This opinion will be unpublished and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,
Ronald Clayton Jensen,
Filed September 3, 2002
Meeker County District Court
File No. K101305
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Thomas R. Ragatz, Assistant Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103; and
Michael J. Thompson, Meeker County Attorney, 325 North Sibley Avenue, Litchfield, MN 55355-2155 (for respondent)
John Stuart, State Public Defender, Jodie L. Carlson, Assistant Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue SE, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge, Anderson, Judge, and Klaphake, Judge.
G. BARRY ANDERSON, Judge
A jury found appellant Ronald Jensen guilty of second-degree burglary, a violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.582, subd. 2(a) (2000). Appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence. Because we conclude that sufficient evidence was present, we affirm.
This appeal centers on an attempted burglary of property belonging to Chuckles LaRue, who died intestate in September 2000. Because evidence of burglary and other suspicious activity existed, a Meeker County deputy sheriff installed an alarm at LaRue’s house.
On April 27, 2001, at 7:20 a.m., Meeker County law enforcement officers responded to the alarm. Approaching the residence, the two officers noticed a black pickup truck parked on the property and announced their presence. After hearing noises coming from the second story of the home, the officers decided to conceal themselves in a nearby wooded area and call for backup so that they could establish a perimeter line around the home. The officers observed a man, later identified as appellant, climb out a window onto the roof. The officers drew their weapons and ordered appellant to keep his hands above his head and stay on the roof. Despite these orders, appellant pulled out a cigarette, began to smoke it, and proceeded to climb off the roof down a pole on one side of the house. The officers searched and arrested appellant, finding only cigarettes on his person.
After securing appellant, the two officers, along with several other officers who had arrived in response to their backup call, proceeded to “secure and double-check” the property and wooded area surrounding it to determine if appellant was alone. The officers found no one else inside the residence, and after searching the wooded area around the property, they found no indication of anyone else in the vicinity. Although the morning dew had made footprints readily apparent in the grass, the officers discovered only their own footprints near the residence and in the fields beyond the wooded area surrounding the property.
The officers did not find burglary tools in the home, but the officer who had installed the alarm a week prior noticed that several items had been moved within the home. A vertical clock and hand tools were moved from the living room and placed near the back door, and a stereo unit had been placed near where he had installed the alarm. The officer testified that in the upstairs of the home “it was obvious that someone had been going through boxes” and he found a freshly smoked cigarette butt on the floor, the same brand of cigarette that appellant was smoking when the officers arrested him. In the living room, the officer found a cold, unopend can of Ice House beer with moisture on the outside of the can. Another officer found a knife near a cut screen upstairs and a green coat with two cold, unopened Ice House beer cans in the pockets.
The officers also discovered a child’s wagon near the black pickup truck. There were several items in the wagon, including a Honda generator, musical instruments, and a bag of pennies. The wagon’s tracks showed that it had been pulled to the pickup from a storage building on the property. One of the co-representatives of the estate confirmed that these items were property of the estate. The officers also found two Ice House beer cans in the console of the pickup truck and two more cans in the back bed of the pickup.
Appellant claimed that he did not own the pickup and he did not know the identity of the owner. He did not have the keys on his person, and, in fact, the keys were never found. The pickup was registered to the wife of an acquaintance of appellant, and an officer informed the acquaintance about the fact that the vehicle was at the LaRue property. The acquaintance was somewhat evasive, but he told the officer that appellant had been working at his farm the night before April 27, and when he and his wife woke up the next morning, the pickup was gone. The acquaintance also stated that appellant did not have permission to drive the truck.
Appellant testified in his own defense. According to appellant, he knew LaRue and had spoken with him on two occasions. Appellant stated that LaRue had given him permission to store several items of furniture on his property. Appellant testified:
I was out there because a guy that I had met in prison told me about this place that had been getting burglarized that he had first hand knowledge of, and he had come over and picked me up and brang [sic] me to the other guy’s house, whose pickup was out there, that I hadn’t seen in twenty years, and they dragged me out there because I had told this guy that I had property out there. I get out there and start looking around for this stuff. In the meantime there’s stuff sitting all over. He’s dragging stuff out of the house. I walk into the house to see what’s—what he’s doing—you know, what—I—I kind of—I know what he’s doing. He’s robbing the place. I walk into the house. He disappears. It wasn’t fifteen seconds later I hear a cop screaming for me to come out with my handcuff—with my hands above my head.
