This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).







State of Minnesota,


Mebrat Yeazizw,


Filed December 20, 2005


Wright, Judge


Hennepin County District Court

File No. 01014419



John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Mark Anderson, Assistant State Public Defender, 2221 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 425, Minneapolis, MN  55414; and


Jill Clark, Jill Clark, P.A., Special Assistant State Public Defender, 2005 Aquila Avenue North, Golden Valley, MN  55427; and


Jill M. Waite, Special Assistant State Public Defender, 2856 Humbolt Avenue South, Suite 3, Minneapolis, MN  55408 (for appellant)


Mike Hatch, Attorney General, Thomas R. Ragatz, Assistant Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN  55101; and


Christopher P. Renz, Thomsen & Nybeck, P.A., 600 Edinborough Corporate Center East, 3300 Edinborough Way, Edina, MN  55435 (for respondent)



            Considered and decided by Worke, Presiding Judge; Hudson, Judge; and Wright, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D  O P I N I O N




Appellant challenges the district court’s denial of a motion for a new trial following our remand for a Schwartz hearing.  Appellant argues that the district court failed to follow this court’s instructions on remand.  We affirm.



Appellant Mebrat Yeazizw was charged with disorderly conduct, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.72, subd. 1(3) (2000), and obstruction of legal process, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.50, subd. 1(1) (2000).[1]  After a jury trial, Yeazizw was convicted of both offenses.

Yeazizw appealed, alleging that multiple errors were committed by the district court.  State v. Yeazizw, No. CX-02-1486, 2003 WL 21789013, at *2-*12 (Minn. App. Aug. 5, 2003) (Yeazizw I).  Among the issues on appeal, Yeazizw argued that the district court abused its discretion by denying her motion for a Schwartz hearing based on alleged juror misconduct.  Id. at *11.  Yeazizw submitted the affidavit of Stephanie Howard-Clark, an attorney who works for the law firm representing Yeazizw.  Id.  According to the affidavit, Howard-Clark had contacted a juror “to learn [her] general views of the trial, and how the lawyers performed at trial.”  Id. (quoting Howard-Clark affidavit).  In relevant part, Howard-Clark’s affidavit stated:

[T]here was an interpreter, so [the juror] assumed that meant the Defendant couldn’t speak English.  But then [the juror] heard the Defendant speaking some English during a break, to someone in the hall.  [The juror] also saw [Yeazizw] have brief conversations with her attorney.  [The juror] said that in the jury room she mentioned to the other jurors that she had observed the Defendant speaking English in the hall, and then some of the jurors disclosed they had heard it too.  [The juror] said it was that observation of the Defendant speaking English that largely persuaded her to decide that the Defendant was guilty.  She thought that if the Defendant lied about needing an interpreter, she must’ve lied about what happened in her case.


The district court denied Yeazizw’s motion for a Schwartz hearing, finding that she had provided insufficient evidence to warrant a hearing.  Id.  We reversed this decision of the district court and remanded the case for a Schwartz hearing.  Id. at *12.

On November 5, 2004, the district court held a Schwartz hearing, during which the juror who was the subject of the Howard-Clark affidavit testified.  In its order dated January 25, 2005, the district court denied Yeazizw’s motion for a new trial based on juror misconduct.  This appeal followed.


The decision to grant a new trial based on juror misconduct rests within the district court’s discretion.  State v. Landro, 504 N.W.2d 741, 745 (Minn. 1993).  We will not reverse the district court’s decision absent an abuse of that discretion.  Id.

The manner in which a Schwartz hearing is conducted also rests within the sound discretion of the district court.  State v. Olkon, 299 N.W.2d 89, 109 (Minn. 1980).  The process, as generally contemplated by the Minnesota Supreme Court in Schwartz v. Minneapolis Suburban Bus Co., is one in which the district court may summon the juror who alleges jury misconduct and, with proper safeguards, permit the juror to be  examined in the presence of counsel for all interested parties.  258 Minn. 325, 328, 104 N.W.2d 301, 303 (1960).  By adhering to this procedure, a record can be preserved for review on appeal in the event that the district court’s ruling is challenged.  Id.  At a Schwartz hearing, the movant bears the burden of demonstrating actual misconduct and prejudice.  State v. Kelley, 517 N.W.2d 905, 910 (Minn. 1994).

