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Duluth murder trial called off as defendant hospitalized

A jury was seated last week and prepared to begin hearing testimony Monday in the Gary-New Duluth shooting death of Kevin Weiss Jr., but defendant Brian Shaw was not at the courthouse.

Brian Ross Shaw
Brian Ross Shaw

DULUTH — Opening statements and testimony were finally expected to get underway Monday in a long-delayed Gary-New Duluth murder trial, but the proceeding was once again scuttled as the defendant was instead hospitalized.

Brian Ross Shaw, 37, was expected to face a jury in the December 2018 shooting death of a longtime acquaintance, 35-year-old Kevin Weiss Jr. A jury was seated last week after a process that itself had been drawn out several days longer than anticipated due to issues involving COVID-19.

The 13 members of the panel assembled at the St. Louis County Courthouse in Duluth at 8:30 a.m. Monday, but they were forced to wait several hours as all parties other than the defendant were present. Attorneys indicated Shaw, who now lives in Carlton, had checked into Cloquet's Community Memorial Hospital with possible symptoms of COVID.

Kevin John Weiss Jr.
Kevin Weiss Jr.

Shaw's full condition was not immediately clear, but his unavailability prompted Judge Jill Eichenwald to declare a mistrial after she met privately with the lawyers shortly before noon. A new trial date was not immediately scheduled.

It's at least the fourth postponement of the trial, which was first set to begin in January 2020 before the case experienced a number of delays related to both legal issues and the pandemic.

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Shaw fatally shot Weiss during a confrontation involving his then-former girlfriend, who had been dating the alleged victim. Shaw told police the shooting was accidental and that he was shoved by Weiss, but the prosecution argues that it was a deliberate act, as proven by forensic evidence.

Authorities said Weiss had been kicked out of the woman's residence and returned Dec. 10, 2018, acting erratically and breaking a window. Shaw, who was living in Hibbing after breaking up with the woman, allegedly exchanged threatening text messages with Weiss before driving down to confront him.

Shaw told police that Weiss continued to advance on him and refused commands to back off in the confrontation outside the residence on the 100 block of West Reis Street. Shaw, who reportedly said he had a terminal illness and had been stockpiling guns, told police that Weiss eventually shoved him, causing the accidental shooting.

But prosecutors contested his version, citing forensic analysis from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension that allegedly showed that the shotgun would only discharge if the safety lever was manually moved to the "fire" position and the trigger was pulled. Additionally, the report said Weiss was shot by shotgun pellets in a downward trajectory.

While the case has not yet reached an evidentiary phase, Shaw has given notice that he will argue his actions were legally justifiable as he acted in defense of himself and others.

Shaw, who has been free since posting a $75,000 bond shortly after his December 2018 arraignment, faces counts of intentional second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

The case is being prosecuted by Nate Stumme, head of the Duluth criminal division of the St. Louis County Attorney's Office. Shaw is represented by public defender Matthew Benfield.

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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