South St. Paul’s Thomas Luby, 60, was convicted last year in the brutal stabbing death of 45-year-old Kelly Ann Anderson.
The criminal complaint against him stated that Luby called police in August 2015, reporting a dead woman at his residence “because I killed her.” He told the dispatcher that he was calling from an alley near his house, knife in hand. He claimed self-defense.
Officers arrived and found Anderson’s bloodied body lying on the living room floor, with wounds to her body and neck, and a large kitchen knife in her right hand.
Luby said he and Anderson had been drinking. Anderson became upset when he began to hide the bottle from her. He told police that Anderson stabbed him in the neck, so he responded by disarming her and cutting her on the stomach. He said Anderson passed out, but took up the knife again as she came to. Luby claimed he then disarmed Anderson a second time and stabbed her in the mouth, killing her.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner found evidence of a more complicated attack than Luby had described. Anderson had suffered two deep cuts to her jawline, a stabbing to her chin and mouth, a jugular-lacerating neck wound, as well as an upward stab wound to the base of her neck that cut her carotid artery. She also had two deep cuts to her right hand, which were consistent with defensive wounds, in addition to a swollen eye and lip.
Luby showed only two small cuts underneath his chin, according to the criminal complaint.
During the jury trial, Luby didn’t dispute that he caused Anderson’s death, noting he’d been on a drinking binge, and was drunk at the time he killed her.
In April 2016 the jury found Luby guilty of first- and second-degree murder – meaning they believed the killing was both premeditated and intentional. Luby was later sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Luby appealed, and the case was presented to the Minnesota Supreme Court in June. He argued that his incompetent defense attorney doomed his case with a single careless sentence during closing arguments.
The judge had instructed the jury that premeditation means “some amount of time must pass between the formation of the intent and the carrying out of the act.” A rash, impulsive murder is therefore not premediated.
Luby’s attorney attempted to make the case that Luby was too drunk to form the intent to kill, and so told the jury during closing arguments, “First degree murder requires premeditation and the intent to kill. … We’re not really disputing the premeditation part. I would submit to you that intent element is the one that’s in question here.”
Dakota County prosecutors jumped at that, telling the jury several times that the defense had conceded the element of premeditation. Although Luby’s attorney objected, he failed to state a basis for the objection, and the state was able to successfully argue that since the defense admitted that the killing was premeditated, that had to mean that Luby had first formed the intent to kill.
The Minnesota Supreme Court produced an opinion Wednesday agreeing with Luby that his defense attorney had made the unprofessional error of essentially conceding guilt without his client's consent. Luby’s convictions are therefore reversed, and he will be heading back to Dakota County District Court for a fresh trial on both charges of first and second degree murder.