Appellant claimed that this “guy” set him up, but appellant refused to reveal this alleged burglar’s identity. Appellant admitted drinking Ice House beer that day but claimed that the can in the residence was not his; furthermore, because of the condensation on the cold, unopened can, officers were unable to lift fingerprints from it to make an identification. Appellant claimed that the cigarette he smoked on the roof was not his and that he smokes a different brand.
The jury returned a verdict of guilty on the second-degree burglary charge. This appeal followed.
Appellant argues that the evidence presented at trial failed to establish that he committed or intended to commit any crime other than trespassing. Appellant contends that because he knew LaRue and stored property at LaRue’s residence, it is therefore credible and reasonable that he would be on the property simply to check on his stored items. Appellant also argues that the evidence that items had been stacked and moved near the pickup does not suggest that he was the person responsible for moving those items with the intent to steal them. Appellant argues, rather, that the green coat, which he claimed did not belong to him, and the cans of beer in the back bed of the pickup reasonably demonstrate the presence of more than one person. Finally, appellant contends that it is possible that the other person, who appellant claims is responsible for the attempted theft, could have escaped or concealed himself in the woods surrounding the property without the knowledge of the investigating officers.
A person is guilty of second-degree burglary if he “enters a building without consent and with intent to commit a crime.” Minn. Stat. § 609.582, subd. 2 (2000). Appellant concedes that he did not have consent to enter the residence. The state, however, must also establish that appellant intended to commit some independent crime, other than trespass, after illegal entry into a building. State v. Ring, 554 N.W.2d 758, 760 (Minn. App. 1996), review denied (Minn. Jan. 21, 1997). Proof of intent to commit a crime may rest on permissible inferences from the evidence presented at trial, and “this intent must generally be proved from the circumstances surrounding the defendant’s acts.” Id. (citation omitted). Therefore, we must review whether the evidence was sufficient to establish appellant’s intent to commit a crime once inside LaRue’s home.
Our review of a claim of insufficient evidence is limited to a careful analysis of the record to determine whether the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the conviction, is sufficient to sustain the verdict. State v. Webb, 440 N.W.2d 426, 430 (Minn. 1989). 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 offense charged, we will not overturn its verdict. State v. Alton, 432 N.W.2d 754, 756 (Minn. 1988). Although circumstantial evidence merits stricter scrutiny, it is entitled to the same weight as direct evidence. State v. Bauer, 598 N.W.2d 352, 370 (Minn. 1999).
Officers found appellant alone at LaRue’s residence with indicia of a theft in progress. Despite a thorough search of the property and its surrounding wooded area by several officers no one else was discovered, and the lack of other footprints suggests that no one attempted to escape the scene.
The officers also found several items stacked near the back door, a stereo unit stacked near the pickup truck, and a wagon full of personal property of the estate near the pickup. The tracks of the wagon were visible from the dew on the grass, demonstrating that the wagon and its contents had been taken from the property. Photographs and corroborating testimony by three officers confirmed for the jury these indications of an ongoing theft at the residence.
The officers discovered cold Ice House beer cans in the home, truck, and a coat that was draped over the stereo unit next to the truck. The moisture on the outside of the cans made it impossible to lift fingerprints; but appellant admitted to drinking Ice House beer that morning, although he denied that the can found inside the home was his. Officers also found a freshly smoked cigarette butt on the floor in the home, the same brand of cigarette appellant was smoking when the officers arrested him. The jury evaluated this circumstantial evidence, and its decision to convict appellant must be given deference on appeal. Webb, 440 N.W.2d at 430; State v. Berndt, 392 N.W.2d 876, 880 (Minn. 1986).
The jury also weighed appellant’s testimony that another man was responsible for the attempted theft against the conflicting testimony indicating that he was alone at the property. The jury has the exclusive role of determining the credibility of the testimony of each witness. State v. Folkers, 581 N.W.2d 321, 327 (Minn. 1998). “This is especially true where resolution of the case depends on conflicting testimony * * *.” State v. Pieschke, 295 N.W.2d 580, 584 (Minn. 1980). The jury obviously chose to disregard appellant’s version of the events, and we must “assume 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).
Because the jury is best suited to evaluate the circumstantial evidence and testimony presented at trial and because the record does not yield grave doubt as to appellant’s guilt, we affirm.