This opinion will be unpublished and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,
Corey Terrell Barnes,
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 00064320
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Suite 500, 525 Park Street, Saint Paul, MN 55103; and
Amy Klobuchar, Hennepin County Attorney, Linda K. Jenny, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Cathryn Middlebrook, Assistant State Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
GORDON W. SHUMAKER, Judge
Appellant Corey Barnes challenges his conviction of being a felon in possession of a firearm, arguing that the evidence was not sufficient to convict him of that crime. Because the evidence is sufficient to convict appellant of the crime, we affirm.
Appellant Corey Terrell Barnes, a convicted felon, was driving his car at a speed in excess of the limit on July 5, 2000. A police officer obtained a radar reading of 41 miles per hour in a 30 miles-per-hour zone and attempted to stop Barnes’ car.
Barnes accelerated and the officer pursued with his siren on. Barnes continued to drive, reaching speeds of 60 to 70 miles per hour and going through several stop signs. At one point his car swerved onto the boulevard near 30th Avenue and Sheridan Avenue, and Barnes leaned into the passenger area of his car and threw something out the window. Eventually Barnes stopped and the officer arrested him.
While still at the scene of the arrest, the officer received a call from another officer that a citizen had found a handgun on the boulevard in front of a house in the 2900 block of Sheridan Avenue.
The citizen who found the gun had been sitting on his back porch when he heard a siren and squealing tires. He went to the front of his house and saw clumps of grass on the sidewalk. When he kicked the clumps of grass back onto the boulevard, he saw a handgun on the ground. The citizen had been in his front yard five minutes before he heard the siren and there were no clumps of grass on the sidewalk, and he saw no weapon on the ground. The area where he found the gun was the same area where the pursuing officer saw Barnes throw something out the window of his car. When the gun was tested for fingerprints, Barnes’ prints were not on it.
A jury found Barnes guilty of the crime of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Contending that the case against him was entirely circumstantial and that the circumstances did not provide sufficient evidence to convict him, Barnes appealed.
In considering a claim of insufficient evidence, this court’s 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 jurors to reach the verdict that they did. State v. Webb, 440 N.W.2d 426, 430 (Minn. 1989). The reviewing court 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). 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 that appellant was guilty of the charged offense. State v. Alton, 432 N.W.2d 754, 756 (Minn. 1988).
Because there is no direct evidence showing that Barnes possessed the handgun, the conviction rests on circumstantial evidence. Although a conviction based upon circumstantial evidence warrants stricter scrutiny, circumstantial evidence is entitled to the same weight as direct evidence. State v. Bauer, 598 N.W.2d 352, 370 (Minn. 1999). The circumstantial evidence must form a complete chain that, in view of the evidence as a whole, leads so directly to the guilt of Barnes as to exclude beyond a reasonable doubt any reasonable inference other than guilt. State v. Jones, 516 N.W.2d 545, 549 (Minn. 1994). A jury is in the best position to evaluate circumstantial evidence, and its verdict is entitled to due deference. Webb, 440 N.W.2d at 430.
Barnes rests his argument on the fact that no fingerprints were found on the handgun; thus, there was no evidence that he ever possessed the handgun. However, despite the fact that Barnes’ fingerprints were not found on the handgun, the evidence supports his conviction.
The chain of circumstantial evidence is complete. As Barnes attempted to elude the pursuing officer, he threw a dark object onto a boulevard. A citizen who lived in a house bordered by the boulevard heard the sounds of the pursuit and came to see what was happening. He then saw a gun on the boulevard. He had been in his yard just five minutes earlier and saw no gun in his yard. Link-by-link, the chain of circumstances leads inexorably to Barnes. The circumstantial evidence was sufficient to support his conviction.
Barnes cites to three cases in support of his argument that the evidence was not sufficient to support the jury’s verdict. However, contrary to his argument, these cases are more supportive of the jury’s guilty verdict.
In State v. Willis, 320 N.W.2d 726 (Minn. 1982), the court focused on whether the evidence was sufficient to establish whether appellant constructively possessed the handgun, not whether there was any connection between the gun and defendant, as is the issue in our case. In Willis, an officer stopped a vehicle for speeding. Id. at 727. As the vehicle was slowing to pull over to the shoulder, the officer saw defendant, who was a passenger in the vehicle, lean forward, turn around and look back, and then lean forward again. Id. The driver got out of the car and met the officer outside the vehicle. Id. The officer placed her in the back of his cruiser and returned to the vehicle. Id. The officer first questioned defendant, then eventually ordered defendant out of the car. Id. As defendant got out of the car, the officer saw, in open view, a handgun sticking out from under the seat where defendant had been sitting. Id. The court concluded that the evidence was sufficient to sustain the conviction. Id. at 729. Because this evidence was sufficient to sustain defendant’s conviction for constructive possession, it was surely sufficient to connect defendant with the gun.
In State v. Davidson, 351 N.W.2d 8 (Minn. 1984), an officer noticed defendant standing near a vehicle in a lot behind a bar. Id. at 9. As the officer drove toward the car, defendant headed toward the back entrance of the bar. Id. When defendant noticed the officer, defendant quickened his pace and appeared to stick something inside his pants in a “furtive way.” Id. The officer quickly drove to the front of the bar, where he saw defendant emerge. Id. Upon seeing the officer again, defendant reentered the bar. Id. Suspecting that defendant had a weapon or drugs, the officer alerted a second officer of the situation. Id. The second officer drove to the back of the bar, where she saw defendant walking toward a brown van. Id. When defendant saw the second officer, he ducked down by the van, then got up and resumed walking. Id. After stopping defendant, the second officer notified the first officer. Id. The first officer frisked defendant and found rifle rounds. Id. He asked defendant if he had a gun, but defendant did not reply. Id. The second officer checked the area near the brown van where defendant had briefly ducked down and found a revolver. Id. The court concluded that “[t]he totality of the evidence clearly and sufficiently connected [defendant] to the gun.” Id. at 10.
In the last case Barnes cites, State v. McGhee, 359 N.W.2d 286 (Minn. App. 1984), the facts show that as defendant was getting out of his car, he fumbled with something in his waistband that appeared to the officers to be dark metal. Id. at 287. When ordered to freeze, defendant bent over and reached into the front seat as if putting something under the seat. Id. A pistol was found underneath the seat. Id. The court concluded that the evidence was sufficient to convict defendant of being a felon in possession of a gun. Id.
In these three cases, the officers did not see exactly what the defendants were doing or hiding, but the circumstantial evidence formed a complete chain linking each respective defendant to the gun, and rendered any inference other than the defendants’ possession of the handgun unreasonable. Similarly, in our case the circumstantial evidence leads to the same conclusion. Based upon the evidence shown in our case, as well as the three cases on which Barnes relies, we affirm the jury’s verdict.