MANDAN (AP) - No one disputes that Colten Towry punched Derek Oshkeshequoam at a Mandan house party last year. But Towry's lawyer and prosecutors disagree about whether Towry should be held responsible for Oshkeshequoam's death following the fight.
Towry, 23, is standing trial on felony manslaughter charges in Oshkeshequoam's death last October, and he could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
Prosecutor Brian Grosinger and defense attorney Ken Morrow began making their cases Tuesday on the first day of the trial, which was expected to last the rest of the week.
"We know that the defendant hit Mr. Oshkeshequoam, because he told us that he hit Mr. Oshkeshequoam," Grosinger said, The Bismarck Tribune reported. He said what the jury must decide is "what does it mean that he hit Mr. Oshkeshequoam?"
Morrow said the facts of the case are simple, and that "It's the law that's difficult in this case."
Authorities say Oshkeshequoam got into a fight at the party with another man whom police have never located, and that Towry waded into the middle of the fray.
Police Officer Pete Czapiewski told jurors that Towry told him that at some point, Oshkeshequoam hit him in the shoulder, making him angry. Czapiewski said Towry told him he then hit Oshkeshequoam, who stumbled backward to the ground, KXMB-TV reported.
Authorities say Oshkeshequoam hit his head on the pavement when he fell. Czapiewski said Towry claimed to also have seen someone kick Oshkeshequoam in the head, but no one who was at the party corroborated that.
Authorities say people at the party moved Oshkeshequoam to a side yard, then to a mattress in the backyard before moving him to a bed in the basement of the home. The two men who rented the home allegedly left Oshkeshequoam at a hospital emergency room the next day.
Those two men were charged with reckless endangerment for not seeking medical help for Oshkeshequoam during the party. Joseph Houle, 28, pleaded guilty earlier and was sentenced to serve six months in jail. Christopher Vernon, 34, has pleaded not guilty and faces a November trial.