Killer of Minneapolis police officer Haaf back in court

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Dec 22, 2002
Nemo sine vitio est

Ten years after Mwati (Pepi) Mckenzie was found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Minneapolis police officer Jerry Haaf, he was back in court.

Hennepin County District Judge Robert Lynn, who presided over the 1993 trial and sentenced Mckenzie to life in prison, was being questioned Wednesday about two notes the jury sent during deliberations.

Mckenzie, 30, who is representing himself this time around, claimed that he should have been in court when the notes were discussed with Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Robert Streitz and his attorney, Michael McGlennen.

The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in October that Mckenzie was entitled to a hearing on whether he received a fair trial. The original court record did not indicate whether Mckenzie and his attorney were aware of either note or how the trial judge responded to them.

Haaf, 53, was shot in the back on Sept. 25, 1992, while sitting in the Pizza Shack restaurant on E. Lake Street in south Minneapolis.

Lynn said his trial log, which he had with him on the witness stand Wednesday, said the first note from the jury requested a clarification on the charge of aiding and abetting first-degree murder.

Attorneys Streitz and McGlennen agreed then that the response should be that the jury had instructions on the issue.

Lynn said his log indicated that the answer to the jury was just that.

The second note from the jury requested police statements from three individuals.

And Lynn, again referring to the log, said both attorneys agreed that proper response was that the jury would not get the statements because they had not been admitted as evidence in the trial.

On Wednesday, Mckenzie started his questioning of Lynn asking, "How are you doing?" Then he asked, "As a judge you're familiar with the rules of court and the defendant's right to be present?"

Mckenzie, referring to specific rules of procedure when asking about the first note, said that right includes when a jury sends a note to the judge.

Lynn said he disagreed and that McKenzie's presence wasn't required because no additional information was provided to the jury as a result of the questions.

"I followed the rules of procedure all the way," Lynn said.

He also testified that evidence, such as the police statements, which weren't admitted at trial, could not be given to the jury.

Mckenzie told Hennepin County District Judge Diana Eagon, who presided at Wednesday's hearing, that he had another witness to call -- McGlennen, his former attorney.

The purpose: To find out what conversations the attorneys had with the judge, Mckenzie said.

No date for that hearing has been set.

Four men, including Mckenzie, all alleged members of the Vice Lords gang, are serving life sentences for Haaf's murder.

A juvenile who cooperated with police and testified at the trials pleaded guilty and was released from custody eight years ago.

Is this a legitmate legal arguement, or just another waste of taxpayer money?
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