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Roehler seeks post-conviction relief for trial issues

By Sarah Smith

A hearing this week in the case of a Park Rapids man serving 57 months in the 2011 traffic death of a Backus woman looked at whether Dean Roehler was wrongfully convicted by lack of adequate counsel and a search warrant to draw his blood.

Post-conviction relief is regularly sought in serious felony cases, somewhat of a last-ditch attempt to overturn or modify a jury verdict.

A Hubbard County jury convicted Roehler, 24, of all 11 counts he faced in the criminal vehicular operation trial in 2012.

It remains an educated guess as to what Dean Roehler’s alcohol concentration was at the time his vehicle crossed the centerline of Highway 34 east of Park Rapids and struck a minivan driven by Patricia Borman head-on.

Hubbard County Attorney Don Dearstyne has had no doubts. He said Roehler was legally drunk when his car struck the Borman vehicle, killing Patricia and injuring her daughter-in-law and grandson.

Roehler, 24, was returning from the Moondance Jam festival.

Using a mathematical formula of extrapolation, Dearstyne said authorities concluded Roehler was well above the .08 percent limit to operate a vehicle, maybe as close as twice the limit.

A Legal Aid attorney launched the appeal on Roehler’s behalf and Hubbard County District Court Judge Paul Rasmussen has taken the matter under advisement.

Richard Schmitz argued there was ample time to obtain a warrant to draw the blood. The warrantless search violated Roehler’s constitutional rights, Schmitz asserted.

Following the crash, Roehler was in no condition to give verbal consent. He was badly injured.

Roehler’s initial defense attorney, Joe Majors, testified that he provided a standard defense based on what he and his client agreed to. He was privately retained.

Dearstyne said in the chaos of the crash and transporting Roehler from St. Joseph’s Area Health Services in Park Rapids to a Fargo hospital, there simply wasn’t time to get a warrant for his blood. Roehler had to be extricated from his badly demolished car.

“They were too busy trying to save his life” to stop for a search warrant, Dearstyne said in court.

If Roehler is on good behavior in jail, he will serve 45 months of the sentence in a state facility.

Roehler looked fit and healthy in court. His parents attended the hearing, as they have attended all his court appearances.

“You don’t know how sorry I was for what happened. I wish it would have been me instead,” Roehler said the day of his sentencing.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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