No second change of venue for Howie Kramer

Murder trial starts Monday

by Jerome Christenson & Jean Stockwell

The defense team's bid to move the murder trial for Harold "Howie" Kramer Jr. out of Fillmore County was turned down Thursday, Jan 27, by Judge Robert Benson.

Jury selection for the trial is scheduled to begin in Preston Monday morning, Jan. 31

Kramer's trial was initially moved from Houston County to Fillmore County in an effort to assure a fair trial. Defense attorney Candace Rasmussen asked for a second change of venue Monday, Jan. 24, saying that 87 percent of the prospective jurors called to hear evidence against Kramer have heard about the case. She asked Judge Benson to move the first degree murder trial "to a county where the television, radio, and newspapers don't primarily report on southeastern Minnesota."

Kramer, 26, faces charges of first degree murder, intentional second degree murder, felony second degree murder without intent, second degree manslaughter, and child endangerment in the death of his son, Kenny, in May 1999. Kramer has entered pleas of "not guilty" to all charges.

In her second motion Rasmussen pointed out that of 54 of the residents who responded to the jury questionnaire 16 30 percent, said they had formed the opinion that Kramer is guilty.

"My mind is already made up," Rasmussen quoted one prospective juror, "He's guilty. I have no time for child killers. Everyone agrees, he deserves what he gets. I feel he's guilty."

A number of the prospective jurors "expressed active hostility" toward Kramer, Rasmussen contended. "For example, one juror states, 'He should be shot, hung, dismembered and put on public display. He confessed and recanted, he is a sick son of a bitch.'"

"Nearly all the jurors who have heard or read about the case have some information about the alleged facts. The answers to their questions indicates that the information they have reflects the prosecution's version of what happened." Rasmussen said one prospective juror said Kramer "took his child to the woods, put him in a plastic bag, and let him die."

"As one juror pointed out, moving the trial to 40 miles from the alleged incident is not far enough."

Minnesota assistant attorney general William Klumpp is prosecuting the case against Kramer. He has said "The issue is not whether or not they've heard of the case or formed an opinion. The question is whether or not they can set that opinion aside and decide the case according to the evidence presented at trial."

According to the charges filed against him, early Monday, May 10, 1999, Howie Kramer reported his son missing from the rural Brownsville trailer the two shared with Howie's father and mother. Howie told police that the boy had been taken and was being held by unidentified persons, and clung to that story while police and volunteers searched day in and day out for the three-year-old boy. Finally, eight days after the search began, an FBI cadaver dog located Kenny's body stuffed in a garbage bag, mouth duct-taped shut, in a wooded area only 150 yards from his home.

Later that night, May 18, 1999, police captured Howie Kramer's confession on video tape as he admitted to taking the boy from his bed, and leaving him in the woods as part of a scheme to rekindle a failed romance and coerce his ex-girlfriend into marriage.

On June 28, 1999, a Houston County grand jury returned a first degree murder indictment against Harold "Howie" Kramer, Jr. On November 23, 1999, Kramer entered his plea to the charges against him.

Kramer's plea came after Benson ruled that the confession Kramer made to police investigators on May 18 would be admissible as evidence at trial. Kramer's attorneys, Rasmussen and Eric Olson, fought throughout a four-day omnibus hearing to suppress Kramer's confession and other statements on the grounds that the statements were extracted in violation of Kramer's constitutional rights.

Kramer remains incarcerated as he awaits trial.