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Jury to get Duluth murder case

BRAINERD -- After two weeks of testimony, a jury is expected to begin deliberating Friday morning in the case of Deandre Demetrius Davenport. The 23-year-old, who is accused of killing University of Minnesota Duluth student William Grahek in a ho...

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Deandre Demetrius Davenport

BRAINERD - After two weeks of testimony, a jury is expected to begin deliberating Friday morning in the case of Deandre Demetrius Davenport.

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William Grahek

The 23-year-old, who is accused of killing University of Minnesota Duluth student William Grahek in a home invasion on Valentine's Day 2017, faces four felony charges and a possible life sentence.

Defense attorney Kassius Benson rested without calling any witnesses as court resumed Thursday after a Christmas break. Prosecutors wrapped up their case last week.

Attorneys will deliver closing arguments Friday morning and jurors will receive final instructions before deciding the case. A panel of 15 jurors, including eight men and seven women, will be narrowed to 12.

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St. Louis County prosecutors Jessica Fralich and Vicky Wanta allege that Davenport accompanied two already-convicted co-defendants, Noah Anthony Charles King and Noah Duane Baker, in an attempt to steal a safe containing drugs and cash from Grahek's East Hillside residence on Feb. 14, 2017.

While Davenport has long been accused of firing the two shots that struck Grahek in the chest and mouth, the prosecutors did not specifically identify him as the shooter in opening statements, and only need to prove that he aided and abetted in causing the 22-year-old's death.

On the other side, defense attorneys Benson and Tayler Rahm have contended that Baker acted alone, with Davenport never entering the residence or having any knowledge of the attempted theft.

The defense has pointed to testimony of Baker - who initially identified Davenport as the shooter, only to recant and claim sole responsibility for Grahek's death - as well as physical evidence such as footprints that they say exonerates their client.

Jurors will consider four charges against Davenport: first-degree murder while committing robbery, first-degree murder while committing burglary, intentional second-degree murder and unintentional second-degree murder.

Sixth Judicial District Judge Mark Munger last week dismissed a charge of attempted aggravated first-degree robbery. On Thursday, he granted a defense request to allow jurors to consider the "lesser-included" charge of unintentional murder. That count, which was not included by prosecutors, carries a significantly lighter guideline sentence.

A conviction on either of the first-degree murder charges would result in a mandatory life sentence with potential for parole only after 30 years. That was the punishment handed down to King earlier this month.

Baker is serving a 30-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to intentional second-degree murder. His sister, Tara Rai Baker, received probation for lying to police about the incident. A final co-defendant, Xavier Alfred Haywood, who allegedly planned the heist and arranged a hotel room in the aftermath, is scheduled to stand trial in March on a felony charge of aiding an offender.

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Davenport's case is being heard at the Crow Wing County Judicial Center after Munger granted a change of venue request due to extensive pretrial publicity.

The judge instructed jurors to bring an overnight bag to the courthouse Friday, as they would be sequestered at a hotel if they cannot reach a unanimous verdict by 8:30 p.m.

Related Topics: POLICE
Tom Olsen has covered crime and courts for the Duluth News Tribune since 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth and a lifelong resident of the city. Readers can contact Olsen at 218-723-5333 or tolsen@duluthnews.com.
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