instructed on general self defense instructions, but under the Castle Doctrine that's a totally different standard in that essentially you can respond with deadly force to a threat of any bodily harm in the State of Montana, that's what protects the homeowner," Holloway said.
The State's response was that the District Court properly instructed the jury on both defense of person and defense of occupied structure.
On the issue of pretrial publicity and the request for a change of venue, Holloway said there were literally hundreds of media reports in print, radio and television that, in the defense's view, prejudiced the jury pool.
The state responded that Kaarma was tried by a fair and impartial jury unaffected by presumed or inherent prejudice from pretrial publicity.
In the matter of the questionable juror, Holloway said this individual was related to members of local law enforcement and was very close to one of the lead investigators in the case.
The state responded that during questioning the juror did not demonstrate actual bias, and her statements did not raise serious questions about her ability to be fair and impartial.
Holloway said Detective Guy Baker was not officially identified as an 'expert witness' for blood evidence.
The State responded by stating that Baker was qualified through his extensive law enforcement training and experience to render opinions on blood evidence.
Holloway said the next step will be for the Kaarma defense team to offer arguments to the state's latest brief.
"We have two weeks from today to submit our response, and we'll obviously ask for an extension of up to 30 to 60 more days," he said. "That's the last briefing that's done for the court. Then, if we have oral arguments, we'll prepare for that, but then it goes to decision from the Montana Supreme Court."
Kaarma was sentenced to 70 years in the Montana State Prison on February 12, 2015. He will be eligible for parole after serving a minimum of 20 years.