may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Angela Yvonne Gibson Lee,
Dakota County District Court
File No. T70131754
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103; and
Roger Miller, South St. Paul City Attorney, Ann G. O’Reilly, Darcy M. Mohr, Assistant South St. Paul City Attorneys, LeVander, Gillen & Miller, P.A., 633 South Concord Street, Suite 400, South St. Paul, MN 55075 (for respondent)
Angela Yvonne Gibson Lee, 3116 65th Street East, #107, Inver Grove Heights, MN 55076 (pro se appellant)
Considered and decided by Harten, Presiding Judge, Peterson, Judge, and Halbrooks, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
In this appeal from an obstruction-of-legal-process conviction, pro se appellant Angela Yvonne Gibson Lee argues that (1) the evidence was insufficient to support the conviction; (2) the jury’s guilty verdict was inconsistent with its verdict acquitting her of disorderly conduct; and (3) she was denied the effective assistance of counsel. We affirm.
On September 22, 2001, Lee placed an order at the drive-through window of a Taco Bell in West St. Paul. At the window where she was to pay for her order, Lee got into a dispute with a Taco Bell employee about the price of her order. The amount in dispute was less than one dollar.
The employee testified that Lee argued with her for about 15 to 20 minutes. It was lunch hour, and there were several customers backed up behind Lee. Lee refused the employee’s request to pull her car ahead and come inside to discuss the dispute. Customers began leaving due to the delay, and Lee still refused to move her car. The employee told Lee that she was going to call police, and Lee said “go ahead.” The employee then activated a panic alarm that summoned police.
Captain Harvey Biron, Officer Stacy Conley, and Officer Dan Baczewski, all of the West St. Paul Police Department, responded to the panic alarm. Because panic alarms are supposed to be used only for serious crimes, the officers believed that they were responding to a potentially serious crime situation.
Biron was the first officer to arrive at Taco Bell. He was in uniform and driving a marked squad car with the lights and siren activated. Lee was driving toward the Taco Bell parking-lot exit as Biron arrived. A Taco Bell employee ran out into the parking lot and pointed at Lee’s car, indicating that it was the suspect’s vehicle. Biron testified that he exited his squad car, went to the driver’s side of Lee’s car, and knocked on her window. Biron testified that Lee was talking on a cell phone and did not respond to him, so he opened the driver’s side door of Lee’s car, told her that they needed to discuss what had just happened, and directed her to park her car in a designated parking space. Instead, Lee drove toward the parking-lot exit.
Biron radioed the other responding officers and directed them to stop Lee’s car. Conley, who also was in uniform and driving a marked squad car with the lights and siren activated, arrived next. She attempted to block Lee’s exit from the parking lot and motioned for Lee to stop her car. Conley testified that Lee looked directly at her as she motioned for Lee to stop. But Lee maneuvered her car around Conley’s car and drove north on Robert Street. Biron testified that as Lee drove away, he ran alongside her car, pounding on the window and yelling loud enough so that Lee could hear him inside her car.
Baczewski was the third officer to arrive at the scene. He was in uniform and driving a marked squad car with the lights and siren activated. As Baczewski approached the Taco Bell, traveling southbound on Robert Street, he saw Lee’s car and drove his squad car into the northbound lane to block Lee from continuing north. Lee then stopped her car.
Baczewski testified that he and Biron approached Lee’s car with their weapons drawn and that he repeatedly yelled at Lee to get out of her car. Baczewski testified that Lee did not exit her car by herself. Rather, according to Baczewski, Biron opened Lee’s car door and both Biron and Baczewski grabbed her arm and pulled her out of the car. The officers told Lee to put her hands behind her back for handcuffing. Baczewski and Conley described Lee as uncooperative with the handcuffing, specifically refusing to put her hands behind her back, arguing with the officers, and struggling. Conley testified that handcuffing Lee required the efforts of all three officers.
Lee was tab charged with misdemeanor obstructing legal process without force or violence in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.50, subd. 1(2) (2000); and misdemeanor disorderly conduct in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.72, subd. 1(3) (2000). A jury found Lee guilty of obstructing legal process and not guilty of disorderly conduct. The district court sentenced Lee to 60 days in jail, with 30 days to be served and 30 days stayed.
On April 3, 2002, Lee filed this appeal challenging the conviction. On April 25, 2002, this court issued an order requiring Lee to file by May 6, 2002, affidavits of service and an initial transcript certificate. Lee missed the deadline for filing an initial transcript certificate, and the state moved to dismiss the appeal. This court denied the state’s motion and allowed Lee until June 7, 2002, to make financial arrangements with the court reporter and file an initial transcript certificate. On June 7, 2002, Lee notified this court by letter that she had ordered the transcripts, and an initial transcript certificate was filed on June 10, 2002. The court reporter delivered the transcripts to Lee by mail on July 18, 2002. Under Minn. R. Crim. P. 28.02, subd. 10, Lee was required to file her brief within 60 days after delivery of the transcript, but she failed to do so. On October 4, 2002, this court issued an order requiring Lee to serve and file her brief by October 15, 2002, and stating that failure to comply could result in the imposition of sanctions, including dismissal of the appeal. Lee did not serve and file her brief until October 16, 2002.
1. The state argues that Lee’s appeal should be dismissed for failure to timely serve and file her brief in disregard of this court’s October 4, 2002. Lee also missed earlier filing deadlines. But because the state has not identified any prejudice that it might suffer because Lee served and filed her brief one day after this court’s deadline, we decline to dismiss the appeal.
