This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
State of Minnesota,
Bruce David Reyes,
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 99053756
Mike Hatch, Minnesota Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103-2106; and
Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, J. Michael Richardson, Assistant Hennepin County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, Minnesota State Public Defender, Lawrence C. Pry, Assistant State Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue SE, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Harten, Judge, and Anderson, Judge.
Appellant, convicted of kidnapping in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.25, subd. 1 (1998), argues that the evidence was insufficient as a matter of law to support his conviction because the state failed to establish that appellant intended to cause great bodily harm or to terrorize the injured party. Because a reasonable jury, considering the weight and credibility of all the evidence, could have found appellant guilty of kidnapping beyond a reasonable doubt, we affirm.
Appellant Bruce David Reyes accompanied L.W., an acquaintance of eight years, to a motel in Minneapolis, on the morning of June 2, 1999.
According to L.W., before arriving at the motel, the two ate at a fast food restaurant and appellant purchased a bottle of gin. L.W. testified that, after arriving at the motel, appellant began to blame her for his residence in a homeless shelter, and when L.W. suggested they stop seeing each other, appellant began to hit her. L.W. admitted that after things “calmed down” L.W. admits that she and appellant had consensual sex, and afterwards, fell asleep.
L.W. recalls waking up in a dark room with appellant sitting next to her. It appeared to L.W. that appellant was drinking. He had a small bottle of gin and a six-pack of beer at his side. Appellant again blamed L.W. for his current living situation. L.W. testified that when she picked up her clothes and tried to leave, appellant took them, threw them on the floor, and told her she was not going anywhere. L.W. testified that appellant, angry about her desire to “break up,” punched her in the stomach, hit her in the face with a bottle and called her names. L.W. recounted wrapping herself in a sheet and heading for the door, when appellant knocked her down, kicked and punched her, and again told her she could not leave. According to L.W., appellant then forced her to remove her rings while punching her each time a ring became stuck on her finger. L.W. also claimed appellant hit her with a large glass bottle that shattered when it struck her arm and then told her to crawl through the broken glass and get into bed.
At approximately 1:30 a.m. on June 3, 1999, two Minneapolis police officers, responding to an anonymous domestic disturbance call, arrived at appellant’s motel room. From outside the door, one officer heard a woman scream. Police knocked on the door, and appellant answered. The police saw what appeared to be blood on appellant’s chest and stomach, and ordered appellant to open the door. The officers observed what they believed to be blood on the walls and glass on the floor, and noticed a shape under a sheet on the bed. The police found L.W. naked, with blood on her face, bite marks on her neck, and bruises on her legs. When asked who caused her injuries, L.W. did not initially respond, but then indicated that appellant wasresponsible and said, “he did.” The police arrested appellant, who, when leaving the room, told L.W. to tell the police someone else caused her injuries.
Appellant’s account of the incident differs. According to appellant, the two ate breakfast at Best Steak House, and then went to a liquor store where L.W. bought a fifth of gin, a six-pack of malt liquor, and ice. After arriving at the motel, appellant testified that he and L.W. had consensual sex twice, watched television, and fell asleep.
Afterwards, appellant claimed that L.W. told him to go to the liquor store and, when he refused, L.W. tried to leave. Appellant testified he grabbed L.W. to prevent her from leaving and when she attempted to pull away, they both fell over a table. Appellant said he stopped L.W. because he thought a naked person walking around the motel would result in his forced departure or a trip to “detox.”
Appellant then testified that things settled down, but, suddenly, L.W. grabbed a bottle, broke it, and threatened to kill herself. Appellant explained that he cut his hand when he tried to take the bottle from L.W., he cut his and which splattered blood on the walls and his person. According to appellant, the two wrestled and fell over several times. Appellant claimed that L.W. threatened to turn him in for “anything and everything.” Appellant denied punching or kicking L.W., or forcing her to crawl through glass. He also claimed that some of her injuries were caused by a fall several days earlier.
The jury found appellant guilty of kidnapping, and appellant was sentenced to forty-eight months in prison. This appeal followed.
Appellant contends that the evidence was insufficient as a matter of law to sustain the conviction for kidnapping because the evidence failed to establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that he had the intent to cause great bodily harm or to terrorize L.W.
