This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).







In the Matter of the Welfare
of:  N.E., Child.



Filed May 23, 2000

Klaphake, Judge


Ramsey County District Court

File No. J0-98-55081



John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Charlann Winking, Assistant State Public Defender, 2829 University Ave. S.E., Ste. 600, Minneapolis, MN  55414-3230 (for appellant N.E.)


Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 525 Park St., Suite 500, St. Paul, MN  55103; and


John K. Carlson, Pine County Attorney, Dan Conlin, Assistant County Attorney, 315 Sixth St., Suite 8, Pine City, MN  55063 (for respondent county)



            Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Foley, Judge.[*]

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


Appellant N.E. is a teenaged child who was adjudicated delinquent on first- and second-degree assault charges after stabbing another teenager during a physical altercation.   On appeal, N.E. argues that the evidence was insufficient to prove that he did not act in self-defense.  Because the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the adjudication, did not show that N.E. was in physical danger at the time of the offense, we affirm. 


            The elements of self-defense include:

(1) the absence of aggression or provocation on the part of the defendant; (2) the defendant’s actual and honest belief that he or she was in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm; (3) the existence of reasonable grounds for that belief; and (4) the absence of a reasonable possibility of retreat to avoid the danger.  The degree of force used in self-defense must not exceed that which appears to be necessary to a reasonable person under similar circumstances.


State v. Basting, 572 N.W.2d 281, 285-86 (Minn. 1997) (citations and footnote omitted).  After a defendant raises a self-defense claim, the state bears the burden of proving “beyond a reasonable doubt the absence of justification.”  State v. Dick, 419 N.W.2d 828, 833 (Minn. App. 1988), review denied (Minn. Apr. 15, 1988).  The state must only disprove one element to defeat a self-defense claim.  Basting, 572 N.W.2d at 286.

            We agree with the trial court that the state refuted each element of N.E.’s self-defense claim, for the following reasons:  (1) the victim testified that at the time he was stabbed, N.E. was the aggressor and rushed at him from some distance away after threatening to kill him; (2) N.E. could not have honestly or reasonably believed that he was in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm at the time that he stabbed the victim because the scuffle which preceded the stabbing was relatively minor; N.E.’s friends were following closely behind him; and the court found incredible N.E.’s claim that the victim or his brother were armed with a crowbar; (3) N.E. could have retreated in the direction from which he came to avoid stabbing the victim; and (4) the degree of force used by N.E. was excessive and unreasonable under the circumstances; at the time that N.E. stabbed the victim, he had been thrown to the ground twice by the victim and his brother, but the amount of force they used was reasonable to thwart N.E.’s attack.  While N.E.’s account of the altercation varied dramatically from the account given by the victim, the court was “free to credit the testimony that was adverse” to N.E.  Basting, 572 N.W.2d at 286.  Thus, the evidence was sufficient to prove that N.E. did not act in self-defense in stabbing the victim in this case. 

            In reaching this conclusion, we have thoroughly analyzed “the record to determine whether the evidence, viewed in a light most favorable to the jury’s verdict, was sufficient” to allow the court to reach its decision.  State v. Spann, 574 N.W.2d 47, 54 (Minn. 1998) (citation omitted).  We are also mindful that our review of a sufficiency-of–the-evidence claim in a juvenile delinquency bench trial is under the same standard of review as a jury verdict in a criminal case.  See State v. Hough, 585 N.W.2d 393, 396 (Minn. 1998); In re Welfare of S.M.J., 556 N.W.2d 4, 6 (Minn. App. 1996).



[*] Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.