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Supreme Court denies Rodney Chisholm's appeal

North Dakota Supreme Court justices rejected a Manvel, N.D., man's appeal of his conviction for murdering his brother last week. Rodney Ray Chisholm, 50, was found guilty of murdering his older brother Donald Chisholm in a land dispute in June 20...

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In this Herald file photo Rodney Chisholm addresses the court in Grand Forks on Monday, July 18, 2011, before his sentencing for the 2010 murder of his brother Donald Chisholm. (Grand Forks Herald file photo by John Stennes)

North Dakota Supreme Court justices rejected a Manvel, N.D., man's appeal of his conviction for murdering his brother last week.

Rodney Ray Chisholm, 50, was found guilty of murdering his older brother Donald Chisholm in a land dispute in June 2010 and was ordered to serve 30 years in prison. Chisholm admitted to investigators to hitting his older brother with a metal pipe, tightening a hose clamp around his brother's neck and then burying him, though he contended at his 2011 trial he did it out of self-defense.

Chisholm filed an appeal in March, arguing his trial attorney, Steven Light, had bungled his case and asking for a new trial. Light killed himself in early 2012 while Chisholm's case was on appeal.

The five Supreme Court justices heard arguments in the appeal in November. Nicholas Thornton, who now represents Chisholm, argued the trial would have ended differently had Light hired a psychologist to attest to Chisholm's state of mind during the killing, had Light asked that jurors have the option of finding Chisholm guilty of a lesser offense-that is, manslaughter or negligent homicide-among other things.

But the justices rejected Chisholm's arguments, finding he hadn't made a clear case that Light's representation of him had been subpar, according to a Supreme Court opinion filed Dec. 1.

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The opinion says Chisholm did not give any evidence of what a psychologist would have said or attested to that would have impacted the outcome of his trial.

Light had left the decision up to Chisholm of whether to give jurors the option of lesser offenses. The Supreme Court justices found Chisholm knowingly agreed not to instruct the jurors on manslaughter or negligent homicide, rejecting Chisholm's argument his judgement had been impaired by an antidepressant he claims Light had given him.

Chisholm also argued Light should have asked a judge to throw out his confession on the grounds his Miranda rights were violated during interrogations.

Chisholm told detectives during interrogation, "I think we're at the end," "Are we all done for today?" and "Put the bad guy back in the cell," all of which he claimed was him invoking his right to remain silent, according to the opinion.

The Supreme Court justices found Chisholm never clearly invoked his right to counsel or to remain silent, the opinion says.

Chisholm is being held in the North Dakota State Penitentiary, according to the state Department of Corrections website. He has been in custody since he was arrested in Nebraska in July 2010.

Related Topics: CRIME
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