Oral arguments held, Chad Isaak’s death complicates appeal

Oral arguments for Isaak appeal
Oral arguments for Isaak appeal(KFYR)
Published: Nov. 17, 2022 at 8:42 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) -North Dakota Supreme Court Justices are determining what they should do with convicted killer Chad Isaak’s appeal. They heard oral arguments Thursday afternoon.

The Mandan RJR Murders case not only garnered national attention as Chad Isaak made his way through trial last year, but it also is now a case of first impression for North Dakota.

A jury found Chad Issak guilty of four counts of murder. He filed for appeal in January. But two days before the first trial anniversary, he was found dead by hanging. His appeal was not yet adjudicated. North Dakota hasn’t had a situation like this before.

“In light of State v. Bell, that 2000 North Dakota case, would this be appropriate for remand?” asked a Justice.

“I don’t think this is the same thing. I don’t think it is dispositive. Again, there is one jurisdiction that does not allow appeals to continue on suicide. But one out of 50 jurisdictions, I don’t think is persuasive,” said Kiara Kraus-Parr, Chad Isaak’s attorney on appeal.

Karlei Neufeld, attorney for the respondent, pointed out that victims’ rights in North Dakota were so important that citizens amended the state constitution to add Marcy’s Law, which includes a number of rights.

“The right to proceedings that are free from unreasonable delay, as well as the right to a final conclusion to the case,” said Karlei Neufeld, attorney for the respondent.

“Couldn’t there potentially be a victim that wants confirmation from the North Dakota Supreme Court that this conviction is valid?” asked Chief Justice Jon Jensen.

She said yes, but the case still shouldn’t continue because there’s no live issue left to decide. “A criminal judgment can stand without an appeal, and it still can stand without an opinion post appeal. So ultimately dismissing an appeal does not automatically require this court to dismiss the underlying proceedings and the underlying criminal judgment,” argued Neufeld.

She adds that it’s similar to a case where someone escaped before their case was decided. In that instance, she says they waived their right to an appeal.

Isaak’s attorney says the appeal should continue on the merits without Isaak and the judgment wiped away. She says the court has done that in the past for civil cases.

“There’s a dual interest of crime victims, there’s a competing interest of defendant’s families and estates. So, the states that choose to continue the appeal choose to balance those interests,” argued Kraus-Parr.

Justices are also looking at how other states have handled similar situations. 14 states have no case law on the issue.

The Justices are considering the arguments and have not yet made a decision.