The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

October 14, 2012

Joel Munt appeals conviction, claims bias

MANKATO — When Joel Munt went to trial for murdering his ex-wife in front of their young children, he made the rare move of taking the stand to testify on his own behalf.

The trial ended with guilty verdicts that sent him to prison without the possibility of parole for first-degree murder. Now that the case is moving toward its automatic review by the Minnesota Supreme Court, Munt has made another unusual move of filing his own 90-page brief explaining why he believes he was wrongly convicted by a Blue Earth County jury.

An appeals court attorney, appointed by the state, has also filed a brief. It said Munt should receive a new trial because District Court Judge Kurt Johnson didn’t allow one of Munt’s children to testify, allowed a biased juror to hear the case, was not an impartial judge and didn’t allow Munt to testify about child seats found in his vehicle.

Munt, 36, was arrested March 28, 2010, after he shot his ex-wife, 32-year-old Svetlana Munt, several times in Rasmussen Woods. He had used his SUV to ram Svetlana’s car, which had their three children inside, and pin it against a tree. Munt then took the children out of the car, robbed another vehicle at gunpoint and attempted to flee. A Blue Earth County deputy stopped Munt and arrested him just south of Mankato.

Munt said he didn’t plan the murder. He said he lost control after seeing Svetlana with the children, before his scheduled visit, because she had been abusing them. Munt wanted his oldest child to testify about the abuse at his trial, but Johnson had ruled during an earlier hearing that the girl wasn’t competent. She had refused to even enter the courthouse for the hearing, telling a social worker she was afraid of the judge and all men.

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