This opinion will be unpublished and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
William David Anderson,
Filed September 21, 2004
Robert H. Schumacher, Judge
Katherine M. Johnson, Chisago County Attorney, Mark D. Person, Assistant County Attorney, Chisago County Government Center, 313 North Main Street, Room 373, Center City, MN 55012 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Steven P. Russett, Assistant Public Defender, 2221 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 425, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
ROBERT H. SCHUMACHER, Judge
In 2001, Anderson moved into an unoccupied house owned by R.S. in Lent Township. Anderson agreed to pay the utilities in lieu of rent. After receiving multiple complaints from the county about the property, R.S. decided to evict Anderson. R.S. testified that he and his wife made repeated trips to the property, and although there was never anybody there "it appeared that somebody had been coming and going because there were tracks in the driveway." R.S. testified that he eventually entered the house in order to determine if in fact Anderson had moved out, found what he suspected was a methamphetamine lab, and called the county sheriff.
In April 2002, the police searched the house. The search produced a methamphetamine recipe, a box containing several "residency papers" indicating Anderson lived in the residence, and numerous containers holding compounds that were later identified as ingredients used to make methamphetamine. The police also discovered messages on an answering machine. Investigator Russell Frank testified that there were day and time stamps on the messages and that the "stamps varied from in the morning on Saturday throughout the evening, and then there was also one on Sunday morning," which was the day of the search. Frank also testified, "In a couple of the conversations left they were asking for Bill, another was related to a Billy."
After the search, Frank interviewed Anderson. Frank testified that Anderson stated he had moved out of the house in question during the latter part of February 2002. Frank also testified that Anderson told him he had left several vehicles, tools, and other assorted personal items at the house because he felt that it was safe to do so. Anderson also told Frank that the utilities were still in Anderson's name and that he "wasn't real sure at that time why he had done that."
The state sought to introduce evidence pursuant to State v. Spreigl, 272 Minn. 488, 139 N.W.2d 167 (1965), of Anderson's subsequent arrest for the manufacture of methamphetamine. Thisevidence resulted from Deputy Thomas Knickerbocker's arrest of Anderson in neighboring Kanabec County. Conducting a search incident to the arrest, Knickerbocker discovered drug paraphernalia on Anderson and a plastic bottle containing a white substance that later tested positive for methamphetamine. This led to a search of Anderson's residence in Kanabec County, where police discovered a suspected methamphetamine laboratory. The arrest happened eight days after the present offense.
At the end of the state's case-in-chief, the district court addressed the admissibility of the Spreigl evidence. The court found there was clear and convincing evidence that Anderson committed the act leading to his arrest, that the evidence was material and relevant because of the closeness in time and similarity in offenses, and that based on the weakness of the state's evidence of identity the probative value of the evidence outweighed it prejudicial effect. The court granted the state's motion and allowed Knickerbocker to testify.
The jury found Anderson guilty of manufacturing and attempting to manufacture methamphetamine under Minn. Stat. § 152.021, subd. 2a (2000), and improper possession of anhydrous ammonia under Minn. Stat. § 18C.201, subd. 6 (2000). The district court sentenced him to 86 months for his conviction of manufacturing methamphetamine and a concurrent 18-month sentence for his conviction of improperly possessing anhydrous ammonia.
1. Anderson argues there was insufficient evidence for the jury to find him guilty of manufacturing methamphetamine and of improper possession of anhydrous ammonia. In considering a sufficiency of the evidence challenge, the reviewing court will "take the evidence in the light most favorable to the state and assume that the jury believed the state’s witnesses and disbelieved any contradictory evidence." State v. Pippitt, 645 N.W.2d 87, 92 (Minn. 2002). Appellate review is "limited to ascertaining whether a jury, giving due regard to the presumption of innocence and to the state’s burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, could reasonably conclude that the defendant was guilty based on the facts in the record and any legitimate inferences therefrom." State v. Harris, 589 N.W.2d 782, 791 (Minn. 1999) (quotation omitted).
A conviction based on circumstantial evidence may stand when the evidence viewed as a whole so directly leads to the accused's guilt that it excludes any other reasonable inference. State v. Bias, 419 N.W. 2d 480, 484 (Minn. 1988). This standard "still recognizes a jury is in the best position to evaluate the circumstantial evidence . . . [and] determine the credibility and weight given to the testimony of individual witnesses." Id. (quotation omitted)
Anderson was convicted of violating Minn. Stat. § 152.021, subd. 2a (2000), which provides that "a person is guilty of controlled substance crime in the first degree if the person manufactures any amount of methamphetamine." Although the record contains evidence that methamphetamine was being manufactured at the residence in Lent Township, Anderson contends there is insufficient evidence that he was the person manufacturing the drug.
R.S. testified that he rented the house to Anderson, that the house's locks had been changed, that Anderson never informed R.S. that he was moving out, and that while R.S. was at the residence a man showed up asking for "Bill." Further, when the police searched the house, they found "residency papers" indicating Anderson lived there and an answering machine containing messages for "Bill" and "Billy." Additionally, Anderson admitted to Frank that he had left personal property at the house and left the utilities in his name. There is no evidence that anyone occupied the house other than Anderson. We conclude the jury could reasonably find from this evidence that Anderson occupied the house and was the one manufacturing methamphetamine. See Harris, 589 N.W.2d at 791.
