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Supreme Court denies appeal of Shaw murder conviction

Delvin Lamont Shaw waits to give his closing arguments in Grand Forks on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017. Joshua Komer / Forum News Service

GRAND FORKS—A man convicted twice of murdering another in a Grand Forks apartment in 2014 was denied a third trial by North Dakota's highest court Wednesday, Jan. 24.

The state Supreme Court said the Grand Forks District Court was right to allow evidence of other crimes and to play recorded testimony from a witness who refused to appear in the February trial of Delvin Lamont Shaw, 33.

After a jury found Shaw guilty of murder, a Class AA felony, and burglary, a Class B felony, then-Grand Forks Judge Jon Jensen sentenced him to life in prison without parole for a second time in two years.

Shaw was convicted in 2015 for the shooting death of Jose "Joe" Luis Lopez, but a new trial was ordered by the Supreme Court in 2016 after the justices found the district court erred in jury instruction when it came to presenting evidence from a burglary Shaw allegedly took part in before the shooting. Charges were never brought in that case, but investigators said the break-in happened in the same apartment building as the shooting.

Shaw represented himself in both trials, but his attorney in the Supreme Court appeal, Benjamin Pulkrabek of Mandan, N.D., argued the state should not have played Dametrian Welch's recorded testimony from the first trial. Welch, who is serving an eight-year prison sentence for his part in the burglary, refused to testify in the second trial.

Shaw also tried to argue the court abused its discretion in allowing evidence from the alleged burglary to be presented in the second trial.

The Supreme Court disagreed with both arguments.

"The (district) court found the evidence of the earlier burglary was relevant because it completed the story of Lopez's murder," Chief Justice Gerald VandeWalle wrote in the Supreme Court opinion. "The evidence explained why Shaw intended to return to the apartment building. We conclude the court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the evidence relating to Shaw's involvement in the earlier burglary."

Jensen has a seat on the Supreme Court after being appointed last year, but he was recused from the appeal since he oversaw Shaw's trials in Grand Forks.

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers crime and education. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family raises registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as a city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

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