This court’s review of the sufficiency of the evidence is limited to a painstaking analysis of the record to determine whether the evidence, when viewed in the light most favorable to the conviction, is sufficient to allow the jurors to reach the verdict that they did. State v. Webb, 440 N.W.2d 426, 430 (Minn. 1989). We must assume 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). The reviewing court will not disturb the verdict if the jury, acting with due regard for the presumption of innocence and the requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, could reasonably conclude the defendant was guilty of the charged offense. State v. Alton, 432 N.W.2d 754, 756 (Minn. 1988).
A conviction based on circumstantial evidence must be more carefully scrutinized. State v. Bias, 419 N.W.2d 480, 484 (Minn. 1988). The conviction will be sustained on appeal only if, considering all of the evidence, the circumstances form a chain that “leads so directly to the guilt of the accused as to exclude, beyond a reasonable doubt, any reasonable inference other than guilt.” Id. (quoting State v. Wahlberg, 296 N.W.2d 408, 411 (Minn. 1980)). But, the evidence need not exclude all possibility of defendant’s innocence; it need only make that theory seem unreasonable. State v. Anderson, 379 N.W.2d 70, 78 (Minn. 1985).
Even though this court uses a stricter standard of appellate review of a conviction based on circumstantial evidence, the standard still recognizes that a jury is in the best position to evaluate the circumstantial evidence surrounding the crime, and its verdict is entitled to “due deference.” State v. Race, 383 N.W.2d 656, 662 (Minn. 1986). The fact-finder determines the weight and credibility of the witnesses’ testimony. Moore, 438 N.W.2d at 108.
To convict appellant of kidnapping in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.25, subd. 1(3) (1998), the state was required to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that appellant confined L.W. or moved her from one place to another without her consent for the purpose of committing great bodily harm or terrorizing her. Id; State v. Tovar, 605 N.W.2d 717, 726-27 (Minn. 2000).
The evidence, here, when viewed in the light most favorable to the conviction, is sufficient to allow the jurors to convict appellant of kidnapping. L.W. testified in detail that appellant was angry with L.W. for two reasons: (1) his current stay at the homeless shelter and (2) L.W.’s desire to “break up” with him. When this anger intensified at the motel, L.W. testified that appellant punched her, kicked her, and called her names. When L.W. expressed a desire to leave, appellant twice refused her departure, punched and kicked her, and hit her with a bottle. Appellant also confiscated her clothing, intending to prevent her departure. L.W.’s testimony was corroborated by expert testimony from an emergency-medicine staff physician, who concluded that, in his professional opinion, L.W.’s injuries were consistent with blunt trauma from a bottle, fists, or feet as stated by L.W. A police officer also testified that he heard a woman scream from L.W.’s motel room and after entering the room, he witnessed L.W. identify appellant as her attacker. Finally, an officer testified that he heard appellant tell L.W. to tell the police that he did not cause her injuries.
Appellant, however, argues that the record is devoid of any direct evidence showing his intent to commit great bodily harm or to terrorize L.W., and that he presented a plausible theory of innocence supported by the evidence, which satisfies his burden under the law. A conviction based on circumstantial evidence, however, requires a reviewing court to determine only that a defendant’s theory of innocence seems unreasonable. Anderson, 379 N.W.2d at 78. In this case, appellant’s theory of innocence is unreasonable. A medical expert contradicted appellant’s claim that L.W. received her injuries after falling onto a table, stating, “[T]hat finding is not consistent with hitting the edge of the table. It’s a very different finding that you find externally.”
Appellant also argues that L.W. made several inconsistent statements, which together create insufficient evidence to support his conviction. Inconsistencies in testimony and conflicts in evidence, however, do not automatically render the testimony and evidence false and are not bases for reversal. State v. Stufflebean, 329 N.W.2d 314, 319 (Minn. 1983). This may be especially true when a crime victim is recounting a traumatic or stressful event. Id.
We 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). It is the jury's prerogative to determine both the weight and the credibility of the evidence. State v. Daniels, 361 N.W.2d 819, 826 (Minn. 1985). The outcome of this case turned on the credibility of witnesses. The conviction depended entirely on which witnesses the jury believed. The jury considered L.W.’s statements together with expert medical testimony assessing L.W.’s physical injuries. The jury also had the opportunity to consider appellant’s version of how the injuries took place. The jury resolved the conflict by rejecting appellant’s theory of innocence and convicting him of kidnapping. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the conviction, and deferring to the jury’s credibility determinations, we conclude that the evidence was sufficient for the jury to reasonably determine, beyond a reasonable doubt, that defendant was guilty of kidnapping.