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Judge reverses Minneapolis man's conviction in Deshaun Hill killing

A judge overturned a murder conviction in the death of Deshaun Hill. Now what?
A judge overturned a murder conviction in the death of Deshaun Hill. Now what? 02:10

MINNEAPOLIS — The conviction of the man accused of killing 15-year-old Minneapolis North High School student-athlete Deshaun Hill has been overturned.

It took a jury less than an hour to convict 31-year-old Cody Fohrenkam of second-degree murder last year. He was sentenced to 38.5 years in prison for the deadly shooting on Feb. 9, 2022.

Minnesota Court of Appeals Judge Renee Worke announced the reversal on Tuesday morning and called for a new trial. Her ruling says incriminating statements were illegally collected during a jailhouse interview with the defendant.

Cody Fohrenkam WCCO

Two days after Hill's death, two witnesses told investigators that Fohrenkam was a suspect. That same day, Carlton County officials had Fohrenkam in custody on an unrelated matter and were about to release him.

In his appeal, Fohrenkam says statements he made to investigators in the Carlton County Jail should not have been presented during his trial because they were made after a court ordered his release.

In her ruling, Worke said the state failed to meet its burden to show that his statements were lawfully obtained. It also placed blame on the judge. 

The Hennepin County Attorney's Office criticized the decision in this statement:

The senseless act of gun violence that took the life of Deshaun Hill devastated those who knew and loved him and everyone in the North High School community and beyond. We are deeply disappointed in this decision and are reviewing our options to ensure justice and accountability in this case.

Joe Tamburino, a criminal defense attorney who's not connected to this case, says this is a horrible loss for the Hennepin County Attorney's Office.

"This should not have happened. In terms of the prosecution, what the Court of Appeals said specifically on page seven is that the prosecutors simply did not present enough evidence to show that the defendant's statements were legally obtained," Tamburino said.

Attorney William Walker, who represents Hill's family, says they will meet on Friday with Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty to decide if they want to challenge this decision by taking it to the Minnesota Supreme Court, or to pursue another trial.

Hill was killed while walking to a bus stop on Golden Valley Road near Penn Avenue North, just blocks from North High. Students had been released early from school that day and were encouraged to attend a protest in connection to the fatal police shooting of Amir Locke.

Surveillance video showed Hill and Fohrenkam walking past each other. Fohrenkam then stops and turns toward Hill before three gunshots are heard. Witnesses told police they saw him running from the area after shots rang out.

Fohrenkam told investigators he was in the neighborhood searching for someone who stole his phone.

Deshaun Hill Hill Family

His trial was delayed until January 2023 after his lawyers successfully motioned to postpone it, citing Fohrenkam's mental health issues.

During the trial, Hill's family sued Minneapolis Public Schools for releasing students that day without first notifying parents. The district agreed to a $500,000 settlement.

Hill's family went on to create the Deshaun Hill Jr. Foundation to support North High student-athletes.

Hill was captain of the Polars' varsity football team and its star quarterback. He was also an "A" honor roll student.

His death occurred during the filming of the Showtime docu-series "Boys in the Blue," which focused on the relationships between the Polars football players and their coaches, many of whom are Minneapolis police officers.

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