AUSTIN EDITION - Murder-case appeal is again rejected

By Tim Ruzek

An accomplice in the June 2000 double homicide at an Austin motel is not entitled to an evidentiary hearing on whether he had ineffective legal representation, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled.

David Kenneth Christian had sought a new trial, claiming his trial counsel's assistance was ineffective because it failed to communicate his desire to propose a plea agreement for a 20-year prison sentence in exchange for his testimony.

Christian, 32, of St. Paul, also accused his lawyer of failing to ask certain questions during the cross-examination of one of the prosecution's witnesses and said his appellate counsel did not follow his wishes on how to base his appeal.


Tuesday's ruling supported the appeals court's decision in October 2002 to deny Christian's request for a new trial.

Christian and three others were convicted of fatally shooting two St. Paul construction workers and assaulting a third person while robbing them on June 30, 2000, at the former Downtown Motel in Austin.

After a jury trial in May and June 2001 in Hastings, Minn., Christian was convicted of two counts of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and one count of first-degree assault. He was sentenced to 41 years in prison.

To justify an evidentiary hearing, the judges wrote, the petitioner must allege facts that, if proved, would entitle him to the requested relief. Allegations must be "more than argumentative assertions without factual support," they stated.

The court record shows that during the trial, Christian proposed a 10-year sentence in exchange for his testimony against his co-defendants; prosecutors rejected the deal, the judges wrote. The state continued to attempt plea negotiations during the trial, but Christian wouldn't agree to a sentence longer than 10 years, the judges wrote.

The record doesn't indicate whether he told his attorney to propose a 20-year sentence or if his attorney failed to make such an offer to prosecutors, the judges stated.

As for Christian's other allegations, the judges stated they wouldn't review matters of trial strategy. They also declined to review Christian's allegation regarding the appeals process, citing that he was trying to re-argue claims previously raised on direct appeal.

Christian's brother, Scot Perry Christian, 34, and Vernon Neal Powers, 31, both of St. Paul, both are serving two consecutive life terms for the murders. Jenea Larae-Nichol Weinand, 23, the other accomplice, is serving 311⁄2; years in prison.

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