A rural Cloquet man accused of fatally shooting the friend he was hosting at his residence in November could argue self-defense if his case proceeds to trial.
Thomas Allen Micklewright, 44, allegedly admitted to police that shot 65-year-old James Arthur Couture inside his home on the Fond du Lac Reservation on Nov. 9. But authorities said he refused to explain why.
Defense attorneys David Keegan and Mikkel Long indicated in a court filing this week that Micklewright intends to rely on a self-defense claim, as well as a general "not guilty" defense, at a yet-to-be-scheduled trial. He is charged with unintentional second-degree murder.
Micklewright, who is free after posting a $125,000 bond, appeared Thursday before 6th Judicial District Judge Shaun Floerke. About two-dozen family members and supporters of Couture filled the Duluth courtroom for the hearing that lasted all of a minute, nearly all wearing red T-shirts emblazoned with the words "Justice for Weasel," a reference to the victim's nickname.
St. Louis County prosecutor Korey Horn told the judge he was still awaiting DNA test results from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and follow-up with the medical examiner. The defense did not object to a continuance, with Long saying it is "typical with this type of case" to still be receiving discovery after three months.
Floerke rescheduled the omnibus hearing for April 6, at which point Micklewright may challenge the sufficiency of probable cause or raise constitutional issues with the gathering of evidence.
According to a criminal complaint, Micklewright and his wife were hosting Couture and his wife at their home, 3521 Brevator Road, northwest of Cloquet, on the night of the incident.
Both couples had been drinking before Micklewright's wife called 911 around 5 a.m. to report the shooting. Micklewright allegedly admitted during the course of that call that he intentionally shot Couture with a .40-caliber pistol but would not further describe the circumstances, the complaint said.
When law enforcement arrived at the residence, they found Couture in the kitchen, where he was pronounced dead. No weapons were found on his person or in the vicinity, according to the complaint. Both wives were believed to be asleep at the time of the shooting, the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office previously reported.
Micklewright was detained without incident at the scene. Authorities said a preliminary breath test administered at about 11 a.m. — approximately six hours after the shooting — placed his blood-alcohol concentration at 0.20, which is 2.5 times the legal limit for driving.
Couture, of Brookston, was a member of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa who worked a number of jobs on the reservation, according to his obituary. He was survived by his wife, six children and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.