Standby counsel sought in murder trial of Paynesville, Minn., man
WILLMAR -- District Judge Michael J. Tho-mpson has concluded that, in the interest of justice, standby counsel needs to be appointed for Delbert Huber, the rural Paynesville man facing first-degree murder charges for shooting and killing an Al-bertville man last fall.
In an order filed May 9, Thompson asks that the prosecution and Huber be prepared to discuss during a Wednesday court hearing whether Huber's court case should continue with a jury trial starting June 18 or if the case should be delayed until after Aug. 1. A key factor in the discussion is who pays for the attorney, the standby counsel, to answer Huber's questions regarding court rules and procedures as Huber represents himself in the murder case.
Huber, 81, and his son, Timothy John Huber, 46, were both indicted on first-degree murder charges for their roles in the Oct. 8, 2011, death of 43-year-old Timothy Richard Larson on rural Belgrade property owned by Larson's father. The penalty for first-degree murder is life in prison.
Delbert Huber has been held on $5 million bail in the Kandiyohi County Jail since the shooting death. His son has also been jailed, on $1 million bail.
The elder Huber has appeared multiple times in court without a lawyer and has repeatedly said he and family members are attempting to hire an attorney. He has also made multiple applications for a public defender, the latest on April 16, which have been denied. His first attempt to get a public defender was denied because he owned land in Kandiyohi and Stearns counties.
The 80 acres of Kandiyohi County property was subsequently transferred from Huber's possession, via quitclaim deed, to his relatives. Those relatives, his niece, Cherry DeMarais, and his sister, Elise Wagner, of Howard Lake, and the "fraudulent conveyance" of the land are also part of a wrongful death civil lawsuit filed by the Larson family.
Thompson notes in his order that he considers Huber's latest request for a public defender as a request for standby counsel. In light of the serious nature of the charges and the length of the trial, two weeks, the standby counsel should be compensated, the judge wrote. However, at issue is which branch of government should pay for the attorney, who is not to strategize with Huber for his defense, but must answer the defendant's questions about the rules, court decorum and procedures.
The order notes that Gov. Mark Dayton signed a bill in April that makes the State Court Administration responsible for paying for standby counsel, but that the law doesn't become effective until Aug. 1. "The Court has contacted State Court Administration and inquired if it would pay for the Standby Counsel services in this matter, even though it is scheduled prior to the effective date," Thompson wrote, noting that he hadn't received an answer to the question.
If the trial dates remain as scheduled, then the county attorney's office, as the prosecutor in the case, would be responsible for funding the standby counsel, Thompson's order states.