The trial in Little Falls of Byron Smith in late April was very disturbing, but there are lessons to be learned from it.
Smith was convicted of shooting to death two teenagers (male and female cousins) who were in the process of burglarizing his home just north of Little Falls. The jury took only three hours to make up its mind that Smith is guilty of premeditated murder. Now age 65, he will likely spend the rest of his life in prison.
Lesson 1 we can learn from the trial is all parents should warn their children what can happen if they break into someone else’s house or apartment. This is not to say young people have a penchant for burglary, but as every parent knows, many children, even well-raised and courteous ones, sometimes indulge in foolish escapades and larks, some verging on the illegal and/or the felonious. One such escapade could be trespassing or entering a place where they don’t belong.
It would have been good, obviously, if the two young burglars had been caught and arrested by law enforcement, as they should have been. They could then have been punished and eventually redeemed from their criminal behavior. Their crossing the boundary line into an illegal action, sadly, led directly to their hideous deaths.
Lesson 2 we can learn from the trial is people who are festeringly frustrated, as Smith clearly was, should not let that frustration boil over into the kind of anger that can lead to cold-blooded murder. Smith should have called law enforcement as soon as he heard via his tape-recording system that the young burglars had broken the glass window on the first level of that house. Instead, he sat in a chair in his basement with a rifle and handgun, waiting for the intruders to come down those basement steps. It was meticulously planned well in advance. He was ready to kill.
His excuse is he was afraid for his life. The jurors, however, saw right through that ruse. Smith did, in fact, practically “lure” the burglars there by parking his vehicle out of sight, then sitting down calmly and waiting to kill the both of them. After wounding and incapacitating them, Smith’s life was certainly not in danger. He proceeded to shoot them again in a form of gleeful revenge. It was a classic case of letting a seething rage take charge, over-reacting, going way beyond the reasonable limits of defending one’s own life and property.
The evidence clearly demonstrated Smith took the law into his own hands in what amounted to a couple of swift, grisly, summary executions.
It’s just a tragic shame such an unthinkable collision had to happen: two foolish teenage burglars and an angry man set on vengeance. The outcome was a doomed one for all three.
The lessons to be learned from it, in brief, once again are these: Don’t break into houses; don’t take the law into one’s own hands.