Bowman conspiracy to commit murder case reversed by Supreme Court, headed back to district court for trial

BOWMAN COUNTY, N.D. - The couple convicted of killing a Bowman man in 2016 had their charges reversed by the state Supreme Court.

Madison West and Chase Swanson had their cases reversed and remanded by the state justices. Their defense attorneys appealed their cases this year after both defendants were sentenced to life in prison without parole.

West and Swanson were convicted of killing Nicholas Johnson at Bowman Motel in August of 2016. The jury found them guilty of conspiracy to commit murder by either intentionally or knowingly causing the death of another human being after the eight-day trial happened in early 2018.

Swanson’s attorney, Thomas Murtha, says from the beginning of the proceedings he fought the "knowingly" portion of the charge.

An opinion written by Justice Jon Jensen says conspiracy to knowingly commit murder is a non-cognizable offense because it allows an individual to be convicted of the offense without an intent to cause the death of another human being.

As for West’s case, Justices say West failed to object to the jury instructions and they reviewed it “for obvious error.”

Murtha says they’re back to square one. He says the states attorney’s office will have to decide what they will charge both defendants out with, determine potential release, and if the defendants will have a joint trial again.

The Bowman County Clerk of Courts office representatives say they haven’t received anything new on the case as of 1:30 p.m. Thursday.

The Bowman County States Attorney says the opinions just came out, so he doesn't have a comment at this time.