A Hibbing man formally pleaded not guilty Thursday to shooting two people, one fatally, on Christmas Day 2018.
Jerome Dionte Spann, 31, is charged with premeditated first-degree murder, intentional second-degree murder and second-degree assault in the death of 34-year-old Jeryel McBeth and wounding of 25-year-old Jamien Stuckey. He faces mandatory life imprisonment if convicted of the first count.
Spann appeared by video from the St. Louis County Jail for a virtual hearing of State District Court in Hibbing. Defense attorney Elizabeth Polling said she did not have any further challenges to constitutional issues or probable causes and requested that the case be set for trial.
Prosecutors allege that Spann exited an SUV shortly after 7:30 p.m. Dec. 25, 2018, and fired into a group of people standing outside a residence at 2408 Third Ave. E. in Hibbing. McBeth was hit three times — in the chest, shoulder and forearm, according to a complaint. The defendant allegedly continued firing another four or five rounds, striking Stuckey and nearly wounding another man before fleeing the scene.
PREVIOUSLY: Hibbing man charged in fatal Christmas shooting
Authorities said the shooting came amid a feud between Spann and McBeth. A Hibbing police officer testified to a grand jury that he had responded to Spann's residence a day before the killing after the defendant called 911 to report McBeth "banging on his door and threatening to assault him." Other witnesses testified that Spann had been carrying a handgun and had been threatening McBeth's life in the weeks before the killing.
Spann intends to rely on an alibi defense at trial, Polling said Thursday.
The defense unsuccessfully sought dismissal of the indictment, alleging that some grand jurors exhibited bias and that the panel was presented with insufficient instruction and inadmissible testimony. But Sullivan ruled that Spann failed to show "substantial prejudice," with the state providing "sufficient admissible credible evidence" for the case to proceed before a jury.
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Nearly all in-person court proceedings, including jury trials, are currently on hold in Minnesota due to a late fall spike in COVID-19 cases across the state. The moratorium is set to expire at the end of January, but it remains to be seen if restrictions will be extended.
Sullivan set a scheduling conference for Feb. 1 to determine a trial date based on updated guidance. Attorneys indicated a trial could take approximately two weeks, depending on protocols in place at the time.
Spann remains jail on $500,000 bail.