State’s attorney says murder defendant Bradley Morales’s civil rights were not violated

The Ward County State’s Attorney has refuted that murder defendant Bradley Morales was denied his constitutional rights before and during his trial.

Morales is currently serving a 40-year sentence for the stabbing death of his ex-girlfriend in August 2017. He is appealing his case to the Supreme Court.

His defense lawyer, Kiara Kraus-Parr, had argued that Judge Doug Mattson created a structural error during the trial when he closed the courtroom to the public on several different occasions before and during the trial, without first considering other alternatives as required.

In her reply, State’s Attorney Roza Larson writes that Mattson did formally consider all of the required factors before he decided he had no alternative to closing the courtroom for a hearing on April 16.

Mattson was concerned by reporting about the Morales case in the Minot Daily News and thought it might jeopardize Morales’ right to a fair trial.

Larson wrote that Mattson had issued a gag order prior to the hearing and there were unique circumstances due to “over reporting” in the press that required Mattson to close the courtroom.

The Minot Daily News had published an article prior to the April 16 hearing that detailed Morales’s extensive history of domestic violence convictions against his victim as well as cases that were still pending at the time of the woman’s death.

Mattson also briefly closed the courtroom at several points during the actual trial. While Mattson did not formally consider the required alternatives prior to closing the courtroom on all of those occasions, Larson argues that it was “trivial” and did not violate Morales’s right to a fair trial.

The defense had also appealed on the basis that the state dismissed an attempted murder charge against Morales and refiled a murder charge, which resulted in a different judge being assigned. Larson responded that the decision to file a new charge was proper after the victim had died of her injuries. Larson also noted that the state did not demand a change of judge in the case.

Mattson also denied Morales the right to represent himself because of his unruly behavior and because he made the request after the trial had already started, Larson wrote. Kraus-Parr is arguing that Morales’s right to a fair trial was violated because he was denied the right to represent himself.

The State Supreme Court will hear the oral arguments in the case in Bismarck on March 19.