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Attorneys argue post-trial motions after Joshua Lee manslaughter conviction

With the defense seeking either acquittal or a new trial for a man recently convicted of manslaughter for the 2008 death of a Somali man in a Rochester alley, attorneys on both sides have until Feb. 22 to file briefs before the judge starts deliberations.

Judge Joseph Chase set the deadline before he starts deliberations on the defense's post-trial motions Friday at a hearing held for 27-year-old Joshua Dean Lee, 27. A jury convicted Lee Jan. 13 in connection with the death of Muhidin Mumin of Rochester.

In a related move, Chase delayed the date for Lee's sentencing hearing from March 7 to April 8 to allow time to make a ruling that could potentially make a sentencing hearing unnecessary should Lee be acquitted or a new trial ordered.

In his arguments Friday, defense attorney Thomas Braun focused on two main points. 

The first was whether it was appropriate for the jury to have been instructed to consider whether Lee had "aided and abetted" co-defendant Adam Ross Brandrup. The second was whether the resignation of Olmsted County coroner Dr. Eric Pfeifer from his pathologist position at Mayo Clinic on the closing day of the trial called into question the credibility of Pfeifer's crucial trial testimony.


On the first point, Braun said Brandrup hit Mumin first before Lee allegedly kicked Mumin. Lee didn't know Brandrup would hit Mumin, he argued.

"There was nothing to indicate that Mr. Lee was out looking for a fight at that point," Braun said. If there was truly an aiding and abetting situation, he said, there has to be a plan developed between Lee and Brandrup before assaulting Mumin.

Prosecutor Jim Martinson argued that circumstances leading up to the assault on Mumin included a confrontation involving Lee, Brandrup, some of their friends, and a group of Somali men at Club Amsterdam. An aiding and abetting situation could be reasonably inferred from those circumstances, he said, arguing that the assault involving Brandrup and Lee was "a continuous course of behavior."

On the second point, Braun said the timing of Pfeifer's resignation on the day of the trial's closing arguments was "extremely strange."

He has no evidence at this point to show it happened, Braun said, but the timing of the resignation could be significant if it could be determined Pfeifer stepped down due to steps he took in the Lee case or how he reached determinations that became critical factors in the case against Lee.

Martinson dismissed the possible reasons for Pfeifer's resignation as speculation. The autopsy was conducted two years before the trial, he argued, so Mayo would have taken action to remove Pfeifer sooner if the clinic had issues with how he handled the autopsy.

Chase said that holding a new trial to get to the bottom of why Pfeifer resigned when he did would be "like hitting a fly with a sledgehammer." There are many potential reasons for his resignation that could be irrelevant to the trial, he said.

"I'd like to focus on the aiding and abetting issue," Chase told attorneys while instructing them on their upcoming briefs.


Chase gave no firm timeline for when he would issue a ruling on Braun's motions for either acquittal or a new trial after receiving the briefs by the Feb. 22 deadline.

Brandrup, who confessed in testimony at the Lee trial to hitting Mumin, has a pretrial settlement conference scheduled for Feb. 18.

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