Remaining charges from murder case dropped
Defendant already acquitted of murder charges
Remaining charges that led to a hung jury in a 2009 Burnsville murder case were dismissed April 5 by Dakota County District Court Judge Patrice Sutherland.
The defendant in the case, Taylor James Pass of Eagan, was acquitted in November 2009 of two counts of second-degree murder. The jury found him not guilty of fatally stabbing 35-year-old Tina SanRoman at her townhouse on the 1600 block of Riverwoods Drive on April 7, 2009.
Pass, then 19, was also charged with attempted second-degree murder and second-degree assault for allegedly attacking SanRoman’s boarder, Odai Al-Refo, then 23.
Prosecutors maintained that Pass stabbed Al-Refo in an attempt to eliminate him as a witness to SanRoman’s murder. They said Al-Refo discovered Pass on top of SanRoman in the garage of the townhouse after he’d stabbed her.
The jury couldn’t reach unanimous verdicts on the charges involving Al-Refo.
Prosecutors sought to retry Pass on those charges. Sutherland ruled in June 2010 that evidence related to SanRoman’s murder was inadmissible in the retrial.
Prosecutors appealed. The Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s ruling last April.
In January, prosecutors presented “offer of proof” for retrial, indicating they wouldn’t present evidence related to SanRoman’s stabbing death. Evidence prosecutors sought to admit included transcripts from police interviews with Al-Refo, who has testified that he went to the garage to look for SanRoman, found Pass on top of her, and heeded his plea to “Come help me” because she was “not breathing.” Al-Refo suffered knife wounds.
Pass’ attorney argued that “the entire record in this matter must be introduced in order to preserve Defendant’s right to present a meaningful defense,” Sutherland wrote in her ruling. The defense “asserts that the facts and evidence related to SanRoman’s murder, and the fact that Defendant was tried and acquitted of the murder, must be admitted to support the defense theory that one or more other persons committed the attacks against SanRoman and Al-Refo.”
Sutherland wrote that the case couldn’t go to a jury without admitting evidence surrounding the unsolved murder, including information from the murder investigation and trial.
Prosecutors sought to introduce several pieces of evidence from the murder investigation, according to Sutherland. Admitting that evidence posed the “danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, and misleading the jury,” she wrote. “The evidence must be excluded.”
John Gessner can be reached at email@example.com or facebook.com/sunthisweek.