PIERRE - The South Dakota Supreme Court has upheld the murder conviction of a Pierre man who argued his wife was stabbed to death by the couple's daughter.
The high court unanimously rejected Brad Reay's request for a new trial in the 2006 murder of his wife, Tami.
Reay had argued his trial was unfair because the circuit judge rejected the defense's request for a jury instruction related to Reay's contention that his only crime was to try to cover up for his 12-year-old daughter.
But the Supreme Court said the proposed jury instruction was not relevant to the question of whether Reay killed his wife.
A jury convicted Reay of first-degree murder in the stabbing death of his 41-year-old wife. He is serving a life sentence without possibility of parole.
In early February 2006, Tami Reay told her husband she wanted a divorce, according to court records. Prosecutors said Reay stabbed his wife to death in their home in a jealous rage because she was having an affair with another man, wrapped her body in blankets and a tarp, and then dumped her nude body in an isolated spot near Lake Oahe. She was stabbed more than 30 times.
Prosecutors also said Reay had his twin brother mail authorities a letter that sought to point suspicion toward the dead woman's lover.
During the trial, Reay said he found his daughter holding a knife as she stood by her mother's body. He said she seemed catatonic and did not seem to know what she had done. He said he cleaned up his daughter, cleaned the scene and dumped the body in an attempt to cover for his daughter.
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The defense attorney asked Circuit Judge Kathleen Trandahl to give the jury an instruction explaining that under state law, a person who commits an act without being conscious of it has not committed a crime.
Trandahl refused to include the statement in the jury instructions, ruling that it was not relevant to whether Reay was guilty, would have led to speculation and conjecture, and was inappropriate because the daughter was not on trial.
Reay's attorney argued that the jury might be thinking he was trying to get his daughter in trouble to save himself. The lawyer said if the jury knew the girl could not be convicted, that would have reduced the negative impact of Reay's claim that she committed the murder.
The Supreme Court said the requested jury instruction was not relevant to the jury's decision on whether Reay killed his wife.
"His proposed instruction related not to his defense, but to a defense his daughter might have had if she were charged," Justice John K. Konenkamp wrote for the high court.
Reay also argued some physical evidence should be excluded from the trial because the state failed to establish a sufficient chain of custody to show it had not be tampered with or altered.
The Supreme Court justices said they are puzzled why the state failed to offer testimony from the evidence custodian at the State Crime Lab, but they said the trial judge ruled a sufficient chain of evidence had been established to admit the evidence. Reay never argued any of the evidence had actually been altered, and some of that evidence supported his defense, the high court said.
The high court also rejected Reay's arguments about other errors made in his trial.