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Minn. firefighter pardoned in 2004 fatal shooting

St. Paul Firefighter Tim Morin had pled guilty to shooting a teen in an alleged drug deal


Tim Morin looked upwards as Don Ferber, father of victim Shawn Ferber, vouched for Morin when the Board of Pardons weighed clemency at the Senate Office Building in St. Paul on Wednesday.

Richard Tsong-Taatarii/TNS

By Rochelle Olson
Star Tribune

ST. PAUL, Minn. — St. Paul firefighter Tim Morin barely made it through his first statement to the Board of Pardons on Wednesday before his voice cracked and he had to take a beat. For the second time in five years, he asked for clemency for the fatal shooting of a teenager 20 years ago.

“I am a husband,” he said, choking up before adding that he is also a father, an emergency medical technician and, for the past year, a St. Paul city firefighter. He went on to list his extensive volunteer work and how he had surmounted the barriers of his conviction to become a firefighter.

He spoke to three of the most powerful elected officials in the state, who would determine whether he had done enough in the past two decades to merit closing the door on his past.

Gov. Tim Walz, Attorney General Keith Ellison and Chief Justice Natalie Hudson would decide whether to grant a pardon that would allow Morin to do things he said he wanted to do, including chaperoning his sons on school trips, teaching Sunday school, coaching youth sports and leading a Cub Scout pack.

Sitting beside Morin and vouching for his character were Jeanne Harstad, the mother of a high school friend, and St. Paul Fire Chief Butch Inks.

“I urge you to look beyond the past,” Inks said. “Tim has faced the consequences of his actions with contriteness and humility.”

The chief spoke of Morin’s many efforts at redemption, including the construction of a playground for children at a domestic violence shelter. Morin also stepped in and guided the struggling son of his former prison cellmate. The son, now a young man who is a specialist in the U.S. Army, watched from the audience.

“I believe in Tim and I believe in second chances,” the chief said. “He will forever pay it forward.”

Morin was sentenced in Dakota County District Court in 2006 to two years in prison after he pleaded guilty to shooting 17-year-old Shawn Ferber. Morin claimed it was self-defense as Ferber was one of more than a dozen Apple Valley and Eagan teenagers who allegedly used a drug deal as a ruse to lure Morin and a friend to a park in 2004.

In exchange for his plea to conspiring to commit aggravated robbery, a murder charge was dropped against Morin, who was 20 when he was sentenced. More than a dozen youths pleaded guilty to rioting and assault charges in the incident.

Walz and Ellison had seen Morin before. Five years ago the same board denied his request for a pardon when then-Chief Justice Lorie Gildea voted against it. Back then, the board vote had to be unanimous to grant a pardon. Not anymore.

Now, petitioners only need the governor’s vote and one of the other two board members. This time, the vote to grant clemency was unanimous.

Before the vote, Walz told Morin that he has a 17-year-old son and asked Morin what he would say to a teenager to help him avoid a similar mistake. Morin said he knows teenagers don’t think it will happen to them and that it isn’t about one bad night, it’s about a series of poor choices leading up to it.

Also supporting Morin’s pardon were Dan and Susan Ferber, the parents of Shawn Ferber. Dan Ferber told the board that he’d been in touch with Morin off and on over the years. Afterward, the two parents hugged Morin.

Dan Ferber said they supported Morin in honor of their son. “Shawn was a really loving, forgiving guy,” he said.

The governor said to the Ferbers, “Your coming here speaks volumes about what redemption and forgiveness can look like.”

Ellison told Morin it was good to see him again. “One of the things I’m looking for all the time is: Have you learned anything? And it’s clear you have,” Ellison said.

The board meets twice a year. Morin’s pardon was one of about 20 considered Wednesday with more scheduled for Thursday. In December, the board will operate under new procedures adopted by the Legislature in 2023.

Rather than going straight to the board, applications will initially be reviewed and heard by a nine-member Clemency Review Commission which will recommend whether to grant or reject the pardons. There also will no longer be a five-year waiting period to apply and, in addition to setting aside the convictions, a pardon will result in automatic expungement of the arrest and court records.

The tone of the board meetings has changed significantly since pardons are no longer required to be unanimous and since Gildea’s departure.

Walz started the day’s session by saying, “The idea of restoration and a fresh start are real and it starts here.”

The board was in a forgiving mood with the exception of three men, including one convicted of malicious punishment to a child in 2010. Panel members said they needed more assurances from him that it wouldn’t happen again. Walz, reading from the criminal file, noted that the man had burned the child with an iron and the child ran and hid in an oven.

Hudson told William Hurley that the incident was “more than disturbing. It’s cruel. It’s vicious.” She asked, “Are you remorseful for the event? I don’t hear remorse. I don’t sense that coming from you.”

Hurley said he is remorseful and wished it never happened. “I don’t walk around thinking about hitting children, that’s not me,” he said.

All three board members voted against his pardon. “You’re still a young man,” Walz said after the vote. “I encourage you to continue on the path.”

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