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State of North Dakota v. Rodney Ray Chisholm

July 12, 2012

STATE OF NORTH DAKOTA,
PLAINTIFF AND APPELLEE
v.
RODNEY RAY CHISHOLM, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT



Appeal from the District Court of Grand Forks County, Northeast Central Judicial District, the Honorable Lawrence E. Jahnke, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: VandeWalle, Chief Justice.

N.D. Supreme CourtState v. Chisholm,

2012 ND 147

This opinion is subject to petition for rehearing. [Go to Documents]

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AFFIRMED.

Opinion of the Court by VandeWalle, Chief Justice.

[¶1] Rodney Chisholm appealed from a criminal judgment entered upon a jury verdict finding him guilty of murder in the death of his brother, Donald Chisholm. We affirm the judgment, concluding the district court did not abuse its discretion when it refused to admit evidence that the victim had, several years earlier, brandished a firearm in disputes with another Chisholm brother.

I

[¶2] On July 2, 2010, Ken Chisholm reported that his brother, Donald Chisholm, was missing. Suspicion focused upon Rodney Chisholm, and he was located in Nebraska where he was being held by law enforcement. After being interviewed by North Dakota law enforcement officers in Nebraska, Rodney Chisholm agreed to voluntarily return to North Dakota.

[¶3] Rodney Chisholm eventually admitted that he had killed Donald Chisholm on June 24, 2010, during a fight over a tract of farmland owned by their mother, and he led law enforcement officers to the place where he had buried Donald Chisholm's body. At trial, Rodney Chisholm testified that Donald Chisholm confronted him while he was sorting scrap iron. He claims Donald Chisholm became aggressive and hit him several times with a piece of iron. The two then wrestled on the ground for some time, and eventually Rodney Chisholm was able to subdue Donald Chisholm and restrain his hands by attaching them to the belt loops on his pants using plastic "zip ties."

[¶4] Rodney Chisholm claims that Donald Chisholm got his left hand free by pulling until his belt loop detached. Rodney Chisholm contends Donald Chisholm then began moving toward his pickup, shouting multiple times that he was going to get his pistol and kill Rodney Chisholm. Rodney Chisholm admits that he then struck Donald Chisholm in the head, chest, and arms with a large iron pipe. After Donald Chisholm collapsed to the ground, Rodney Chisholm placed a large hose clamp around Donald Chisholm's neck and tightened it with a screwdriver.

[¶5] When Donald Chisholm was dead, Rodney Chisholm drove Donald Chisholm's pickup back to Donald Chisholm's shop, left it there, and walked eight miles to his own home. He then drove a four-wheeler back to the area where he had left Donald Chisholm's body. He used a skid-steer loader to bury the body and covered the makeshift grave with branches.

[ΒΆ6] At trial, Rodney Chisholm argued that he killed Donald Chisholm in self-defense. He introduced voluminous character evidence from multiple witnesses, including family members, indicating that Donald Chisholm was confrontational, aggressive, petty, bitter, condescending, arrogant, and "[m]ad at the world . . . and everybody in it." Rodney Chisholm ...


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