2. 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 contrary evidence. 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 the defendant was guilty of the charged offense. State v. Alton, 432 N.W.2d 754, 756 (Minn. 1988).
A person who intentionally “obstructs, resists, or interferes with a peace officer while the officer is engaged in the performance of official duties” is guilty of obstructing legal process. Minn. Stat. § 609.50, subd. 1(2) (2000).
Lee argues that the evidence is insufficient to support her conviction because the Taco Bell employee overreacted by using the panic alarm. But regardless of why the officers were called, they were engaged in the performance of official duties when they responded to the alarm, and there is ample evidence that Lee resisted or obstructed their performance of those duties. Lee disobeyed Biron’s instruction to park her car in a designated space so that he could talk to her about what had happened. She then resisted Conley’s efforts to prevent her car from leaving the Taco Bell parking lot and Biron’s efforts to stop her car as she traveled up Robert Street. After she stopped her car, Lee failed to comply with the officers’ instructions to exit her car and then resisted their efforts to handcuff her.
In her brief, Lee cites several alleged inconsistencies in Biron’s testimony. To the extent that there were any inconsistencies in Biron’s testimony, they were minor. Minor inconsistencies in a witness’s testimony do not deprive a verdict of sufficient support if the testimony, taken as a whole, is consistent and credible. State v. Higgins, 422 N.W.2d 277, 281 (Minn. App. 1988); see also State v. Porter, 411 N.W.2d 187, 191 (Minn. App. 1987) (upholding verdict based on the testimony of a single witness despite minor inconsistencies in her testimony).
Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict, the jury could reasonably conclude that Lee was guilty of obstructing legal process.
3. Lee argues that the jury’s verdict is inconsistent.
Verdicts are legally inconsistent if proof of the elements of one offense negates a necessary element of another offense. If a jury renders legally inconsistent verdicts, reversal is warranted.
State v. Crowsbreast, 629 N.W.2d 433, 440 (Minn. 2001) (citation omitted).
The crimes of obstructing legal process and disorderly conduct involve different elements. Obstructing legal process occurs when a person intentionally “obstructs, resists, or interferes with a peace officer while the officer is engaged in the performance of official duties.” Minn. Stat. § 609.50, subd. 1(2) (2000). Disorderly conduct occurs when a person
[e]ngages in offensive, obscene, abusive, boisterous, or noisy conduct or in offensive, obscene, or abusive language tending reasonably to arouse alarm, anger, or resentment in others.
Minn. Stat. § 609.72, subd. 1(3) (2000).
The jury’s verdict of guilty of obstructing legal process in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.50, subd. 1(2), is not legally inconsistent with its verdict of not guilty of disorderly conduct in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.72, subd. 1(3). Disobeying Biron’s instruction to park her car, driving around Conley’s car to get out of the parking lot, and refusing to cooperate with officers when they handcuffed her are all acts that Lee committed that constituted obstructing legal process but do not necessarily involve elements of disorderly conduct.
4. In order to prove a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, a defendant
must affirmatively prove that his counsel’s representation “fell below an objective standard of reasonableness” and “that there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel’s unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different.”
Gates v. State, 398 N.W.2d 558, 561 (Minn. 1987) (quoting Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 688, 694, 104 S. Ct. 2052, 2064, 2068 (1984)).
When determining whether counsel’s representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, a “strong presumption exists that counsel’s performance fell within a wide range of reasonable assistance.” State v. Lahue, 585 N.W.2d 785, 789 (Minn. 1998) (citation omitted).
In Minnesota, the standard for attorney competence is “representation by an attorney exercising the customary skills and diligence that a reasonably competent attorney would perform under similar circumstances.”
State v. Gassler, 505 N.W.2d 62, 70 (Minn. 1993) (quoting White v. State, 309 Minn. 476, 481, 248 N.W.2d 281, 285 (1976).
The only specific claim of ineffective assistance Lee makes is that her counsel suggested during closing argument that the jury might perceive her as being guilty of obstructing, resisting, or interfering with the officers’ performance of their duty whether there was intent or not. Lee’s argument takes the statement out of context. Defense counsel argued:
Finally, if it is perceivable that you did believe Ms. Lee obstructed, resisted, or interfered with the police while they were trying to do their duty, the one most important element is the intent that Ms. Lee had. The State has not had any evidence or testimony to prove intention. You heard, again, from Ms. Lee what she was trying to do, where she was trying to go [because she could not get into the parking spot designated by the officer]. She wanted to speak to the officers. What’s happening. She wasn’t trying to resist arrest. She had two kids in her car. She wasn’t trying to get shot. She sees lights, guns, police cars coming from everywhere. She did not try to resist their arrest. She did not try to interfere. She did not try to obstruct.
Also, you heard Officer Baczewski say that Ms. Lee’s car was stopped before he crossed the traffic. Again, she was not obstructing. Now, you also heard Ms. Lee say that she was scared and terrified in that situation. She was trying to do what was reasonable. She had two kids in her car and she was trying to protect them. She tried to follow the policeman’s orders, but, as she explained, there was a car in front of her. She couldn’t fit in that spot where the policeman said. Sure, there was parking places open but she couldn’t fit through the cars to get to those parking places. She’s already leaving before the police came. Each officer testified to that. She wasn’t trying to flee away, and, yes, she said to the employee, go ahead and call the police but the employees both told you she didn’t actually know that they called the police.
Defense counsel’s closing argument accurately stated the law and, given the evidence presented at trial, was a reasonable argument for acquittal.