Defense says DNA reports show there is no probable cause to charge Nichole Rice with murder

Published: Sep. 27, 2023 at 11:02 PM CDT
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MINOT, N.D. (KFYR) - The woman charged in the 2007 killing of Minot college student Anita Knutson was back in court on Wednesday. 36-year-old Nichole Rice had a pre-trial conference and the defense submitted documents to dismiss the case.

In a nine-page document, the defense outlines its argument that there’s no probable cause.

They say a 2016 DNA report indicates Rice was excluded from the DNA analysis done on the murder weapon.

However, during a 2022 preliminary hearing, a former Minot police officer testified that a new 2023 DNA report showed that Rice was the only person of interest whose DNA could not be excluded from the profiles on the weapon.

The defense says the 2016 and 2023 reports are identical. They say these reports show there is a lack of probable cause for Rice to be charged with murder.

The state asked for 45 days to respond to the dismissal motion.

“This is a very large filing. The state has stipulated to continuances requested by the defense on least six occasions on this matter,” said Ward County Deputy State’s Attorney Tiffany Sorgen.

The trial is tentatively scheduled for March or April 2024. The defense asked that the trial avoid planting season so Rice’s family could attend.

“I talked with Ms. Rice’s family, her family does farm, and the family would like to be available for the trial. There is some concern they have expressed regarding planting season or harvest season. We understand the court obviously has the highest priority, but if there is some way to accommodate that,” said Defense Attorney Philip Becher.

The trial is expected to take three weeks, with jury selection being a third of that.

The state plans to call 20 witnesses, and the defense could call anywhere from five to 10 people.

A date has not been set for a hearing regarding the dismissal motion.

Related Content: Continuing Coverage of Anita Knutson Cold Case