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SD Supreme Court: One Issue In Manslaughter Verdict Goes Back To Circuit Court


A man convicted of manslaughter in Rapid City, after shooting and killing one of his assailants, argued self defense before the South Dakota Supreme Court earlier this year. On Thursday justices affirmed the trial court on all issues but one. That concern goes back to the judge for more action.

The state argued at trial that Charles Birdshead went to the Rose Inn to sell meth to a 15-year-old girl. There he was attacked in his car by two men who repeatedly hit him in the head. Birdshead pulled a sawed-off shotgun and killed one of them.

Birdshead’s lawyer argued that her client was defending himself, but the state cited several factors that didn’t add up to a legal self-defense situation.

Supreme Court justices held that the defendant received a fair trial, in spite of shortcomings in the trial judge’s creation of a record on certain issues.
But justices found that one issue still needs to be resolved at the circuit court level.

Before the trial, Birdshead asked to see certain documents, including witness files held by the Unified Narcotics Enforcement Team, or UNET.

Judge Wally Eklund read those documents in camera and afterward ruled that the defense could not see them.

Supreme Court justices also reviewed those documents, and they were unable to make a determination about the UNET files because they’re not part of the settled record.

Justices sent the case back to Eklund to make a written justification for denying the files to the defense. Eklund is also asked to make a ruling whether the files contain evidence that the state withheld information from the defense that would have helped its case. And if yes, he is to determine whether a new trial is required.

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