This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Filed April 5, 2005
Kanabec County District Court
File No. K7-02-610
Melissa Sheridan, Assistant State Public Defender, 1380 Corporate Center Curve, Suite 320, Eagan, MN 55121 (for appellant)
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Catherine M. Keane, Assistant Attorney General, 1800 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2134; and
Considered and decided by Klaphake,
appellate court reviews a postconviction court’s findings to “determine whether
there is sufficient evidentiary support in the record.” Dukes v. State, 621 N.W.2d 246, 251 (
reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence, this court is “limited to
ascertaining whether, given the facts in the record and any legitimate inferences
that can be drawn from those facts, [the fact finder] could reasonably find
that the defendant was guilty of the charged offense.” State v. Asfeld, 662 N.W.2d 534, 544 (
was convicted of a first-degree controlled substance crime, which makes it a
crime to conspire to manufacture any amount of methamphetamine (meth). Minn. Stat. §§ 152.021, subd. 2a,
152.096, subd. 1 (2002). To constitute a
conspiracy, the state must prove: (1)
the defendant entered into an agreement with another person to manufacture
meth; and (2) one or more of these individuals performed an overt act in
furtherance of the conspiracy.
Here, two deputy sheriffs conducted surveillance of a residence on the evening of September 11, 2002, and executed a search warrant there the next morning. The deputies testified at trial that during their surveillance, they (1) noticed the unmistakable and telltale smells of meth manufacturing emanating from the house, both before and during appellant’s presence there; (2) witnessed equipment typically used to manufacture meth being carried into the house, including a hose or tubing taken from appellant’s vehicle, and what sounded like glassware taken from a hiding place in the backyard; (3) observed shadows of people pouring and mixing through the covered windows and heard the sounds of clanking glassware, which they testified were activities consistent with the manufacture of meth; (4) saw appellant and others walking around the grounds in a manner that suggested that they were patrolling or concerned about intruders; and (5) observed a man emerge from the house coughing and gasping in a manner consistent with the creation of toxic vapors during the manufacturing process. The deputies also testified that when they searched the property the next morning, they observed and seized various items throughout the house, which they identified as ingredients and equipment typically used to manufacture meth. The deputies further testified that some of these items were still wet, indicating recent use, and that some contained residues that tested positive for meth.
From this evidence, the district court could reasonably infer that meth was being manufactured in the house on the evening of September 11, 2002, that appellant and the others were engaged in this process and were trying to conceal their illegal activities, and that the group had a tacit agreement to commit this unlawful act. We therefore conclude that the evidence was sufficient to support appellant’s conviction for conspiracy to manufacture meth.
Appellant nevertheless argues that the evidence merely supports an inference that meth was manufactured at the residence “at some point,” but not necessarily when she was there. But, given the deputies’ observations during their surveillance and given the sheer amount of incriminating evidence found during the search the next morning, any inference that the materials were brought there after appellant left the residence at 11 p.m. the night before is incredible and unworthy of belief.
also claims that there was no evidence that she was any part of an agreement or
that she participated in the manufacturing of meth. But appellant had a connection to the house
because she was present at the time the meth was manufactured, she had been
there before, and a copy of a criminal complaint filed in
the district court was entirely free to reject appellant’s claim that she and
her friends were merely socializing at the residence and drinking wine coolers
that evening. The district court found
appellant’s claims regarding her activities that night to be “wholly incredible”
and not worthy of belief. See State
v. Hough, 585 N.W.2d 393, 396 (
Aiding and Abetting
appellant guilty of aiding and abetting, the state must prove that she
intentionally aided, advised, hired, counseled, or conspired with another to
manufacture meth. Minn. Stat. §§
152.021, subd. 2a, 609.05, subd. 1 (2002).
A defendant is criminally liable for aiding and abetting if he or she
played a knowing role in the crime and took no steps to thwart its
completion. State v. Ostrem, 535
N.W.2d 916, 924 (
Again, appellant’s claim that she had no knowledge that meth was being manufactured at the house while she was there is simply not credible. Given the evidence presented at trial, including the deputies’ observations that appellant was present while meth was being manufactured, patrolled the property, provided necessary equipment, and transported a known meth manufacturer to the residence, the district court could reasonably conclude that she aided and abetted in the manufacturing of meth. See In re Welfare of DKK, 410 N.W.2d 76, 77 (Minn. App. 1987) (holding that defendant’s presence as lookout while another commits crime supports aiding and abetting conviction).
argues that the district court committed reversible error by allowing the state
to impeach her testimony with her prior conviction for wrongfully obtaining
food stamps because the conviction was stale and not admissible under Minn. R.
Evid. 609(b) (evidence of conviction not admissible if more than 10 years has
elapsed since date of conviction). While
we agree that this 1990 conviction is stale and that its admission was error,
we nevertheless conclude that the error was harmless and not prejudicial. See State v. Bolte, 530 N.W.2d 191,
Appellant insists that admission of this evidence was prejudicial because the district court explicitly relied on the 1990 conviction when it evaluated her credibility and ultimately decided to give “no credence” to her trial testimony at trial. When the district court’s conclusion is read in its entirety, however, it is clear that the court found appellant not credible for a number of reasons, only one of which was related to her 1990 conviction:
concludes that [appellant’s] testimony was wholly incredible. She consistently denied facts which had been
persuasively proven by the state. For
example, both deputies smelled such a strong odor of solvent and acid that it
was apparent from the road, and from their position of surveillance 100 feet
from the house. [Appellant] testified
that she was familiar with the smell of solvents such as toluene, and with the
smell of acid, but noticed no such smells during the one hour and twenty
minutes she was at the residence. This
is not possible. Further, [appellant]
was in and out of the residence several times that evening, but claims to have
seen no one mixing or stirring or gassing anything. One of the males came out of the residence
gagging and gasping, and [appellant] would have the court believe she saw
nothing unusual – just some buddies hanging around drinking wine coolers. On cross examination by the state,
[appellant] equivocated, denied, or tried to talk her way around almost every
question, even when the question was based on her own prior statements to law
enforcement. The court also notes that
[appellant] was impeached with evidence of a prior conviction in
In its order denying appellant’s petition for postconviction relief, the district court again explained why it found appellant’s testimony to be “wholly incredible” and why it determined that the admission of the impeachment evidence was not prejudicial:
Regardless of whether or not the impeachment evidence should have been admitted at trial, the outcome was not affected by admitting the conviction. The court found [appellant’s] testimony to be wholly incredible. As [the court found, appellant] equivocated, denied or tried to talk her way around almost every question and the court did not believe anything [appellant] testified to at trial. The court gave no weight or credence to [appellant’s] testimony and would continue to do so even without the impeachment evidence.
From this, it is clear that the district court found appellant’s testimony to be not credible or worthy of belief for a variety of reasons, only one of which was related to the stale and erroneously admitted 1990 conviction.
We therefore affirm the district court’s order denying appellant’s petition for postconviction relief.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.
 This Pine County complaint was filed after a
meth lab was discovered on appellant’s property in August 2002. During the investigation of the