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News & Press: Montana Supreme Court

Court to hear oral argument in ex-lawyer's appeal of murder conviction

Thursday, February 14, 2019  
Posted by: Joe Menden
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The Montana Supreme Court has announced that it will hear oral argument in Bozeman in a former Montana lawyer’s appeal of his conviction for the 1999 killing of his wife.

Brian Laird, now 50, was convicted in 2016 and is serving a 100-year sentence for the killing of Kathryn Laird. Bryan and Kathryn had been married for five months when Kathryn’s body was found floating in the Bighorn River. The case was featured on NBC’s “Dateline” program.

Brian Laird says the district court was wrong to conclude that he was not prejudiced by the 15-year gap between the death and filing of charges. He claims the state took advantage of weaknesses to the defense caused by the deaths of critical witnesses and lost evidence. Laird also claims the state did not present sufficient evidence to convict and that the state was wrong to admit statements by the deceased pathologist and to allow what the defense called a misleading autopsy photo to be presented to the jury.

The argument is scheduled for Wednesday, May 1, in conjunction with the 18th Judicial District’s Law Day activities. It will be held in the Strand Union Building, Ballroom A, on the Montana State University campus. There will be an introduction at 9:30 a.m., with the argument starting at 10 a.m.

The court will also hear an argument in Missoula on Friday, April 5, in conjunction with the Blewett School of Law’s Law Day activities.

The Missoula argument, in Kalispell v. Salsgiver, will be at the University of Montana’s Dennison Theater, with an introduction at 9 a.m. and the argument at 9:30 a.m.

In that case, Thomas Salsgiver appeals his conviction for partner or family member assault, claiming that the municipal court’s and district court’s orders waiving his right to a jury trial violate Sixth and 14th Amendment protections. Salsgiver also argues that certain provisions in the sentencing agreement to pay fines are unsupported by statutory authority.