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Minnesota man facing homicide charge opts for bench trial

A 20-year-old Minnesota man who is facing first-degree murder charges has decided to waive his right to a jury trial. The man made his decision during an Oct. 29 hearing according to media accounts. His trial is scheduled to begin on Nov. 6. The man faces the prospect of life in prison for his alleged role in the death of a University of Minnesota student who was shot to death in February 2017.

Police say that the man went to the 22-year-old student's Duluth home with two associates to demand drugs and money. Officers are said to have discovered narcotics and cash inside a safe in the home. When the student refused to comply, one of the man's associates is alleged to have shot him twice. Five people have been charged in connection with the homicide.

Media reports indicate that one of the man's alleged associates entered into a plea agreement that resulted in a custodial sentence of 30 years. The man thought to have fired the fatal shots will be tried in Brainerd. A judge ordered the trial moved to improve the chances of finding an impartial jury because of the media furor surrounding the case. Legal experts say that the man's decision not to face a jury means that his trial will be concluded in about two weeks rather than three.

Experienced criminal defense attorneys may likely advise against waiving the right to a jury trial unless the legal issues involved are especially complex or the crime involved is particularly heinous. However, attorneys might advise their clients to pursue a plea agreement in such situations as prosecutors may be more willing to show leniency than a judge.

Source: WDIO, Murder Trial Begins in UMD Student's Death, Defendant Waives Jury, Baihly Warfield, Oct. 30, 2018

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