Tioga murder case goes to jury; prosecution, defense rely on recordings
GRAND FORKS - The jury in the murder trial of Ryan Neil Anderson went into deliberation Tuesday morning in Grand Forks after attorneys gave their closing statements.
The Iron River, Mich., man stabbed his lifelong friend Christopher King, also of Iron River, twice in the chest and twice in the abdomen at a man camp near Tioga, N.D., northeast of Williston, last year.
The defense argues that he was defending himself from attacks from King, who choked Anderson that night.
Jurors stopped deliberating about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday without reaching a verdict. They will reconvene this morning.
If jurors find Anderson not guilty of murder, they must also consider whether he is guilty of manslaughter. If they find him not guilty of manslaughter, then they must determine whether he committed negligent homicide.
The maximum prison sentence for murder is life.
The trial was moved from Williston to Grand Forks after the defense raised concerns that media coverage would result in an unfair trial.
A recorded call
In his closing remarks, Assistant Attorney General Paul Emerson called into question the credibility of the defense witnesses, drawing the jury’s attention to the gaps in some witnesses’ memories.
Anderson testified Monday that he remembered “bits and pieces” of the night of the stabbing. Emerson argued that Anderson was leaving out memories on the stand that would implicate him in murder.
The prosecution also argued in closing statements that Anderson did not react like someone driven to use self-defense. Emerson reminded the jury of the phone call that occurred two days after the stabbing between Anderson and a witness to the stabbing. The recording was played in court, and Anderson is heard saying, “I wish someone would’ve stopped me.”
Emerson also pointed to witness testimony that indicated Anderson had wanted to leave King’s body in the Tioga Medical Center parking lot after driving him there.
The prosecution also reminded the jury that Anderson had been advised to go to bed multiple times the night of the stabbing.
“Clearly it could’ve been avoided,” Emerson said.
He argued that Anderson could have gone to sleep, stayed in his bedroom and locked the door, gone to his aunt or uncle’s room, left through one of the two exits, called 911, or summoned the man camp security.
“The defendant was clearly the aggressor,” he argued, pointing to video footage showing the knife was unfolded and hidden in the defendant’s pocket.
“When you return a verdict of guilty for murder,” he told the jury in closing, “you’re giving Christopher King that opportunity to speak.”
Video of attack
Defense attorney Nicole Foster began her closing arguments by replaying the video footage that shows the moments before the stabbing. The video depicts King “lunging” at the defendant, she said.
“He was absolutely, 100 percent entitled to defend himself based on what you see in that video,” she said.
She argued that Anderson was “a man scared for his life,” who had the “life choked out of him.”
Foster also pointed to testimony from the officer who arrested Anderson at the hospital. Officer Kyle Martin confirmed that Anderson had told him, “I didn’t want to hurt him. I just didn’t want to hurt anymore.”
She argued that the defendant was indicating he acted in self-defense.