In challenging the district court’s decision, Yeazizw contends that the district court failed to follow the remand instructions by impermissibly broadening the scope of the Schwartz hearing.  Thus, we begin our analysis with a review of our ruling on the jury-misconduct issue in Yeazizw I.  The precise issue before us was whether the district court erred when it denied the motion for a Schwartz hearing.  Yeazizw I, 2003 WL 21789013 at *11.  We addressed the threshold showing that a defendant must make to warrant a Schwartz hearing.  Id.  That showing requires a defendant to present evidence that, if unchallenged, would lead to the conclusion that jury misconduct occurred.  Id. (citing State v. Rainer, 411 N.W.2d 490, 498 (Minn. 1987)).  We examined the statements in the Howard-Clark affidavit and concluded:

Yeazizw has met her evidentiary burden.  Evidence that jurors obtained from outside the courtroom would be “extraneous prejudicial information” and not information regarding the jury’s deliberations.  If the allegations prove to be true, consideration of such “extraneous prejudicial information” constitutes juror misconduct.  Accordingly, it was an abuse of discretion to deny Yeazizw a Schwartz hearing.  We reverse the denial of a Schwartz hearing and remand for further proceedings not inconsistent with this ruling. 


Yeazizw I, 2003 WL 21789013 at *12. 


Yeazizw asserts that, because we had already “weighed the type of evidence and found it to be prejudicial,” the scope of the Schwartz hearing on remand was merely limited to a determination of whether the observations by the juror had actually occurred.  Yeazizw advocates a narrow interpretation of our remand instructions in Yeazizw I.  Such an interpretation is contrary to the role of an appellate court, the language of the opinion when read in its proper context, and the broad discretion that rests with the district court when conducting a Schwartz hearing. 

Our decision in Yeazizw I was limited to the issue presented, namely whether the allegations as stated in the Howard-Clark affidavit were sufficient for Yeazizw to meet her burden of production to warrant a Schwartz hearing.  An appellate court does not find facts or weigh evidence.  Sefkow v. Sefkow, 427 N.W.2d 203, 210 (Minn. 1988).  These functions are the exclusive province of the district court in a Schwartz hearing.  See Pajunen v. Monson Trucking, Inc., 612 N.W.2d 173, 175-76 (Minn. App. 2000), review denied (Minn. Aug. 15, 2000).  The phrase “[i]f the allegations prove to be true” necessarily contemplates a hearing to produce record evidence and an independent determination by the district court of whether the evidence supports a finding of juror misconduct.  This language did not limit the scope of the district court’s Schwartz hearing, nor did it provide the district court with a prescription of the method by which it should conduct the hearing. 

The district court properly based its findings on the testimony of the juror at the Schwartz hearing, not on the allegations contained in the Howard-Clark affidavit.  The district court found that the juror was “unable to articulate how this outside information prejudiced her decision making as a juror” and that she “could not provide any explanation as to her conclusion” that Yeazizw understood English.  Contrary to the allegation contained in the Howard-Clark affidavit, the juror did not testify at the Schwartz hearing that her observations “largely persuaded her to decide that the Defendant was guilty.”  Yeazizw I at *11 (quoting Howard-Clark affidavit).  Based on the juror’s testimony, the district court concluded that there was no juror misconduct. 

That the district court made factual findings that differed from the allegations presented in the affidavit in Yeazizw I does not establish that it was an abuse of discretion to deny Yeazizw’s motion for a new trial.  Yeazizw I did not restrict the inquiry of the district court.  Rather, we remanded for a Schwartz hearing to be conducted by the district court within the bounds of its broad discretion.  The district court did not abuse its discretion by making specific findings as to the existence of any “extraneous prejudicial information” on which it based its denial of Yeazizw’s motion for a new trial.  Rather, by weighing the evidence presented at the Schwartz hearing and fulfilling its fact-finding function, the district court followed our instructions on remand and determined whether Yeazizw’s motion for a new trial should be granted.

The merits of the district court’s ruling have not been directly challenged.  But were we to address the merits, our review of the record establishes that the district court’s findings are supported by the record, and the district court correctly applied the law.  As a result, the district court did not err by denying the motion for a new trial. 

Because the district court was well within its discretion in the manner in which it conducted the Schwartz hearing, the findings of fact are supported by the record, and the law was correctly applied, the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying the motion for a new trial.


[1] The facts of the incident underlying these charges are not at issue in this appeal.  Those facts are set forth in State v. Yeazizw, No. CX-02-1486, 2003 WL 21789013 (Minn. App. Aug. 5, 2003) (Yeazizw I).