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Man convicted in Missoula murder of exchange student seeking new trial

MISSOULA – The man who is spending 70-years in prison in the shotgun killing of a German foreign exchange student from Big Sky High School who broke into his garage wants a new trial.

Arguments were heard Thursday Markus Kaarma’s latest legal moves in Missoula County District Court.

He’s arguing the defense team in his 2014 murder trial failed to give him effective counsel, with Kaarma’s attorneys trying to convince trial Judge Ed McLean to start over.

Kaarma petitioned for post-conviction relief last September and his new legal counsel claims that his previous attorneys didn’t effectively establish his use of deadly force as an act of self-defense.

Kaarma was convicted for killing 17-year-old German exchange student Diren Dede. Kaarma claimed that he shot Dede out of self-defense while the student was trespassing in his garage, reportedly looking for drugs and alcohol. 

However, prosecutors argued Kaarma was setting up an ambush after a previous break-in, “baiting” and “luring” someone into his home. The original conviction has already been reviewed — and upheld by the Montana Supreme Court. 

The new petition claims Kaarma’s previous attorneys referred to the wrong statute throughout the trial, failing to present appropriate instruction to the jury, and didn’t make proper objections to what they claim was the state’s “misleading arguments” about the law pertaining to the “Castle Doctrine” and defending one’s home against intruders. 

The state is arguing Kaarma’s counsel has failed to meet the heavy burden required to show “that trial and appellate counsel was ineffective”. 

Judge McLean will now take those arguments under advisement and adjudicate the matter with no time limit on how long that could take.

Connor McCauley

Connor McCauley

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