Defense, prosecution wrangle over evidence in November fatal shooting case

Prosecutor Kelly Dillon, from left, defense attorney Kevin Chapman, Ian Laboyd and defense attorney Jeremy Curran at a hearing before Northwest District Judge Benjamen Johnson on Wednesday, July 1.

A judge has ruled that jurors will be allowed to hear about an earlier confrontation between a 17-year-old accused of murder and the 19-year-old he’s accused of killing.

Northwest District Judge Benjamen Johnson ruled earlier this week that both the defense and prosecution can question witnesses about an incident in a Williston park days before a shooting that led to the death of Matthew York, the wounding of Parker Haider and the arrest on multiple felony charges of Ian Laboyd.

Police say Laboyd shot York and Haider during an argument on Nov. 10. York was arrested hours later and is facing charges that include murder, attempted murder, delivery of a controlled substance and tampering with evidence.

The shooting was not the first time Laboyd and York encountered each other. Days earlier the two had met at a park near the Western Star Complex in Williston referred to as “Alien Park.” That night, Laboyd and another person stole several doses of the hallucinogenic drug LSD from York, according to accounts from both the prosecution and defense. Laboyd left the park, but York caught up with the other person and beat him.

That incident is central to both prosecution and defense. Prosecutors say it offers a more complete context of what happened before York’s death. Laboyd’s defense attorneys, though, argue it shows York planned to hurt Laboyd on Nov. 10, and thus Laboyd acted in self-defense.

“Evidence of the ‘Alien Park’ incident is equally prejudicial to the defendant and to York, but provides a more complete story of the crime by putting it in context of the happenings near in time and place,” Johnson wrote.

Johnson also ruled that some statements York made will be allowed in at trial, despite being hearsay — the legal term for testimony about what someone said to a witness. The defense will be able to introduce evidence that York told someone he was planning to assault Laboyd on the night of Nov. 10, as well as what he said to someone the night of the confrontation with Laboyd.

The defense will not be able to bring up other evidence about York’s actions before the shooting, though. Johnson ruled that the defense could only bring up incidents that had a bearing on their claim of self defense and that they could show Laboyd was aware of.

“None of the charges against the Defendant put York’s character in direct issue,” Johnson wrote in his ruling. “As discussed above, the Defendant has brought up a defense of self-defense. The Defendant, when asserting self-defense, can use evidence of specific conduct to show the Defendant’s state of mind. The Defendant must have prior knowledge of York’s specific conduct in order to admit the evidence of prior specific conduct for this purpose.”

Laboyd’s trial is scheduled for October 19.

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