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Emily Welker, Published August 05 2013

Cass judge denies convicted murderer a new trial

FARGO – A Cass County court judge has denied a convicted murderer’s second request for post-conviction relief and a new trial, ruling Friday that potential new evidence discovered after the first trial would not necessarily lead to the man’s acquittal.

In his order denying post-conviction relief, Judge Frank Racek said Reginald Tweed, who was convicted in the murder of 32-year-old Terry Dorff in 1991, did not show that he had received ineffective counsel from his original attorney, Brian Nelson.

Tweed and a friend, David Sumner, who both lived in Moorhead, were charged in Dorff’s murder. They had gone to Dorff’s apartment to drink beer after the three men met at a Fargo adult bookstore.

Tweed told authorities he began to hit Dorff after Dorff made sexual advances. Dorff was left lying on his bed, hog-tied after being hit in the head with a 17-pound rock five times.

Sumner also was charged in the murder, but was acquitted after Tweed refused to testify against him.

Tweed argued at an earlier hearing that Nelson should have interviewed Sumner and two other witnesses, who would have provided evidence that would have created reasonable doubt in a new trial.

In his ruling, Racek wrote that the new testimony “would have to demonstrate Tweed’s actions were clearly insufficient to cause Tweed’s death while Sumner’s actions were clearly sufficient. This record does not achieve this result.”

This was the second time Tweed sued for post-relief conviction, but it was the first time the state Supreme Court affirmed his claim for a new hearing on grounds of ineffective counsel.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Emily Welker at (701) 241-5541