MINNEAPOLIS — A Maple Grove woman who said she shot and killed her boyfriend because he was abusive could get a new trial after the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled jurors in her trial got an incorrect instruction.
Stephanie Louise Clark, 32, was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of Don’Juan Butler, 30, in March 2020. She claimed she shot Butler because she feared his abuse would escalate and he would kill her or her 5-year-old son.
The appeal centered on the definition of whether Clark was in “imminent” danger when she shot Butler.
A three-judge appeals panel unanimously ruled this week that when the jury asked during deliberations for the legal definition of “imminent,” the court misstated it as “immediate.”
The appeals ruling noted that Butler had abused and threatened Clark — including holding a gun to her head — but was not abusing her when she shot him.
“Given (Butler’s) violent actions against Clark, the jury could have found that Clark was in imminent danger of great bodily harm, even if such danger was not immediate,” the ruling said.
If Hennepin County prosecutors do not appeal the ruling, Clark’s case would be returned to the district court for a new trial.