Trial to start Tuesday for Fargo man accused of deadly shooting near NDSU
The defense has said Raymond Gunn acted in self-defense, but prosecutors claim he could have backed away from the confrontation with Eric Hayes.
FARGO — A Cass County judge said the trial of a Fargo man accused of fatally shooting another man near North Dakota State University will begin Tuesday, March 22, despite pleas from prosecutors to delay it as they prepare for a second murder trial set to start the following week.
Raymond Christopher Gunn, 40, will go before a jury as prosecutors try to argue he intended to kill 41-year-old Eric Woodrow Hayes, of Fargo, on July 24 in the parking lot of a Loaf 'N Jug convenience store at 1201 N. University Drive. Gunn's attorneys, Tracy Hines and Nicole Bredahl, have said Gunn acted in self-defense.
If convicted of murder, Gunn could face a maximum penalty of life in prison without parole.
It's unknown why Gunn shot Hayes. The two didn't know each other, prosecutors said.
Hayes, Gunn and Jerod Robinson, who's expected to testify during the trial, were talking outside the gas station when Gunn pulled out a firearm, court documents said. Hayes and Robinson tried to distance themselves from Gunn, but Gunn approached Hayes again with his gun, court documents said.
Hayes retreated backward but "changed positions with Gunn, prompting Gunn to retreat halfway around the car,” a criminal complaint said. Gunn fell backward and shot Hayes in the stomach, the complaint said.
Robinson told police that Hayes tried to take Gunn's firearm, according to court documents.
Hayes died at Sanford Medical Center. Gunn stayed at the scene and was arrested.
Gunn has been held in the Cass County Jail since the shooting.
Cass County prosecutor Renata Olafson Selzer is expected to lead the prosecution's case. This month, Cass County Judge Tristan Van de Streek denied her motion to postpone the trial, which is scheduled for four days.
The murder trial of Cody Plumlee, who's accused of killing his girlfriend in December 2020, is slated to begin Tuesday, March 29. Selzer is also the prosecutor for that case. She will argue Plumlee pushed Kirsten Knaus down a set of stairs at a Fargo apartment, causing her to be knocked unconscious.
She died several days later after being put on life-support.
Plumlee faces a list of other charges, including burglary and reckless endangerment. He also remains in custody at the Cass County Jail.
Both cases are complex, Selzer said in a court filing. She expects she will call more than a dozen witnesses in the Gunn case and 24 for Plumlee’s trial.
She said she had concerns about Gunn's trial lasting more than four days. The case is too complex to reassign to another prosecutor, and she doesn’t want the two trials to run at the same time, she added.
Plumlee's trial has been pushed back several times, while Gunn’s has been continued once.
Bredahl and Hine’s law firm also is handling the Plumlee case. They objected to Selzer’s motion to delay Gunn’s trial, saying Gunn has been languishing in jail and is ready to go to trial.
The defense said the trial should not go beyond the four days that were allocated, according to its court filing.
What to expect
The defense and prosecution both declined to comment on their strategies for the Gunn trial, but past hearings and court documents shed some light on what could be presented to jurors.
The defense has claimed the shooting occurred after multiple arguments and confrontations. Video expected to be played at trial shows, in part, Hayes chasing the defendant, the defense said.
Prosecutors said previously Gunn had “many opportunities to walk away.” Prosecutors argued Gunn struck Hayes in the head.
The totality of the incident justifies the murder charge, Selzer previously said.
During a preliminary hearing, the defense claimed Hayes may have brandished a knife, and a medical examiner’s report didn’t show Hayes had injuries to his head.
Bredahl suggested at the hearing that racism may have contributed to the incident.
The prosecution has asked Van de Streek to exclude statements and evidence that suggest Hayes acted violently or aggressively, used drugs and held racist views or made racist comments. Prosecutors also want to keep the jury from seeing Haye's toxicology report, according to a motion filed Thursday.
Allowing such evidence is irrelevant and could prompt jurors to view Hayes unfairly, the prosecution argued.
Prosecutors have filed several documents detailing who they will call during the trial. That includes law enforcement officials, forensic scientists and technicians, dispatchers and a manager for the Loaf 'N Jug. The state also may call a manager for the Bison Turf, a bar and grill that sits just north of the Loaf 'N Jug.
The defense has subpoenaed several witnesses, including Robinson. It's unknown whether Gunn will take the stand.