This opinion will be unpublished and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,
Crawford (NMN) Collier,
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 99031852
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103-2106; and
Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, Gayle C. Hendley, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent)
Melissa V. Sheridan, Assistant State Public Defender, 875 Summit Avenue, Room 254, St. Paul, MN 55105 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Stoneburner, Judge.
On appeal from conviction of unlawful possession of a firearm, Crawford Collier challenges the district court's refusal to revise the cautionary jury instruction on eyewitness reliability to include object identification. The district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Collier’s requested instruction, and we affirm.
Minneapolis police arrested Crawford Collier after an off-duty officer saw Collier running in an alley carrying a handgun. The officer was leaving the Lake Street Butler Drug, where he worked as a security guard. The officer and the drugstore manager had closed the store and were walking toward an alley leading to the parking lot behind the store. As they reached the opening of the alley, they heard approximately six gunshots and saw several drugstore employees who had preceded them to the lot running toward them. The employees had fled the lot when they heard gunfire and saw a car come “screeching” into the lot and stop abruptly.
The officer and the drugstore manager testified that they saw a man run into the alley toward them with a “revolver type” gun in his hand. The officer ordered him to stop and drop the gun. The man stopped, raised the gun, reversed direction, and ran out of the alley. As the man ran past a blue Grand Am car parked in an adjoining lot, the officer heard the “distinct sound of metal hitting tar” and saw that the man no longer held a gun in his hand.
The officer continued to chase the man until another police officer apprehended him at gunpoint in the parking lot across the street from the drug store. The police performed a patdown search and found no weapons. The police retrieved a fully loaded 38-caliber revolver from under the blue Grand Am.
A drugstore employee’s 15-year-old son who was waiting in a car in the parking lot also testified at trial. He saw the “screeching car” enter the parking lot and stop in front of the car in which he was waiting. He testified that the car had a bullet hole in the passenger window, that three people exited the car, and that the driver had a gun. He saw the driver run toward the alley, stop, turn, and run back toward the parking lot and around the building adjacent to the alley.
Collier does not dispute that he was the person who ran through the alley and was apprehended by the police. It is also undisputed that Collier was fleeing from someone who had shot at him as Collier drove through a nearby intersection. Collier stipulated that he was prohibited by statute from possessing or carrying a firearm, but denied that he was carrying the gun and testified that he knew nothing about the gun that was retrieved from under the car. He testified that he was holding a set of keys when he first saw the officer in the alley, and, because he did not know his pursuer was a police officer, he continued to run. One of Collier’s passengers also testified that he did not see Collier with a gun.
The jury found Collier guilty of unlawful possession of a firearm, and Collier brought this appeal. He contends that he was deprived of a fair trial when the district court denied his request to instruct the jury with a revised eyewitness-reliability instruction that included object identification.
The district court has broad discretion in choosing the language for jury instructions and in refusing to give a specifically requested instruction. State v. Peou, 579 N.W.2d 471, 475 (Minn. 1998). A defendant is entitled to an instruction on the defendant’s theory of the case if evidence supports the theory and the substance of the request is not already contained in the court’s instructions. State v. Ruud, 259 N.W.2d 567, 578 (Minn. 1977). In determining the adequacy of jury instructions, we view the charge as a whole, and if it correctly states the law in language that the jury can understand, the district court has not abused its discretion. Peou, 579 N.W.2d at 475.
Collier asked the district court to give the cautionary eyewitness-identification instruction in 10 Minnesota Practice CRIMJIG 3.19 and to include within it an additional clause that “[t]estimony has also been introduced regarding an item allegedly in the defendant's possession.” Essentially, Collier requested an instruction that would extend the reliability of eyewitness identification to objects. For several reasons, the district court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to give the requested instruction.
First, Collier’s requested instruction does not embody a theory of the case, but is a more specific instruction on the evaluation of testimony. The district court instructed the jury under 10 Minnesota Practice CRIMJIG 3.12 on the evaluation of testimony and on the witnesses’ basis for knowledge. The district court also agreed to give the cautionary instruction on eyewitness identification testimony, even though Collier did not dispute that he was the person running in the alley. See State v. Burch, 284 Minn. 300, 315-16, 170 N.W.2d 543, 553-54 (1969) (indicating that although eyewitness instruction is not necessary in every case, it should be given when reliability of identification testimony is doubtful). Collier was not denied an instruction on his theory of the case.
Second, Collier has provided no authority to support his argument that the ability of a witness to identify objects would warrant the type of cautionary instruction that applies to eyewitness identification of a person. The cautionary instruction for eyewitness identification addresses such factors as the witness’s opportunity to see the defendant commit the crime, the length of time the witness could see the person committing the crime, the witness’s stress level during the crime, and the effect of any subsequent police procedures to test or reinforce the witness’s initial identification. Id. But these factors do not readily relate to the identification of objects.
Third, the district court has the responsibility to provide a “balanced instruction on the various relevant factors” pertaining to the instruction. State v. Olson, 482 N.W.2d 212, 216 (Minn. 1992). An instruction that unnecessarily emphasizes particular parts of evidence or testimony carries with it the risk of distorting the jury’s evaluation of the testimony. Id.
Finally, the evidence and testimony on Collier’s possession of the revolver does not appear doubtful or unreliable. Three witnesses testified they saw a gun in Collier's hand. Two of the witnesses further testified to their belief that Collier threw a gun under a parked car, exactly where the gun was later found. This case does not turn on eyewitness identification of Collier or a single, fleeting observation of an object. The district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Collier's request for the additional cautionary language on object identification.