Case closed in Chad Isaak case, Justices favor victim’s rights

Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 10:32 AM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - ND Supreme Court Justices decided Thursday to dismiss convicted killer Chad Isaak’s appeal.

Isaak had been serving four life sentences in prison after a jury found him guilty of killing four RJR Maintenance and Management employees in 2019. He filed for appeal after the verdict but died by suicide at the North Dakota State Penitentiary in July 2022 before the appeal was decided.

The state argued Isaak’s death ended the appeal, as there was no live controversy left to discuss. Isaak’s attorneys argued for Justices to nullify the conviction. They said the case is not yet final.

The Justices have never before decided a case where the appellant died by suicide before a final decision.

Justices sided with the state and found the appeal moot. In the opinion Justices stated, “although a criminal defendant may have enjoyed a statutory right to appeal before his death, deceased individuals’ statutory rights cannot prevail over the constitutional rights of the living. Abatement of criminal convictions would foreclose victim’s rights to fair treatment under the law and to meaningfully participate in the criminal justice system.”

The conviction of Chad Isaak stands as issued by the district court.