Defendants who took the stand in Hennepin County District Court faced long odds when Dan Byrne was prosecuting their case. Byrne, who served as a county prosecutor for 27 years, rarely lost a case and was determined that justice be served, those who knew him said.
"Citizens of Hennepin County were lucky to have him as a prosecutor," said Joe Daly, who attended law school with Byrne and now teaches at the Hamline University Law School in St. Paul. "He knew when to prosecute, when to plea bargain and when not to prosecute."
Byrne died Sunday after a 22-year battle with chronic leukemia. He was 82.
Byrne's arrival in the Hennepin County Attorney's Office came after he spent 20 years in journalism. He majored in English at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., where he was a Shakespearean scholar, and was a stickler for using correct grammar, said his wife of 52 years, Jo-Anne of St. Paul.
Byrne worked as a reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison, Wis. He was a reporter and salesman for United Press and worked in Madison, Milwaukee, Des Moines, Iowa and Minneapolis. While in the Twin Cities, Byrne worked as a copy editor for the Minneapolis Star and the St. Paul Dispatch by day and took classes at William Mitchell College of Law at night. He graduated in 1969 and started as a Hennepin County prosecutor the following year. Byrne handled high-profile cases, including the 1993 murder of Katie Krautkremer, whose father-in-law was former Brooklyn Park Mayor James Krautkremer, and rarely lost.
"He was a very skilled trial lawyer with a profound appreciation for justice," said Judy Johnston, senior Hennepin County assistant attorney.
Byrne was known for mentoring up-and-coming attorneys, said Lee Barry, another senior Hennepin County assistant attorney.
Byrne had advice for his family, too, and the "best by far was don't forget to have fun," said Byrne's son, Kevin of Florham Park, N.J.
Byrne lived those words. He enjoyed sailing on White Bear Lake. Along with his late brother, Barry, he participated in the 1978 South China Sea race from Hong Kong to the Philippines. Byrne also was a guitarist in the Better Than Nothing Dirt Band, which played at the Little Wagon in Minneapolis.
Byrne, who was born in Omaha, served two years in the Army and was in France during the closing days of World War II.
In addition to his wife, Jo-Anne, and son Kevin, he is survived by another son, Corcoran of New York City; two daughters Regan Byrne Palmer of Minneapolis and Nora Byrne of North Oaks; sister Natalie Carey of Anchorage, Alaska, and five grandchildren.
Services will be held at 10:30 a.m. today at Nativity of Our Lord Catholic Church, 1900 Wellesley Av., St. Paul.