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SD Supreme Court: Braiden McCahren Appeals Second-Degree Murder Conviction

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On December 18, 2012, 16-year-old Braiden McCahren of Pierre was arrested for shooting and killing a friend and threatening another friend with a shotgun. He was charged with first-degree murder, but at trial was convicted of second-degree murder. His attorney argued before the South Dakota Supreme Court that McCahren didn't have the chance to defend against the charge of which he was convicted.

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The decision to allow the jury to consider second-degree murder came after both parties had rested their cases and just before parties made closing arguments.

Defense attorney Mike Butler argued that second-degree murder involves a depraved mind, an element not included in first-degree murder. He told justices if he had known he was defending against that charge, McCahren might have taken the stand or called expert witnesses.

"The overarching principle behind our argument is the right to defend. Truly. I mean, that is the overarching argument here, the principle behind our argument," Butler said. "He had a right to put on his defense. We successfully defended against the charge brought. We didn't get the chance to defend against the one they asked the jury to be told about after we rested our case."

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Defense attorney Mike Butler

Butler asked justices to overturn the conviction and said if they remand for a new trial, he'll address that decision at the lower court.

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