This opinion will be unpublished and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
State of Minnesota,
Royal Lance Simpson,
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 00019681
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Lawrence W. Pry, Assistant Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)
Hatch, Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103; and
Amy J. Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, David C. Brown, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Anderson, Presiding Judge, Peterson, Judge, and Amundson, Judge.
After a court trial, appellant was convicted of kidnapping and attempted first-degree criminal sexual conduct. Appellant contends that the evidence was insufficient to prove his guilt of those offenses beyond a reasonable doubt. We affirm.
D.H. left Mayslack’s Bar in Minneapolis sometime during the late night of February 25, 2000, or early morning of February 26, 2000. As she was approaching her car in the bar’s parking lot, Royal Lance Simpson came up from behind her and put a silver knife under her throat. He pushed D.H. into the passenger side of her car and stated that he needed a ride to Brainerd. Simpson took D.H.’s car key from her, drove her to a secluded area near a golf course in Minneapolis, and dragged her out of her car to a grassy area about 30 feet away. There, Simpson forcibly climbed on top of D.H., tried to strip off her clothes, and began hitting her. D.H. fought back, punching Simpson and scratching him on the neck. She also thought she may have scratched his crotch, but said she did not feel skin. Simpson dragged D.H. back to the car, put her in the back seat, and took off her clothes. He attempted to have sexual intercourse with D.H., but was unable to get an erection and left. Simpson also stole D.H.’s purse containing approximately $80 in cash.
D.H. reported the assault to the police. She described her attacker as a five-foot, six-inch tall white male, about 40 years old, with dark medium-length hair, pock marks on his face, and wearing a dark leather jacket with fringe on it and dark jeans. The investigating police officers found a cell phone in D.H.’s car that did not belong to D.H.. Upon calling the phone, the recorded message identified the phone as belonging to “Royal Simpson.” The phone was registered to Simpson. The police also found a silver knife at the scene and D.H.’s purse nearby.
Simpson went to his ex-wife’s apartment at approximately 3:00 a.m. on February 26, 2000. His ex-wife related that when Simpson arrived he was no longer wearing a jacket although, when he left her apartment earlier, he had been wearing a fringed leather jacket and dark jeans. Upon arriving, he immediately changed out of his dark jeans and into sweat pants.
The Minneapolis police arrested Simpson outside his ex-wife’s apartment at approximately 7:00 a.m. on February 26, 2000. Simpson is a white male, five feet six inches tall, 39 years old, and has brown medium-length hair and pock marks on his face. At the time of his arrest, Simpson had scratches on his neck and inner thigh near his genitals. During a search of Simpson’s ex-wife’s apartment, the police found a pair of dark jeans and a pair of boots, both covered with mud. Simpson’s ex-wife identified the jeans and boots as Simpson’s. The police found $61 in the pocket of the jeans and a black round key that fit D.H.’s car door. Simpson’s ex-wife stated that when Simpson had left her home the day before, he had his cell phone with him, but that when he returned on February 26, 2000, he did not. She identified the silver knife recovered from the crime scene as Simpson’s. Simpson’s ex-wife also stated that Simpson had called her at approximately 1:00 a.m. on February 26, 2000, and told her that he had been “mugged” and was “penniless.”
During the investigation of the incident, Minneapolis police showed D.H. a six-person photographic lineup. D.H. eliminated four of the six people in the photographs as her assailant. D.H. was unable to positively identify Simpson as her assailant, although she did not exclude him. A Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) examination was performed on scrapings from under D.H.’s fingernails, two separate swabs of bloodstains from D.H.’s vehicle, cells on the crotch area of a pair of underwear found at the scene, and blood samples of D.H. and Simpson. The DNA profile from the fingernail scrapings, the swabs from the vehicle, and the cells on the underwear matched the profile obtained from D.H.’s blood, but not from Simpson’s.
Simpson was charged with kidnapping, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.25, subds. 1(2), 2(2) (1998), attempted first-degree criminal sexual conduct, in violation of Minn. Stat. §§ 609.342, subd. 1(e)(i) (1998), 609.17, subd. 1 (1998), and second-degree assault, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.222, subd. 1 (1998). The state agreed to dismiss the second-degree assault charge. Simpson waived his right to a jury trial and, after a court trial, the district court found Simpson guilty of kidnapping and attempted first-degree sexual assault. This appeal followed.
Simpson concedes that the evidence established that D.H. was kidnapped and sexually assaulted, but argues that the evidence was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed the crimes.
In considering a claim of insufficient evidence, our review 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 fact-finder to reach the verdict it did. State v. Webb, 440 N.W.2dd 426, 430 (Minn. 1989). Our review is the same for a court trial as for a jury trial. State v. Lehikoinen, 463 N.W.2d 770, 772 (Minn. App. 1990). We must assume the court believed the state’s witnesses and disbelieved any evidence to the contrary. State v. Moore, 438 N.W.2d 101, 108 (Minn. 1989). We will not disturb the verdict if the fact-finder, acting with due regard for the presumption of innocence and the requirement of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, could have reasonably concluded the defendant was guilty of the charged offense. State v. Alton, 432 N.W.2d 754, 756 (Minn. 1988). While circumstantial evidence warrants stricter scrutiny, it is entitled to the same weight as direct evidence. State v. Bauer, 598 N.W.2d 352, 370 (Minn. 1999). The fact-finder is in the best position to evaluate circumstantial evidence, and its verdict is entitled to due deference. Webb, 440 N.W.2d at 430.
On appeal, the only element appellant takes issue with is identity, arguing that the state’s evidence failed to show that he, rather than someone else, committed the offenses. While D.H. could not positively identify Simpson as her attacker, other circumstantial evidence pointed to Simpson as her assailant. D.H.’s initial description of her assailant to the police corresponded closely with Simpson’s physical attributes. Simpson also had scratches on his neck and near his genitals where D.H. stated she had scratched her attacker in self-defense. Simpson’s ex-wife told police that he had left her home wearing a leather jacket with fringe, dark jeans, and carrying a cell phone. D.H. described her assailant as wearing a leather jacket with fringe and dark jeans. When he returned to his ex-wife’s apartment, Simpson was not wearing his jacket and immediately changed out of his dark jeans. The police later found his dark jeans and boots to be covered with mud. Additionally, Simpson’s cell phone was found at the crime scene and D.H.’s car key was found in Simpson’s pants pocket. Simpson’s ex-wife identified the silver knife used in the attack as Simpson’s. Also, before the attack, Simpson had called his ex-wife, telling her he had been mugged and had no money. But police found $61 in Simpson’s pants pocket. The sum of $80 had been stolen out of D.H.’s purse. The evidence presented at trial was sufficient to support the district court’s finding that Simpson was D.H.’s assailant.