This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Filed March 20, 2001
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103; and
Roger S. Van Heel, Stearns County Attorney, William S. MacPhail, Assistant County Attorney, 448 Administration Center, 705 Courthouse Square, St. Cloud, MN 56303 (for respondent state)
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
SCHUMACHER, ROBERT H., Judge
Appellant J.D.F. challenges a delinquency adjudication for second-degree burglary and felony theft, arguing the evidence was insufficient. We affirm.
On September 23, 1999, J.D.F. stayed home from school because he had contracted poison ivy. His younger brother stayed home with him. Their mother went to work early in the morning. Their stepfather returned home from work at approximately 9:00 a.m., checked on the boys, watched television, and went to bed.
On that day, Dale Bakke was working in his garage and noticed two boys in a neighbor's yard. He was certain that one of the boys was J.D.F. and thought the other might have been J.D.F.’s younger brother. He was puzzled why the boys were not in school.
Bakke’s neighbors, Julie Vinkemeier and her children, were not at home between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., and their house was unlocked. At approximately 4:00 p.m., Vinkemeier’s teenager daughter returned home and discovered that 75 compact discs with a value of approximately $950 were missing.
In November 1999, Stearns County deputies were interviewing a juvenile, J.S. In addition to confessing to various misdeeds, J.S. told deputies that J.D.F. had admitted to taking the compact discs from the Vinkemeier home. Stearns County deputies also interviewed another juvenile, C.W., who indicated that J.D.F. had admitted to taking the compact discs. Both J.S. and C.W. later admitted to giving some false information, although they continued to assert that J.D.F. had admitted to taking the compact discs.
The trial court found that neither J.S. nor C.W. were, for the most part, credible witnesses but that their testimony corroborated Bakke’s observations that J.D.F. was at the Vinkemeier house during the time the theft occurred. The court also found that Bakke's truthful testimony buttressed the less reliable testimony of J.S. and C.W., "allowing it to stand as truthful, at least in relevant part."
The trial court adjudicated J.D.F. delinquent for second-degree burglary and felony theft. J.D.F. appeals.
When considering a claim of insufficient evidence, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict, assuming the fact-finder disbelieved any testimony in conflict with the verdict. State v. Thomas, 590 N.W.2d 755, 757 (Minn. 1999); see also In re Welfare of S.A.M., 570 N.W.2d 162, 167 (Minn. App. 1997) (applying standard in reviewing juvenile delinquency adjudication). We examine the evidence in the record, along with legitimate inferences therefrom, to determine whether the fact-finder could have concluded that the state met its burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Moore, 481 N.W.2d 355, 360 (Minn. 1992).
While a conviction based only on circumstantial evidence warrants stricter scrutiny, such "evidence is entitled to the same weight as any evidence so long as the circumstances proved are consistent with the hypothesis that the accused is guilty and inconsistent with any rational hypothesis except that of guilt."
State v. Profit, 591 N.W.2d 451, 467 (Minn. 1999) (quotation omitted), cert. denied, 528 U.S. 862 (1999).
In this case, J.D.F. argues that the credible circumstantial evidence in the record shows only that J.D.F. was perhaps in the area on the day in question, asserting that Bakke's testimony alone cannot meet the state's burden of beyond a reasonable doubt. But in adjudicating J.D.F. delinquent, the trial court relied on more than Bakke's testimony alone. Both J.S. and C.W. testified that J.D.F. had admitted to taking the compact discs. While the trial court found J.S. and C.W. less than credible, the court nonetheless specifically allowed their testimony to stand as truthful in relevant part because it was buttressed by Bakke's account. It is for the fact-finder, not the appellate courts, to determine the credibility and weight to be given circumstantial evidence. State v. Wallace, 558 N.W.2d 469, 472 (Minn. 1997). In this case, the evidence in the record, along with legitimate inferences therefrom, allowed the fact-finder to conclude that the state met its burden. See Moore, 481 N.W.2d at 360.