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Supreme Court: Man must explain self-defense claim


July 17, 2014

GREAT FALLS (AP) — A Great Falls man must testify at his deliberate homicide trial if he wants to argue he shot a Fairfield man in self-defense, the Montana Supreme Court has ruled.

Tuesday's ruling came in the case of Martin Lau, who is charged in the August 2012 death of Don Kline at the Teton County residence Kline shared with Susan Pfeifer

The justices ruled Lau had to testify in order to argue that he shot Kline because Kline was threatening both he and Pfeifer and that Pfeifer had previously told him that Kline had been abusing her, the Great Falls Tribune (http://gftrib.com/1wzFXG2 ) reported Thursday.

Lau's attorney, Kenneth Olson, had sought to make the self-defense claim by introducing into evidence the prepared statement Lau provided to investigators. A District Court judge agreed in a pretrial ruling.

Prosecutors appealed, arguing District Judge Robert Olson's ruling unjustly shielded Lau's version of events from scrutiny.

Attorney Kenneth Olson argued prosecutors were trying to force his client to testify. The Supreme Court ruled the unsworn statement is inadmissible hearsay unless prosecutors can question Lau under oath.

The rules of evidence prohibit the admission of hearsay, unless some exception applies, the justices wrote.


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