Update: No ruling yet on issue of probable cause in Anita Knutson murder case
MINOT, N.D. (KMOT) – UPDATED STORY (11/17/2023 at 8:07 p.m.): The person charged in the 2007 killing of Anita Knutson is scheduled to stand trial in July.
Her defense attorney argues the case shouldn’t even go to trial.
The courts held a hearing Friday in the case of Nichole Rice, who was Knutson’s roommate at the time of her death.
Rice’s attorney said a Minot Police investigator who testified for more than an hour last September at Rice’s preliminary hearing, contradicted results of a DNA test of samples from the murder weapon.
The issue at hand is whether Rice’s DNA can be excluded.
Philip Becher, attorney for Nichole Rice: “From your position as an expert in the field of DNA analysis, can the court rely on Ms. Talbott’s statements that she made in the hearing that you previously stated?”
Monte Miller, forensic expert: “No, the court should reject that statement and consider the opposite to be true.”
There are three DNA tests in play, one from 2016, one from this year, and one from a third party known as Intermountain Forensics.
State prosecutors contend there are differences in the results from 2016 to 2023 due to improvements in technology.
Tiffany Sorgen, Dep. State’s Attorney: “There is a logical explanation as to why something went from being excluded in 2016, to being inconclusive in 2023?”
Amy Gebhardt, forensic scientist: “That’s correct.”
Sorgen: “And that is because of the advances in technology and the changes in the standards as well?”
Prosecutors also say they have other evidence outside of DNA testing that creates probable cause to move the case forward to trial, including statements Rice made as well as contradictions in the timeline around Knutson’s death.
The judge gave the defense 10 days to submit a written brief and 10 for the state to respond after that, before making any ruling.
ORIGINAL STORY (11/17/2023 at 11:45 a.m.): The state and defense will have the chance to file written briefs following testimony Friday in the case of the person charged in the 2007 killing of Anita Knutson.
The courts held a hearing Friday after Philip Becher, the attorney for Nichole Rice, filed a motion to dismiss the murder charge against his client.
In recent court filings, Becher claimed testimony from a Minot Police investigator at Rice’s preliminary hearing last September contradicted DNA results from the weapon investigators believe was used to kill Knutson.
On Friday, the state and defense each called a forensic witness to testify to the DNA tests of samples from the knife.
After hearing testimony, Judge Richard Hagar ruled that Becher will have 10 days to file a brief on why the charge should be dismissed, and Dep. State’s Attorney Tiffany Sorgen will have 10 days to file a response after that.
Rice, who was Knutson’s roommate at the time of her death, was arrested in March 2022.
A trial is set for July 2024.
Related Content: Continuing Coverage of Anita Knutson Cold Case
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