Thief River Falls, MN (WDAZ-TV) - Not guilty. It took a Pennington County jury about an hour to clear an accused murderer, determining he was acting in self-defense.
"Intense, yeah, scary, I mean my life was on the line, you know," said Shaun Brandt, Found not guilty of murder.
Shaun Brandt expressed relief outside the Pennington County Courthouse minutes after he was cleared of murder charges that could have put him away for nearly the rest of his life.
"I was excited, I mean you know...yeah I was excited," said Brandt.
A jury agreed he was acting in self-defense when he pushed Bradley Friesen, 44, to the ground in the parking lot of the Thief River Falls VFW just a few days before Christmas. Friesen fell, hit his head on the pavement, and died five days later. During the week-long trial witnesses described Friesen as drunk and out of control and pointed out Brandt was one of three men asked to escort Friesen out of the bar at the request of employees.
"It's very tragic, you know, I think Mr. Friesen was probably a very nice guy, but when some people drink, they get a little crazy and that's what happened here. So we feel very sorry that the family has lost someone," said Bruce Rivers, Defense Attorney.
Emotions were high in the courtroom, as friends and family from both parties waited in anticipation. Jurors were given the option of considering lesser charges, including manslaughter and assault. Once the verdict was read people were crying, shaking and hugging one another, but for different reasons.
Family and friends of Friesen did not want to comment on camera, but said quote "words cannot express how we feel.
Pennington County Attorney Alan Rogalla argued it was murder because Brandt had no reason to get involved with Friesen that night.
He declined our request for an interview offering only a written statement. It read, "The Pennington County attorney's office respects any verdict a jury renders."
Shaun Brandt, a father of two, is glad he can now move on with life.
"I'm sorry, you know, I didn't mean for any of this to happen," said Brandt.
An apology from a man who says he was only acting in self-defense that December night.