New trial for man in Lyon Co. arson case

MN Supreme Court reverses Hinckley conviction

MARSHALL — The case of a man who was convicted of setting fire to a home in rural Lyon County in 2019 is headed back to court, according to court documents filed this month. The Minnesota Supreme Court reversed the conviction of Tyson Joe Hinckley, saying Hinckley should have been given the opportunity to use a mental-illness defense at his trial.

The case was sent back to Lyon County for a new trial, and a bail hearing for Hinckley has been set for Thursday.

Hinckley, 38, was convicted of first degree arson, second degree burglary and motor vehicle theft in 2022. Hinckley was charged after a fire destroyed a house and attached garage in rural Stanley Township in 2019. Law enforcement found Hinckley at the fire scene. Hinckley told an investigator he had started the fire to get the fire department’s attention, so they could help him escape law enforcement, court documents said.

In an opinion filed May 1, the Minnesota Supreme Court said the Lyon County District Court had abused its discretion by not allowing Hinckley to use a mental-illness defense at trial. Three separate psychological reports had said Hinckley was mentally ill at the time of his offenses, and that mental illness was the root cause of his paranoid thoughts and delusions, the opinion said.

The Supreme Court opinion said Hinckley was not entitled to a reversal of his convictions if it could be proved that the Lyon County court’s error didn’t affect the jury’s verdict beyond a reasonable doubt. However, the Supreme Court couldn’t say for certain whether the verdict was affected by the jury not being able to hear evidence about Hinckley’s mental illness.

The Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s decision, and the case was sent back to Lyon County for a new trial. A bail hearing over Zoom was scheduled for Thursday.


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