UPDATE: Witness who refuses to testify in Minot murder trial held in contempt of court
MINOT, N.D. (KMOT) – UPDATE (3/10 at 11:00 a.m.): The court officially held Michael Dennis II, who refused to testify Thursday against Donald Cooper, Jr., in contempt of court, according to Assistant State’s Attorney Tiffany Sorgen.
Dennis is serving 20 years after pleading guilty to his role in the Jan. 2020 death of Dominick Stephens.
Sorgen said Dennis will remain in custody in the Ward County Jail until he agrees to testify or the judge rules he is no longer in contempt, though it will not prevent the trial from moving forward.
Minot Police Det. Carmen Asham testified Friday morning to the damage to the vehicle Stephens was in at the time he was shot.
UPDATE (3/9 at 10 p.m.): Testimony continued Thursday in the trial of a man charged with accomplice to murder in Minot.
But not much was heard from one of the witnesses called to the stand.
Joe Skurzewski reports on the turn that the case took today in the Ward County Courthouse.
The state’s case against Donald Cooper, Jr. featured testimony Thursday from several people connected the events of Jan. 12, 2020, including Marcus Lee, a co-defendant in the case who had already pleaded out.
But, the trial took a twist when another co-defendant already serving time for his role in Dominick Stephens’ death was called to the stand.
Michael Dennis II is serving 20 years for his role in the case but would not testify.
When Judge Gary Lee offered to let Dennis invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, he still refused.
“I’m not no witness from nowhere. I told the state’s attorney what I was going to do if she brought me here. If she brought me here, that’s on her,” said Dennis.
One person we did hear from? Former state medical examiner Dr. William Massello, who testified to the autopsy of Dominick Stephens’ body, and the gunshot wounds Stephens suffered in his back, one of which proved to be fatal.
“Then there’s a big artery. And that’s called the aorta. It went through the aorta. and this will resort in very rapid, fatal bleeding,” said Massello.
The case could go to the jury as early as Friday; otherwise, the courts will pick it up again Monday.
As of 3:30 Thursday afternoon, the courts had yet to decide how to handle Dennis’ subpoena to testify.
Your News Leader is working to learn more.
Cooper faces the chance of life in prison if he’s convicted on the AA felony accomplice to murder charge.
ORIGINAL STORY: The trial for a man charged as an accomplice to murder in Minot took an unexpected turn Thursday, after one of the witnesses refused to take the stand.
The state called 27-year-old Michael Dennis II to testify as a witness against 30-year-old Donald Cooper, Jr.
Cooper faces a series of charges, including being an accomplice to murder, in the January 2020 shooting death of 29-year-old Dominick Stephens in northwest Minot.
Dennis is currently serving 20 years for his role in Stephens’ death after striking a plea deal for his cooperation with the investigation, but prosecutors said his deal did not include testifying against Cooper.
Judge Gary Lee offered to let Dennis invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, but he still refused.
“I’m not no witness from nowhere. I told the state’s attorney what I was going to do if she brought me here. If she brought me here, that’s on her,” Dennis told Lee. As of 3:30 p.m. Thursday, the court had still not decided what to do with his subpoena.
Testimony continues Friday morning, weather permitting. The case may be delayed to the afternoon, or to Monday, depending on how weather impacts the court system.
Copyright 2023 KFYR. All rights reserved.