This opinion will be unpublished and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
In the Matter of the Welfare of:
R.J.R., Minor Child.
Yellow Medicine County District Court
File No. J70150030
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Charlann Winking, Assistant Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue S.E., Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant);
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Suite 500, 525 Park Street, St. Paul, MN 55103; and
Thomas G. Kramer, Yellow Medicine County Attorney, Keith Helgeson, Assistant County Attorney, P.O. Box 128, 132 – 8th Avenue, Granite Falls, MN 56241 (for respondent).
Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Huspeni, Judge[*].
R.J.R. appeals his delinquency adjudication for first-degree criminal damage to property, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to prove that he damaged a car and that the amount of the damage exceeded $500. Because the evidence is sufficient to support the district court’s findings on both elements, we affirm.
F A C T S
BB-gun pellets damaged all eight windows in Jessica LaBatte’s Ford Tempo. Barbara Blackhawk and Kimberly Cloud, who lived near LaBatte, told the investigating officer from the Granite Falls Police Department that they saw R.J.R. shoot out the windows of LaBatte’s Ford Tempo with a BB gun. Based on these statements, the district court issued a delinquency petition alleging that R.J.R. committed criminal damage to property.
At the adjudicatory hearing, the investigating police officer testified that all eight windows in the Tempo had been shot out by a bb gun, that the damage to the windows was so severe that it would have been unsafe to drive the vehicle, and that every window had to be replaced. The officer testified that, as a police officer, he had experience in observing and assessing damage and that he sought a damage estimate from a glass-repair shop. Based on this experience and the estimate, he calculated the damage to the Ford Tempo to be greater than $500.
In her initial testimony at the adjudicatory hearing, Blackhawk testified that she was not certain who, among the three individuals she saw, shot out the windows. When counsel reminded her that she had given a statement to the investigating officer indicating that she saw R.J.R. shoot out the windows, Blackhawk testified that she saw R.J.R. shoot out the windows. Blackhawk also testified that she had more than once seen R.J.R. with a bb gun and that R.J.R. told her that he had shot out the back window of a car.
Cloud testified similarly. After counsel reminded Cloud of her statement to the officer, Cloud also recalled that she had seen R.J.R. shoot out the car windows. Later in her testimony, Cloud stated that she was positive that she saw R.J.R. shoot out the windows.
Based on the testimony of the investigating officer, Blackhawk, and Cloud, the district court found that R.J.R. had committed criminal damage to property. R.J.R. appeals the adjudication.
D E C I S I O N
In a delinquency proceeding, the state must prove the allegations in the petition beyond a reasonable doubt. Minn. R. Juv. P. 13.06. When an adjudicated delinquent challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support adjudication, we review whether the record and any legitimate inferences drawn from it reasonably permit the district court's finding. In re Welfare of S.A.M., 570 N.W.2d 162, 167 (Minn. App. 1997). The credibility of witness testimony and the weight given to the evidence are issues for the factfinder Id.
Minn. Stat. § 609.595, subd. (1)(3) (Supp. 2001), defines the offense of criminal damage to property:
Whoever intentionally causes damage to physical property of another without the latter’s consent may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than five years or to payment of a fine of not more than $10,000 or both, if * * * the damage reduces the value of the property by more than $500 measured by the cost of repair and replacement * * *.
R.J.R. first argues that the investigating officer’s testimony on the cost of repair or replacement of the car windows is insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the damage incurred was greater than $500. The officer testified that the damage to LaBatte’s vehicle would cost more than $500 to repair. He based this testimony on his experience in observing property damage while performing his police work and on a written estimate of damages that he obtained from an auto body shop. The Minnesota Supreme Court has upheld the practice of allowing police officers to estimate the amount of property damage sustained through vandalism when the officer has an adequate foundation on which to base the estimate. State v. Tienter, 338 N.W.2d 43, 44 (Minn. 1983) (holding that it was not error to admit sheriff’s testimony on damage amount when sheriff had experience with car accidents, made estimates of damages in other cases, and compared his estimates with those of a body shop). The officer's testimony provided a sufficient basis for the court to conclude that the state had met its burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the damage—measured by the cost of replacing the windows—reduced the value of the car by more than $500.
R.J.R.'s second argument is that the court did not have sufficient evidence upon which to base its finding that he was the individual who shot out the windows of LaBatte’s car. It is well-settled that a witness who identifies a defendant "need not be positive and certain but that it is enough for a witness to testify that it is his opinion, belief, impression, or judgment that the defendant is the person he saw commit the crime." State v. Burch, 284 Minn. 300, 313, 170 N.W.2d 543, 552 (1969) (citation omitted).
In their testimony, Cloud and Blackhawk were initially reluctant to identify R.J.R. as the person involved in the shooting. Their reluctance may have been attributable to their age (both are teenagers), the fact that they knew R.J.R. as a member of their community, a natural reticence to provide identification testimony, or genuine doubt about their opinions, beliefs, or impressions. Deference to the district court's credibility determination is a fundamental component of our legal system and is particularly important when the district court's assessment of credibility may rely on the witness's facial expression, tone, hesitations, or other "living testimony which elude[s] print" Baumgartner v. United States, 322 U.S. 665, 670 (1944). The district court found Blackhawk and Cloud to be credible witnesses. Both Blackhawk and Cloud testified that they saw R.J.R. commit the crime; Blackhawk testified that R.J.R. admitted to her that he committed the crime; and Blackhawk testified that she had seen R.J.R. with a bb gun on more than one occasion. The district court had sufficient evidence upon which to base its determination that R.J.R. was the person who shot the windows out of the car.
[*] Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.