This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Ryan Lee Docken,
Filed March 1, 2005
Renville County District Court
File No. K0-03-394
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, James B. Early, Assistant Attorney General, 1800 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101; and
David Torgelson, Renville County Attorney, Commerce Building, P.O. Box D, Olivia, MN 56277 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Sharon E. Jacks, Assistant Public Defender, 2221 University Avenue SE, Suite 425, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge, Randall, Judge, and Shumaker, Judge.
Appellant challenges his conviction of sale of methamphetamine in violation of Minn. Stat. § 152.021, subds. 1(1), 3(b) (2002), arguing that the testimony of an informant who handled the controlled buy from a person he identified as appellant was not sufficient to support the conviction because the credibility of the informant, a repeat offender trying to curry favor on current felony charges, was too suspect without corroborating evidence. Appellant further argues for a new rule of law requiring that informant testimony, like accomplice testimony, be corroborated in order to sustain a conviction. Because the jury was informed of the informant’s status, the informant’s testimony was corroborated by circumstantial evidence, and an extension of the law is a task most appropriately reserved for the supreme court, we affirm.
Micheal Reiten faced a felony charge in connection with a burglary in Alexandria. In exchange for dismissal of the pending burglary charge, Reiten agreed to act as an informant and assist the police in making controlled drug buys.
On October 31, 2002, Reiten met with police to plan a drug purchase. The police searched Reiten and his car and found no money or drugs. The police then gave Reiten $1,500 in previously recorded bills and fitted him with a transmitter.
Reiten drove to the town of Sacred Heart, followed by several officers. Reiten first went to a house owned by Brandon Merrill. A few minutes later, Reiten and Merrill left and drove to a house owned by Wayne Siemieniewski. After spending approximately ten minutes at Siemieniewski’s house, Reiten and Merrill returned to Merrill’s home. Five minutes later, Reiten left alone and drove back to Siemieniewski’s. The police did not search Reiten or his vehicle after these visits, but Meeker County Deputy Brian Cruze testified that the transmission of the discussion at Siemieniewski’s house indicated that no drug purchase had taken place during Reiten’s initial visit.
When Reiten returned to Siemieniewski’s home, two other men were present. One of the other men left, and Reiten and the remaining man, later identified by Reiten as appellant Ryan Docken, began to discuss a drug purchase. After negotiating, they agreed on a price of $1,000 per ounce. The police ascertained that the drug purchased was methamphetamine because “[t]hat is the going price for” the drug. Shortly thereafter, Reiten left and went to a predetermined location to meet the police.
Upon meeting the police, Reiten turned over $500 and a package later determined to contain approximately one ounce of methamphetamine. The police then searched Reiten and his car, but found no other drugs or money.
Appellant was later arrested and charged with the sale of a controlled substance in violation of Minn. Stat. § 152.021, subds. 1(1), 3(b) (2002). After a two-day trial, a jury found appellant guilty. At sentencing, appellant moved for judgment of acquittal notwithstanding the verdict and the state moved for an upward durational departure. The district court denied both motions and sentenced appellant to the presumptive 110-month prison term. This appeal follows.
Appellant argues that the evidence at trial was insufficient to support his conviction of sale of a controlled substance because the testimony of the police informant was not corroborated. When considering a claim of insufficient evidence, this court’s review is limited to a careful assessment of the record to determine whether “a jury could reasonably find the defendant guilty, given the facts in evidence and the legitimate inferences which could be drawn from those facts.” State v. Robinson, 604 N.W.2d 355, 365-66 (Minn. 2000). When reviewing the record, this court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to a conviction. State v. Moore, 438 N.W.2d 101, 108 (Minn. 1989). Determining the weight and credibility of witness testimony is a matter for the jury. Id. Here, we must assume that “the jury believed the state’s witnesses and disbelieved any evidence to the contrary.” Id.
Appellant contends that the testimony of a police informant is inherently unreliable because it is offered for self-serving motives—in this case, dismissal of a burglary charge against the informant. This situation, appellant argues, is analogous to that of accomplice testimony, which requires corroboration to sustain a conviction. Minn. Stat. § 634.04 (2002); see also State v. Shoop, 441 N.W.2d 475, 479 (Minn. 1989) (noting that section 634.04 “embodies the common law’s long-standing mistrust of the testimony of the accomplice. The accomplice may testify against another in the hope of or upon a promise of immunity or clemency or to satisfy other self-serving or malicious motives”). Accordingly, appellant argues for a new rule of law requiring corroboration of informant testimony.
In support of such a rule, appellant cites to caselaw and statutes from other jurisdictions. See People v. Huffman, 532 N.E.2d 556, 562 (Ill. App. Ct. 1988); State v. Johnson, 627 N.W.2d 753, 762-65 (Neb. 2001) (citing Nebraska statute requiring corroboration of “cooperative individual”). But Minnesota has adopted no such requirement with respect to informant testimony. Implementing such a requirement is a task most appropriately reserved for the supreme court. See Northfield Ins. Co. v. St. Paul Surplus Lines Ins. Co., 545 N.W.2d 57, 62 (Minn. App. 1996) (noting that “[t]he Minnesota Supreme Court is the appropriate forum to address a question regarding the extension of existing law”), review denied (Minn. June 19, 1996). Consequently, we decline to adopt the rule proposed by appellant.
Moreover, circumstantial evidence can provide the requisite corroboration in accomplice-testimony cases. State v. Bowles, 530 N.W.2d 521, 532 (Minn. 1995). Circumstantial evidence corroborating an accomplice’s testimony is reviewed in the light most favorable to the verdict. Id. Here, the officers involved testified regarding their observations, and the jury heard a recording of the conversation that took place during the drug purchase. Evidence thus exists to corroborate Reiten’s testimony.
Appellant asserts that, as an informant, Reiten’s bias renders his testimony unreliable and insufficient to support a conviction. But Reiten’s potential bias and the deal he had made with the police were brought out multiple times during the trial, both by the state and by appellant. Moreover, in closing, appellant argued that Reiten’s criminal history, status as an informant, and deal with the police made him unreliable and asked the jury to disregard his testimony. The weight and credibility of Reiten’s testimony was for the jury to determine. Moore, 438 N.W.2d at 108. Under the applicable standard of review, we must assume that the jury believed Reiten’s testimony. Id. Thus, appellant has not demonstrated that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction.