AUSTIN EDITION Court dismisses murderer's claims

By Tim Ruzek

The Minnesota Supreme Court has dismissed claims made by one of the men convicted in the June 2000 double-homicide shootings at an Austin motel.

The court denied a post-conviction claim made by Vernon Neal Powers that the district court erred in denying his motion to sever his trial from that of his co-defendants, according to the order. He also claimed the district court violated a rule when it imposed consecutive sentences on him.

Powers' claims were procedurally barred because both had been or could have been raised on direct appeal, the court ruled. The ruling was made without hearing oral arguments.


Powers, 31, of St. Paul, is serving two consecutive life terms at the prison in Oak Park Heights, Minn., after being found guilty of killing St. Paul construction workers Juan Ramirez and Raul Gutierrez on June 30, 2000, at the former Downtown Motel in Austin.

The jury also found Powers guilty of first-degree assault for the shooting of Benjamin Hernandez in the same motel room.

Scot Perry Christian, 34, of St. Paul, also is serving two consecutive life terms for the murders.

Justice Sam Hanson stated in a written opinion that all of the issues raised by Powers in his petition could have been raised during the direct appeal. Powers argued that the appeals court should've granted a hearing on his claims.

When Powers filed for post-conviction relief in December, he only supplied new information on an affidavit submitted by Christian's brother, David Kenneth Christian, who was convicted of two counts of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and one count of first-degree murder.

David Christian, 32, of St. Paul, is serving a 41-year prison sentence for his role in the murders.

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