Anderson was also convicted of violating Minn. Stat. § 18C.201, subd. 6 (2000), which provides a person may not "place, have placed, or possess anhydrous ammonia in a container that is not designed, constructed, maintained, and authorized to contain or transport anhydrous ammonia." The evidence showed that anhydrous ammonia was stored in fire extinguishers, propane cylinders, and other containers, none of which were designed or authorized to carry anhydrous ammonia, and that these containers were found in the house and garage on Karmel Avenue. The jury could reasonably conclude from this evidence that Anderson was storing anhydrous ammonia in the house.
2. Anderson argues the district court erred in admitting Spreigl evidence. Evidence of other crimes or bad acts is characterized as "Spreigl evidence." State v. Kennedy, 585 N.W.2d 385, 389 (Minn. 1988). A reviewing court should not reverse the district court's admission of Spreigl evidence unless an abuse of discretion is clearly shown. State v. Spaeth, 552 N.W.2d 187, 193 (Minn. 1996).
Minn. R. Evid. 404(b) allows a district court to admit Spreigl evidence if it finds that (1) the evidence is clear and convincing that the defendant participated in the Spreigl incident, (2) the Spreigl evidence is relevant and material to the state's case, and (3) the probative value of the Spreigl evidence is not outweighed by its potential for unfair prejudice. Pierson v. State, 637 N.W.2d 571, 580 (Minn. 2002). The first prong of this test is not at issue in this case.
In determining the relevance and materiality of Spreigl evidence, the district court should consider the issues in the case, the reasons and need for the evidence, and whether there is a sufficiently close relationship between the charged offense and the Spreigl offense in time, place, or modus operandi. Pierson, 637 N.W.2d at 580.
Here, the Spreigl evidence was Anderson's arrest for manufacturing methamphetamine eight days after the current offense. Anderson's subsequent arrest is sufficiently similar to make it relevant to the present offense, thus satisfying the second prong. See State v. Cogshell, 538 N.W.2d 120, 124 (Minn. 1995) (holding it does not necessarily matter that other crime is not "a unique or 'signature' crime . . . as long as the [other] crime is sufficiently or substantially similar").
The final prong for admission of Spreigl evidence is whether the evidence's probative value outweighs its risk of unfair prejudice. Pierson, 637 N.W.2d at 580. "In weighing the probative value against the prejudicial effect, the [district] court must consider the extent to which the Spreigl evidence is crucial to the state's case." State v. DeWald, 464 N.W.2d 500, 504 (Minn. 1991); see also State v. Billstrom, 276 Minn. 174, 178, 149 N.W.2d 281, 284 (1967) (stating other-crimes evidence is "admissible only if the [district] court finds the direct or circumstantial evidence of defendant's identity is otherwise weak or inadequate, and that it is necessary to support the state's burden of proof"). The district court "generally is in a better position than an appellate court to evaluate the reasonableness of and need for other-crime evidence in a particular case." State v. Bolte, 530 N.W.2d 191, 197 n.2 (Minn. 1995).
Here, the district court correctly found that the need for Spreigl evidence was high because the state's case was weak on the issue of identity and, considering the similarities between the two offenses, the probative value of the evidence was substantial. Further, the district court instructed the jury on the limited use of the Spreigl evidence both before the evidence was presented and during the final instructions. See State v. Berry, 484 N.W.2d 14, 18 (Minn. 1992) (stating cautionary instructions reduced any unfair prejudicial effect of Spreigl evidence). Under these circumstances, the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the Spreigl evidence.
Anderson argues the Spreigl evidence should not have been admitted because he alleges the state created the weakness on the issue of identity by failing to call a witness, M.C. In addressing whether the state's failure to call the witness affected the strength of the state's case on identity the district court stated that M.C.'s testimony "may have weighed a little bit in on identity, it certainly wasn't going to make what [the court] found to be a weak case much stronger than it is." There is nothing in the record to indicate the court's assessment is inaccurate, and we find Anderson's argument lacks merit.
3. Anderson also argues that his 18-month sentence for improper possession of anhydrous ammonia is impermissible under Minn. Stat. § 609.035, subd. 1 (2000), because it arose out of the same behavioral incident as the manufacture of methamphetamine. Although this issue was not presented at the sentencing hearing, a "defendant does not waive relief from multiple sentences . . . arising from the same behavioral incident by failing to raise the issue at the time of sentencing." State v. Clark, 486 N.W.2d 166, 170 (Minn. App. 1992) (citing Ture v. State, 353 N.W.2d 518, 523 (Minn. 1984)).
Under Minn. Stat. § 609.035, subd. 1, absent certain exceptions, "if a person's conduct constitutes more than one offense under the laws of this state, the person may be punished for only one of the offenses." Section 609.035 "protects defendants from both multiple sentences and multiple prosecutions" and ensures that "punishment . . . will be commensurate with the criminality of defendant's misconduct." State v. Williams, 608 N.W.2d 837, 841-43 (Minn. 2000) (alteration in original) (quotation omitted). Absent one of the enunciated exceptions, a district court "may only sentence a defendant once for a single behavioral incident even though it results in multiple crimes." Id. at 841. The state bears the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the conduct underlying the offenses did not occur as part of a single behavioral incident. Id.
Here, the state offers theories as to how the two offenses could be conducted at different times and could involve a different criminal objective, but there is no evidence in this record supporting the state's theories. Therefore, under Minn. Stat. § 609.035, subd. 1, we vacate Anderson's 18-month concurrent sentence for improperly possessing anhydrous ammonia. See id.
Affirmed in part and reversed in part.