This opinion will be unpublished and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,
David John Nason,
Filed December 30, 2003
Itasca County District Court
File No. K102424
John Stuart, State Public Defender, Rochelle R. Winn, Assistant State Public Defender, 2221 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 425, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103; and
John J. Muhar, Itasca County Attorney, Todd S. Webb, Assistant Itasca County Attorney, 123 Northeast Fourth Street, Grand Rapids, MN 55744 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge; Klaphake, Judge; and Anderson, Judge.
G. BARRY ANDERSON, Judge
Appellant David John Nason challenges his conviction of second-degree assault, arguing that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction. We affirm.
In February 2002, Nason and his girlfriend, Janine Seely, visited a friend, Lisa Peake, in Ball Club, Minnesota. After a brief visit with Peake, the couple returned to their own home and ate dinner.
Later in the evening, Nason and Seely returned to Peake’s house where a large number of people had gathered in the front yard; some of those present were fighting. Seely waited in the van with her dog while Nason talked with others in the crowd. But when the crowd turned hostile, Nason decided to leave. Nason agreed to give two of the people at the party—Dale Runningcrane and Samuel Bellanger—a ride home.
During the ride, Runningcrane’s wrist was severely cut. There are several conflicting versions of the events that transpired in Nason’s vehicle.
When the police first interviewed Runningcrane, he told them that Nason went “wack-o,” tried to slash Runningcrane’s face with a knife, and, as Runningcrane left Nason’s vehicle, cut Runningcrane’s wrist.
At trial, Runningcrane testified that Nason grabbed Nason’s knife and intimated that he was going to stab Bellanger. Runningcrane then grabbed Nason’s hand and told Bellanger to leave the vehicle. As Runningcrane left the van, Nason slashed Runningcrane’s wrist and then drove away.
Nason, in a taped statement to police, contradicted Runningcrane’s testimony, arguing that while Nason was giving Runningcrane and Bellanger a ride home, Runningcrane asked Nason if he could look at Nason’s knife. After Nason gave Runningcrane the knife, the two men began to argue. Runningcrane refused to return Nason’s knife and threatened Nason. A struggle ensued as Nason attempted to push Runningcrane and Bellanger from the van. Runningcrane dropped the knife and said, “I’m bleeding.” Bellanger followed Runningcrane out of the car. Nason acknowledged to police that Runningcrane might have been accidentally cut during the altercation.
At trial, Nason supplemented the statement that he had given to police; Nason testified that after Runningcrane had the knife, Bellanger swore at Nason and pulled Nason’s hair. Runningcrane threatened Nason with the knife and swung the knife at Nason. After a struggle, Nason saw that Bellanger was outside the van, and that Seely was leaning over the seats in the back of the van.
Seely testified that she heard Runningcrane ask Nason if Runningcrane could look at Nason’s knife. During the ride, Bellanger pulled Nason’s hair and Runningcrane struck Nason. Seely then opened the door to the van and Bellanger got out. Seely did not see if Nason cut Runningcrane during the altercation.
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 a light most favorable to the conviction, was sufficient to permit the jurors to reach the verdict which they did.” State v. Webb, 440 N.W.2d 426, 430 (Minn. 1989). When we review a criminal conviction, we assume that the fact-finder credited the state’s witnesses and disbelieved contradictory evidence. State v. Moore, 438 N.W.2d 101, 108 (Minn. 1989). This is especially true when resolution of the matter depends mainly on conflicting testimony. State v. Pieschke, 295 N.W.2d 580, 584 (Minn. 1980).
This 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).
The jury convicted Nason of
second-degree assault, defined by Minn. Stat.
§ 609.222, subd. 2 (2000) as:
Dangerous weapon; substantial bodily harm. Whoever assaults another with a dangerous weapon and inflicts substantial bodily harm may be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than ten years or to payment of a fine of not more than $20,000, or both.
Because assault is a specific-intent crime, the state is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt not only that Runningcrane suffered substantial bodily harm and that Nason’s knife was a dangerous weapon but also that Nason had either (1) the intent to cause fear in Runningcrane of immediate bodily harm or death; or, (2) intentionally inflicted or attempted to inflict bodily harm on Runningcrane. See State v. Edrozo, 578 N.W.2d 719, 723 (Minn. 1998) (holding that assault is a specific-intent crime); Minn. Stat. § 609.02, subds. 10(1) & (2) (2000) (stating the requisite mental state for assault). The Minnesota Supreme Court has noted that “[g]enerally a person’s intent must be determined ‘from his words (if any) and actions in the light of all the surrounding circumstances.’” State v. Hardimon, 310 N.W.2d 564, 566 (Minn. 1981) (quoting W. LaFave & A. Scott, Criminal Law 203 (1972)).
Here, Nason argues that because the state did not prove that he intended to assault Runningcrane, an essential element of the crime of assault, the evidence at trial was insufficient for a jury to convict Nason of second-degree assault. See In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 364, 90 S. Ct. 1086, 1073 (1970) (holding that the state must prove every element of the crime charged).
But, because we defer to the jury’s credibility determinations, and because Runningcrane’s version of events constituted sufficient evidence to support the jury’s finding of guilt, we will not disturb the jury’s verdict. Runningcrane’s statement to police and his testimony at trial supported the jury’s determination that Nason intentionally slashed Runningcrane’s wrist while Runningcrane was leaving Nason’s van. It was reasonable for the jury to infer that because Nason both was fighting with Runningcrane while they were in the van, and was using physical force to remove Runningcrane from the vehicle, Nason had the requisite intent to commit second-degree assault. The evidence in this case was, therefore, sufficient to allow the fact-finder to conclude that Nason was guilty of assaulting Runningcrane.