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Appeals Court finds probable cause for Ponsford man's 12th DWI arrest

William Lawrence Butcher

A Ponsford man appealing his 12th DWI conviction in Hubbard County has lost his case.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled Monday that there was sufficient evidence to sustain the conviction of William Lawrence Butcher, 49, of drunken driving and Driving After Revocation in July 2010.

Further, the court rules there was no "prosecutorial misconduct" during the trial that prejudiced the outcome of the case.

Because he failed to lodge an objection to County Attorney Don Dearstyne's statements at trial, Butcher has no grounds to appeal, the court states in the unpublished opinion.

Butcher's public defender said in briefs that Dearstyne had misstated the reasonable doubt standard to acquit Butcher. The court found "it is not necessary to use any particular form of words to define reasonable doubt as long as, taken as a whole, the concept of reasonable doubt is correctly conveyed to the jury."

The court also found there was sufficient evidence to find Butcher in actual physical control of the vehicle, even though the defendant said there was no proof he was driving it at the time of his arerest.

According to court documents, Park Rapids police officer Justin Frette was on routine patrol New Year's Eve in 2009 when he saw a vehicle parked in a commercial area with its lights on.

Frette had a conversation with the person behind the wheel, which was Butcher. A female passenger was also present. Butcher claimed she was actually driving.

The appeals court found circumstantial evidence was sufficient to support the jury's guilty verdict.

"The undisputed direct evidence shows that Butcher was in physical control of the vehicle as he sat behind the wheel of the vehicle with the key in the ignition," the court ruling said.

Butcher's breath test initially showed his alcohol level was .175 percent. Later at the Law Enforcement Center the Intoxilyzer measured it at .16 percent.

Sarah Smith

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

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