This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).






State of Minnesota,





John Michael Suomalainen,



Filed July 17, 2001


Lansing, Judge


Mille Lacs County District Court

File No. K098969


Mike Hatch, Attorney General, John B. Galus, Assistant Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN  55103, and


Janelle P. Kendall, Mille Lacs County Attorney, Courthouse Square, 525 Second Street S.E., Milaca, MN  56353 (for Respondent),


John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Scott G. Swanson, Assistant State Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue SE, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN  55414, (for Appellant).


Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, Amundson, Judge, and Lindberg, Judge*.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


On appeal from his conviction of terroristic threats, John Suomalainen challenges the district court’s denial of his request for a supplemental jury instruction that threats made in transitory anger do not support a conviction for making terroristic threats.  Because Suomalainen’s requested jury instruction misstates the law and is not based on his theory of the case at trial, and because the court’s jury instructions fairly and adequately explained the law of the case, we affirm.


            After being arrested by a Mille Lacs deputy sheriff for driving under the influence of alcohol, John Suomalainen repeatedly told the deputy that he would kill him and his wife and children.  The threats continued until the deputy transported Suomalainen to the county jail and transferred him to the custody of jail staff.

A jury found Suomalainen guilty of terroristic threats in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.713 (1998).  He appeals, contending that the district court abused its discretion by denying his request to instruct the jury that threats made in “transitory anger” do not support a conviction of terroristic threats.


The district court has broad discretion in selecting the language for jury instructions and in refusing to give a requested instruction.  State v. Peou, 579 N.W.2d 471, 475 (Minn. 1998).  A defendant is entitled to a specific instruction on the defendant’s theory of the case if evidence supports the instruction and the substance of the request is not already contained in the instructions chosen by the district court.  State v. Auchampach, 540 N.W.2d 808, 816 (Minn. 1995).  To determine whether they fairly and adequately explain the law of the case, this court reviews jury instructions as a whole.  State v. Broulik, 606 N.W.2d 64, 68 (Minn. 2000).  If the instructions correctly state the law in language that can be understood by the jury, there is no abuse of discretion.  Peou, 579 N.W.2d at 475.

At trial, Suomalainen asked the district court to supplement the elements-of-terroristic-threats instruction in 10 Minnesota Practice, CRIMJIG 13.107 (1998) with an instruction that threats made in “transitory anger” do not support a conviction of terroristic threats.  We conclude, for two reasons, that the district court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to give the requested instruction.

First, Suomalainen’s requested instruction misstates the law.  We accept Suomalainen’s argument that expressions of transitory anger are, by their nature, not intended to terrorize.  See State v. Jones, 451 N.W.2d 55, 63 (Minn. App. 1990), review denied (Minn. Feb. 21, 1990).  But Suomalainen essentially asked the district court to instruct the jury that threats made without intent to terrorize do not support a conviction of terroristic threats.  Even if a threat is made without intent to terrorize, the threat is sufficient for a conviction if it is made in reckless disregard of the risk of causing terror.  Minn. Stat. § 609.713, subd. 1 (1998).  By omitting the reckless-disregard alternative, Suomalainen’s requested instruction wrongly characterizes a finding of transitory anger as being a complete defense to a charge of terroristic threats and misrepresents the elements of the crime.  A district court is not required to give a jury instruction that misstates the law.  State v. Evans, 347 N.W.2d 813, 817 (Minn. App. 1984), review denied (Minn. July 26, 1984).

Second, the record does not support Suomalainen’s argument that his requested instruction was based on his theory of the case at trial.  In this appeal, Suomalainen claims that his theory of the case was that any threats he made were not intended to cause fear because they were expressions of transitory anger.  But the trial transcript demonstrates otherwise.  At no time during trial did defense counsel imply or assert, either through witness examination or during opening and closing arguments, that Suomalainen’s threats were the product of transitory anger or not intended to cause fear.  Instead, the record conclusively shows that Suomalainen’s theory of the case was that the testimony of the state’s witnesses was insufficiently credible or reliable for the jury to return a guilty verdict. 

Because the jury instructions fully and adequately explained the law of the case, we affirm.


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