This opinion will be unpublished and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
John Phillip Hamre,
Filed June 27, 2006
Norman County District Court
File No. K6-04-224
Mike Hatch, Attorney General,
Kelly O’Neill Moller, Assistant Attorney General,
Thomas Opheim, Norman County Attorney, Rebecca A. Trapp, Assistant County Attorney, Norman County Courthouse, 318 East Main, Ada, Minnesota 56510 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public
Defender, Rochelle R. Winn, Assistant Public Defender,
Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge; Hudson, Judge; and Worke, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
In this appeal from convictions of fleeing a peace officer and careless driving, appellant argues that evidence that police pursued a car registered to appellant and that the pursuing officer identified appellant as the driver based on a “momentary” view was insufficient to support the convictions. Because the evidence presented at trial was sufficient to support the jury verdict, we affirm.
In the early morning hours of October 2, 2004, Deputy Kirk Haugen of the Norman County Sheriff’s Department noticed a car driving across the grass and through a ditch to get from a local-bar parking lot to the main road. Deputy Haugen followed the car, activating his lights and siren. A high-speed chase ensued. During the chase, which reached speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour, Deputy Haugen ran a check on the vehicle’s license plates. The plates were registered to appellant, but not for this particular car. Deputy Haugen described his initial observation of the driver as a white male, between 30 and 40 years of age, with thinning hair. As the vehicle being pursued was traveling westbound, it nearly came to a stop as it turned onto Trail County 2, a gravel road, heading south. Deputy Haugen’s vehicle was perpendicular to the suspect vehicle within a car-length’s distance and his headlights were shining into the driver’s compartment. At that point Deputy Haugen saw the face of the driver and noticed that he had a handlebar mustache and glasses. Shortly thereafter Deputy Haugen lost contact with the suspect vehicle when it drove through a bean field. The vehicle was later found abandoned on the slope of a riverbank adjacent to the bean field; the engine was not running and the keys to the car were missing.
Deputy Haugen identified appellant as the driver of the car he was pursuing. Deputy Haugen based his identification on his observation of the driver during the chase, specifically when the vehicle turned southbound onto Trail County 2. Shortly after the chase, Deputy Haugen viewed a computer image of appellant’s license picture and determined that appellant was the driver of the vehicle.
Later that day, appellant called the sheriff’s office to report his car had been stolen. During the ensuing investigation, appellant admitted that, knowing that his license was revoked and that the car was without insurance, he had driven the vehicle to the bar that evening. But appellant claimed that he rode home with an unidentified “friend,” leaving his car in the parking lot at the bar. Appellant had the keys to the car but claimed that the car could be started without the keys because the ignition was broken. At trial, the investigating officer, Deputy William Bennett, testified that he attempted to start appellant’s car several times without the key, but he was unsuccessful in doing so.
Deputy Haugen testified that appellant’s appearance at trial was not the same as the night of the chase because on the night of the chase appellant had different glasses and had a thick, handlebar mustache. Despite the changes, Deputy Haugen testified that there was no question in his mind that appellant was the driver of the vehicle he pursued that night.
A jury convicted appellant of fleeing a police officer in violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.487, subd. 3 (2004); careless driving in violation of Minn. Stat. § 169.13, subd. 2 (2004); and driving after revocation in violation of Minn. Stat. § 171.24, subd. 2 (2004).
This appeal of the careless-driving and fleeing convictions follows.
D E C I S I O N
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 the light most favorable to the conviction, is sufficient to allow
the jurors to reach the verdict that they did. State v.
Webb, 440 N.W.2d 426, 430 (
The only issue on appeal is whether there was
sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that appellant was the
driver of the vehicle being pursued. Eyewitness
“identification need not be positive and certain to support a conviction—it is
sufficient if a witness testifies that in his belief, opinion, and judgment the
defendant is the one he saw commit the crime.” State v.
Landa, 642 N.W.2d 720, 725 (
(1) the opportunity of the witness to see the defendant at the time the crime was committed; (2) the length of time the person committing the crime was in the witness’ view; (3) the stress the witness was under at the time, (4) the lapse of time between the crime and the identification, and (5) the effect of the procedures followed by the police as either testing the identification or simply reinforcing the witness’ initial determination. . . .
State v. Capers, 451 N.W.2d 367, 370 (Minn. App. 1990) (quotation omitted), review denied (Minn. Apr. 25, 1990).
Here, the video from Deputy Haugen’s squad showed the entire chase. The video includes the point at which the vehicle being chased slows down to turn onto County Trail 2 and the inside of the vehicle is illuminated. The face of the driver is visible on the video for a brief moment. The first factor weighs in favor of the state because Deputy Haugen had a clear view of the driver’s face. The brevity of the observation and the stress of a high-speed chase arguably negates the identification, but “[t]his court concluded in State v. Roehl, 409 N.W.2d 44 (1987), that when the eyewitness report included numerous details, neither brevity of observation nor stress precluded the accuracy of eyewitness identification.” Capers, 451 N.W.2d at 370. Here, Deputy Haugen included details regarding the driver’s race, approximate age, hair thickness, type of mustache, and the type of glasses worn. This degree of detail suggests that the second and third Capers factors also favor the state. After returning to the sheriff’s office, Deputy Haugen accessed appellant’s driver’s-license picture on a computer. The picture matched his observation of the driver of the vehicle a few hours earlier. Thus, the fourth factor weighs in favor of the state, but not the fifth. Overall, the identification of the driver by Deputy Haugen meets the reliability test in State v. Capers. Moreover, Deputy Haugen testified that, based on his observation, he was positive that appellant was the driver of the car. When viewed in the light most favorable to the jury verdict, we must assume that the jury believed Deputy Haugen’s testimony. Deputy Haugen’s identification of appellant as the driver of the vehicle is sufficient proof to allow the jurors to reach the verdict they did.
“Eyewitness testimony, standing alone, can support a guilty verdict.” Landa, 642 N.W.2d at 725. Here, in addition to the witness identification, the state provided other circumstantial evidence that appellant was the driver of the vehicle. A jury is in a better position than this court to evaluate circumstantial evidence, and thus we give the jury’s verdict due deference. Webb, 440 N.W.2d at 430. Here, the circumstantial evidence included (1) appellant’s admission that he drove to a bar that evening knowing that his license was revoked, that his car was not insured, and that the license plates on the car were from another vehicle; (2) appellant’s inability to identify or produce the “friend” who drove him home that night; (3) recovery of the vehicle, without its keys, approximately five miles from appellant’s residence; (4) appellant’s delay in reporting the vehicle stolen; (5) appellant’s continued possession of the keys to the car; and (6) the investigating officer’s inability to start the car without keys as appellant alleged could easily be done. This circumstantial evidence, when added to the eyewitness identification of appellant as the driver of the vehicle, provides sufficient evidence to support the jury’s verdict.
a final matter, appellant’s pro se supplemental brief includes accusations that
one of the peace officers falsified his reports and that appellant had a
conflict of interest with his attorney.
Appellant’s arguments are without merit, and we decline to reach these
issues absent adequate briefing. See Thorp Loan & Thrift Co. v. Morse,
451 N.W.2d 361, 363 (
 Deputy Haugen testified that the image from his car’s video camera was not as clear as what he could see from his vehicle. As an example, the videotape does not clearly show the license plate of the vehicle, but Deputy Haugen could see the license number clearly and read that number to his dispatcher to run a check on the plate.