This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Dean Jerry Hanson,
Anoka County District Court
File No. K8988717
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103-2106; and
Robert M.A. Johnson, Anoka County Attorney, Marcy S. Crain, Assistant County Attorney, Anoka County Government Center, 2100 Third Avenue, Anoka, MN 55303-2265 (for respondent)
Lawrence W. Pry, Assistant State Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Anderson, Presiding Judge, Schumacher, Judge, and Peterson, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
In this appeal from a conviction for malicious punishment of a child, appellant Dean Jerry Hanson argues that eyewitness testimony was too vague and subjective to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he used unreasonable force or cruel discipline that was excessive under the circumstances. We affirm.
Holly Cornell was riding in a car with her sister and her sister’s three children. As they passed an apartment complex, one of the children said he thought he saw a man stealing a child. Cornell turned and saw a man, later identified as Hanson, running very, very fast and holding a child, who appeared to be about four years old, under his arm. Cornell testified that the child’s body, including his head, “was flopping like a rag doll.” Cornell saw Hanson raise the child into the air, shake him violently, and “body slam” him to the ground. Cornell testified that the child landed on his back and that Hanson bent over and pounded on the child’s chest with his fists four or five times and then grabbed the child up and started running again. Cornell testified that the child was not resisting Hanson at all.
Hanson brought the child to a car in the apartment complex parking lot, where Cornell saw Hanson throw the child against the side of the car when he could not get the back door on the driver’s side open and then walk around to the passenger side and throw the child into the front seat. Cornell described the child’s head as “popping off the frame of the car.” Cornell told her sister to pull into the parking lot behind the car to block Hanson’s exit. Cornell was afraid to get out of the car because Hanson “was all red in the face” and “foaming at the mouth” with his eyes “bulging out of his head.” But she got out, saw that the child was pitch white with a tear going down his face, and asked Hanson if something was wrong with the child and whether he was breathing. Hanson responded that the child was an alien. Cornell then yelled to people who had come out of their apartments and were watching the incident from their balconies to call the police. Hanson said, “Yes. Save the alien. He’s an alien life form. Call the police.”
A woman approached Hanson’s car. When Cornell asked whether she knew the child, the woman responded, “Yes. What’s it to you?” Cornell explained that Hanson had been beating the child. The woman calmly picked the child up out of the car and slowly and calmly carried him away. Meanwhile, Hanson continued talking about aliens coming and asked, “Do you hear them?”
Allen Towne, who witnessed the incident from a third-floor apartment overlooking the parking lot, testified that he saw Hanson holding a child over his head and shaking the child. Hanson dropped or threw the child from over his head to the ground and then picked the child up, continued shaking him, and brought him to a car. To Towne, the situation initially appeared violent and then seemed to escalate. Towne told someone else in the apartment to call police. Towne watched Hanson try to get the rear door on the driver’s side open and then walk around to the passenger side of the car. Towne thought Hanson put the child in the back seat of the car. He could no longer see the child and could not see whether Hanson struck the child but did see Hanson’s arm move up and down in a way that looked as if he was hitting the child. Towne could not hear what Hanson was saying but described him as ranting and raving. Towne testified that the child was very quiet during the whole incident and did not fight back, yell, or scream at all.
Blaine police officer Mark Farrell responded to a call about the incident. He testified that the first thing Hanson said to him was “I’ve been violent and I need to be isolated.” Hanson said that the child had been misbehaving, but the rest of what Hanson said did not make sense to Farrell.
Hanson told Blaine police detective Michael Lapham that the child was his girlfriend’s son, R.C., and that he had been trying to “motivate” R.C. because R.C. had not been listening to his mother. Hanson claimed that R.C. had been crying, so he was going to take him to the clinic to see what was wrong and that R.C. was fighting as Hanson carried him to the car. Hanson denied hitting, shaking, dropping, or throwing R.C. He admitted referring to R.C. as an alien but said it was a term he and his girlfriend used in a lighthearted way when R.C. was misbehaving. Hanson also told Lapham that he was angry and frustrated when he spoke to Farrell and claimed that he was being sarcastic when he suggested he needed to be isolated.
Hanson testified that his statement to Lapham was truthful and correct. He explained that he was frustrated because R.C. was misbehaving and crying uncontrollably. Hanson testified that he told R.C. they were going to the clinic but did not actually intend to go there and that he brought R.C. out to the car because he wanted to have a one-to-one conversation with him in a quiet place.
R.C. was eight years old but only about three feet tall. He did not receive any medical treatment following the incident and when Lapham interviewed him a week later, Lapham did not see any visible injuries. R.C. testified that Hanson sometimes hurt him, and he recalled an incident when Hanson thought he was an alien. R.C. testified that during that incident, Hanson hurt him by grabbing his arm and by picking him up and throwing him on a bed while they were still inside the apartment but denied that Hanson hit him or hurt him while bringing him from the apartment to the car.
Hanson was charged by complaint with one count of malicious punishment of a child, a gross misdemeanor offense, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.377 (1998). A jury found Hanson guilty. The district court sentenced him to one year in jail and a $3,000 fine, stayed the entire fine and six months of jail time, and placed him on probation for two years.
When the sufficiency of the evidence is challenged, this court must review
the record to determine whether the evidence, when viewed in a light most favorable to the conviction, was sufficient to permit the jurors to reach the verdict which they did.
State v. Webb, 440 N.W.2d 426, 430 (Minn. 1989). This court must assume that “the jury believed the state’s witnesses and disbelieved any evidence to the contrary.” State v. Moore, 438 N.W.2d 101, 108 (Minn. 1989).
Minn. Stat. § 609.377 (1998) provides:
A parent, legal guardian, or caretaker who, by an intentional act or a series of intentional acts with respect to a child, evidences unreasonable force or cruel discipline that is excessive under the circumstances is guilty of malicious punishment of a child and may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than one year or to payment of a fine of not more than $3,000, or both.
Both Cornell and Towne testified that they saw Hanson shake R.C. and body slam him to the ground from high in the air, described Hanson’s actions as violent, and both testified that R.C. was not resisting or fighting back. Cornell, who was closer to the incident than was Towne, also saw that when Hanson was running with R.C., R.C.’s body was “flopping like a rag doll.” Hanson pounded on R.C.’s chest with his fist after body slamming him to the ground. And Hanson threw R.C. against the car hard enough to cause R.C.’s head to pop off of the frame.
Assuming, as we must, that the jurors believed the testimony of Cornell, Towne, and Farrell and disbelieved the contrary evidence presented by Hanson, the evidence is sufficient to support Hanson’s conviction.