A Hennepin County Judge on Friday delayed the murder trial of a man accused of killing Minneapolis North High football star Deshaun Hill Jr. after the defendant's attorneys raised concerns about his mental state.
Judge Julie Allyn excused jurors until Monday morning in the second-degree murder trial of Cody Fohrenkam in the Feb 9, 2022, shooting of Hill, 15. It stemmed from a chance encounter that quickly turned violent, stunning the North Side community.
Jury selection took place throughout the week, and opening statements were scheduled to begin Friday morning. After a two-hour delay, Fohrenkam's attorney Lisa Skrzeczkoski said that Fohrenkam has anxiety and was unable to call his family from jail this week as he went into solitary confinement after court each day. No family contact has "amped up that anxiety and agitation," she said.
Skrzeczkoski said that Fohrenkam would be able to talk to family over the weekend and the issues would be resolved.
"We don't take this request lightly," she said, adding that if they were to proceed Friday she could be in a position of requesting to evaluate whether her client was competent to stand trial given his current mental state.
"He was much more amped up and agitated," she said, adding that testimony "could increase that agitation."
Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Dan Allard said that if the delay was granted, they're concerned that Fohrenkam could attempt the same argument next week. Allard said that the family, supporters and witnesses were all there ready to move forward Friday with trial.
Allyn said while it can be upsetting, she would allow for a recess because of concerns of a mistrial and potential grounds for an appeal if they proceeded Friday. "There is not as much lost recessing for today that could be lost if we did not recess today," she said.
It was another delay in the trial initially scheduled for last November, frustrating Hill's parents as the one-year anniversary of Hill's death approaches.
"I'm mentally messed up," Hill's mother, Tuesday Sheppard, said outside the courtroom. "I prepared myself for today to come here to be the voice for my son and here we go again, it's pushed back till Monday."
While waiting inside the courtroom as attorneys held multiple chambers conferences with Allyn, Hill's father, Deshaun Hill Sr., also expressed frustration over the delay. "It's too much … too much waiting. … He didn't wait to kill Shaun," he said, before leaving the courtroom briefly.
Allard and the family's attorney William Walker said there are no discussions of a plea deal at this time. Walker said Hill's parents want the maximum 30-year penalty for Fohrenkam.
According to charges:
Hill and Fohrenkam passed each other while walking near N. Penn Avenue and Golden Valley Road "close enough to possibly brush shoulders," according to the criminal complaint. There's no motive for the shooting suggested in court documents except that Fohrenkam told police he was searching for a cellphone thief after he at first denied being in the state that day. He changed his story to say he was in south Minneapolis but police told him video surveillance placed him in the area at the time of the shooting.
Fohrenkam, who has an extensive violent criminal history, allegedly turned and shot Hill multiple times. Hill died the next day at North Memorial Health Hospital and Fohrenkam was arrested two weeks later, on the same day as Hill's funeral. Fohrenkam, who is from Cloquet, was in custody at Carlton County jail for trespassing and drug possession charges.
Last week, the Hills were paid a $500,000 settlement from Minneapolis Public Schools following a lawsuit from the family contending Hill was shot following a student walkout that day. Hill was walking toward a bus stop around noon while a group of students and their principal left school to protest the Minneapolis police killing of Amir Locke.