This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Leroy Edward Kilanowski,
Filed February 18, 2003
Otter Tail County District Court
File No. K7-01-1613
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Jodie L. Carlson, Assistant State Public Defender, 2221 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 425, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)
David J. Hauser, Otter Tail County Attorney, Otter Tail County Courthouse, 121 West Junius Avenue, Fergus Falls, MN 56537; and
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Thomas R. Ragatz, Assistant Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge, Harten, Judge, and Halbrooks, Judge.
Appellant challenges his conviction of criminal damage to property in the first degree, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to support the conviction and that the district court abused its discretion by ruling that his prior burglary conviction was admissible for impeachment purposes. Because we see no abuse of discretion and sufficient evidence to support the verdict, we affirm.
On 1 May 2001, Patricia Shelden was scheduled to work as a sign language interpreter at the Otter Tail County Courthouse. As she pulled her truck into the courthouse parking lot, she stopped to wait for a car to back out of a parking space. While she waited, another car entered the parking lot behind her. The car’s passenger, later identified as appellant Leroy Kilanowski, repeatedly honked the horn. Shelden parked and exited her truck. Appellant exited his car and blocked Shelden from entering the courthouse; he yelled and cursed at her. Shelden eventually entered the courthouse and went to the third floor.
Minutes later, appellant appeared on the third floor and again approached Shelden. Shelden told a bailiff that appellant was harassing her, and the bailiff separated them. An officer from the Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Department asked appellant to step into an adjacent conference room. The officer testified that appellant was loud and upset about what occurred in the parking lot. A second officer joined them. After 10 to 15 minutes, appellant quieted down and left the courthouse. The officers “didn’t feel right about things as [appellant] was leaving,” so they followed him.
From the courthouse entrance, the officers observed appellant approach Shelden’s truck. An officer testified at the trial that appellant paused by the truck’s passenger side “for a period of time that created suspicion.” Although the truck partially blocked the officers’ view, appellant appeared to be doing something with his hands. One officer met appellant near his car, and the other officer walked to Shelden’s truck and noticed “fresh scratch marks” on the passenger side front fender and door. The officer testified that there were “pieces of the clear coat and part of the paint * * * on the sharp edges of the scratch that were standing up.” The other officer testified that rolled up paint particles were hanging from the scratches.
Prior to driving to the courthouse, Shelden had looked at the passenger side of her truck as she walked around it to enter the vehicle. She later testified that the truck was in “mint condition” and that she did not make any stops or scrape any cars on her way to the courthouse.
Appellant was arrested and charged with criminal damage to property in the first degree in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.595, subd. 1(3) (2000). He testified at trial, and the district court ruled that his prior burglary conviction was admissible for impeachment purposes. The jury found appellant guilty. He now challenges the conviction, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to support the verdict and that the district court abused its discretion in admitting his prior burglary conviction.
D E C I S I O N
1. Sufficiency of the Evidence
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 jurors to reach their verdict. State v. Webb, 440 N.W.2d 426, 430 (Minn. 1989). A 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 the defendant was guilty of the charged offense. State v. Alton, 432 N.W.2d 754, 756 (Minn. 1988). Although 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 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.
Appellant argues that there was insufficient evidence to support the conviction because there was no physical evidence connecting him to the damage, the officers did not see him moving in a manner consistent with the damage, and the circumstances did not exclude the possibility that the damage occurred at another time. We disagree. Shelden testified that her truck was in mint condition prior to leaving for the courthouse. Appellant admitted that he was “very angry” with Shelden and that he walked by the passenger side of her truck as he returned to his car. Finally, an officer testified that appellant stood near the truck’s passenger side front fender and door, the location of the fresh scratch marks, and appeared to do something with his hands. We conclude that the evidence was sufficient to support the verdict.
2. Impeachment Value of the Prior Conviction
A district court’s ruling on the impeachment of a witness by prior conviction is reviewed, as are other evidentiary rulings, under a clear-abuse-of-discretion standard. State v. Ihnot, 575 N.W.2d 581, 584 (Minn. 1998). Evidence of a prior conviction less than ten years old may be admissible for impeachment purposes if the underlying offense was punishable by imprisonment in excess of one year and its probative value outweighs its prejudicial effect. Minn. R. Evid. 609(a), (b). Whether the probative value of the prior conviction outweighs its prejudicial effect is a matter within the discretion of the district court. State v. Graham, 371 N.W.2d 204, 208 (Minn. 1985). When making this determination, the court should consider
(1) the impeachment value of the prior crime, (2) the date of the conviction and the defendant’s subsequent history, (3) the similarity of the past crime with the charged crime (the greater the similarity, the greater the reason for not permitting use of the prior crime to impeach), (4) the importance of defendant’s testimony, and (5) the centrality of the credibility issue.
Ihnot, 575 N.W.2d at 586 (quoting State v. Jones, 271 N.W.2d 534, 538 (Minn. 1978)).
The district court made findings on the above factors and determined that each factor weighed in favor of admitting appellant’s prior burglary conviction. The prior conviction was useful for impeachment purposes because it assisted the jury in weighing appellant’s credibility. See State v. Gassler, 505 N.W.2d 62, 67 (Minn. 1993) (impeachment by prior conviction allows jury to see “whole person” and better judge truth of person’s testimony). Moreover, the conviction was less than ten years old and was not similar to the charged offense. Finally, the importance of appellant’s testimony and the centrality of his credibility also favor admitting the prior conviction: appellant was the only person to offer an alternate version of the incident. We conclude that the district court did not abuse its discretion in ruling that appellant’s prior conviction was admissible for impeachment purposes.