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Forsgren Fisher client Stephanie Clark to receive a new trial

Due to a recent order by the Minnesota Supreme Court, Forsgren Fisher client Stephanie Clark’s court of appeals victory will stand, and Clark will now receive a new trial.

Clark is a victim of undisputed intimate partner violence who shot and killed her abuser following an afternoon of beatings and promises by her partner to break Clark’s ribs that evening. Clark was charged with and convicted of second-degree murder. Forsgren Fisher attorneys Caitlinrose Fisher, Matthew Forsgren, and Annika Misurya teamed up with trial counsel Eric Doolittle of the Appelman Law Firm to represent Clark on appeal, challenging the district court’s supplemental jury instructions on the elements of self-defense. In March 2023, the Court of Appeals agreed with Forsgren Fisher’s jury-instruction argument and reversed Clark’s conviction, concluding that the district court’s jury instructions failed to tailor the instructions to the undisputed fact that Clark was a victim of intimate partner violence.

The State petitioned the Minnesota Supreme Court for review, and that court agreed to hear the case. But the State reconsidered its position on the correctness of the jury instructions during the appellate process. Ultimately, the State changed its position so drastically that the Minnesota Supreme Court, in a decision issued earlier this week, noted that “this appeal has lost its adversarial posture.” The Court dismissed its order granting review as improvidently granted, leaving the Court of Appeals’ ruling in favor of Ms. Clark intact and the law of the case.

“This is a significant victory for Stephanie Clark and other victims of intimate partner violence, who far too frequently find themselves either needing to use deadly force or face death themselves,” says Caitlinrose Fisher. “The Court of Appeals’ decision—which now stands as the final law in Ms. Clark’s appeal—made it clear that jury instructions must account for the unpredictable and lethal realities of intimate partner violence.”

Annika Misurya observes that the nationwide support of amici curiae played an important role in this victory. “Ms. Clark was supported by a broad and deeply knowledgeable group of amici curiae and exceptional attorneys, all of whom agreed that the jury instructions in Ms. Clark’s case were prejudicially wrong,” observes Misurya. The amici who provided briefing in support of Ms. Clark included: the Battered Women’s Justice Project, represented by Jones Day; seven gender violence scholars (Dr. Angela Hattery, Ph.D, Dr. Earl Smith, Ph.D, Professor Leigh Goodmark, J.D., Dr. Claire Renzetti, Ph.D., Dr. Susan L. Miller, Ph.D, Dr. Ruth Fleury-Steiner, Ph.D., and Dr. Lisa Young Larance, Ph.D.), represented by Robins Kaplan LLP; Standpoint (f/k/a Battered Women’s Legal Advocacy Project) and Violence Free Minnesota, represented by Fredrikson & Byron, P.A.; and Tubman, represented by Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP. “We believe that the perspectives of this broad group of subject-matter experts may have contributed to the State reconsidering its position in Ms. Clark’s case,” Misurya adds.

Clark’s 24-year sentence is now vacated, and her case will return to the district court, where she will finally receive the new trial that was ordered by the Court of Appeals in March of 2023.

The principal and amicus briefs, and judicial decisions, are all accessible and linked below: