This opinion will be unpublished and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
Filed June 27, 2006
Stevens County District Court
File No. K4-04-179
Attorney General, James B. Early, Assistant Attorney General, 1800 Bremer
Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul,
Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge; Dietzen, Judge; and Harten, Judge.
Following a jury trial, appellant Reina Asmus was found guilty of felony incest under Minn. Stat. § 609.365 (2004). On appeal from her conviction, she argues that the evidence was insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she knew Andrew Kress was her biological brother at the time she had sexual intercourse with him. Because the jury could reasonably find appellant guilty based on the circumstantial evidence presented, we affirm.
Appellant was born in
At some point, the adoptive mother of appellant’s sister
sought hereditary health information for the siblings after discovering that
the sister had a heart defect. The
sister’s mother contacted the Asmuses when appellant was about six years old
and told them about the sister’s hereditary heart defect. She also contacted the brother, Andrew Kress,
who was born in April 1980 and lived in
After Kress finished high school in
The Asmuses subsequently discovered that the siblings had become intimately involved. They provided counseling for appellant and told her that she could not be involved with Kress because it was inappropriate and because any children they might have could have serious health problems. Appellant told her parents that she knew the relationship was wrong and that it would be terminated.
In spite of her acknowledgements that Kress was her biological brother and that any sexual relationship with him was wrong, appellant became pregnant by Kress and gave birth to a child who was given the Guatemalan surname of their biological mother as it appeared on their adoption certificates.
Kress pleaded guilty to criminal sexual conduct involving appellant, who was under age 18. Appellant attended some of Kress’s court proceedings. Kress was ordered not to be alone with appellant; after that order expired, Kress moved into appellant’s apartment for a short time in early 2004. Appellant indicated on a human services report that her brother lived in her household.
In February or early March 2004, appellant again became pregnant with Kress’s child. On 8 November 2004, a second child was born.
During appellant’s pregnancy, the police department received a letter stating that a number of people believed that appellant and Kress were involved in an incestuous relationship. During a subsequent investigation, police obtained DNA samples from appellant and Kress that showed that Kress could not be excluded as a maternal relative of appellant’s.
Both appellant and Kress were charged with felony incest. At appellant’s trial, they both admitted that they are the parents of the two children and that DNA testing has convinced them that they are biological siblings. Both claimed, however, that they did not believe that they were related when their children were conceived. Both further claimed that they ceased having sexual relations after receiving the results of the DNA testing.
Appellant testified that at a young age, the Asmuses told her that she was adopted and that she might have a brother and sister. She claimed that she did not know what to believe, that she had doubts, and that she wondered if the story was a fantasy such as stories about Santa Claus. Appellant claimed that her doubts were confirmed when the Asmuses were unable to provide her with any papers to prove that Kress was her brother; when she finally met Kress, she was even more confused because he told her that he did not remember having a baby sister even though he was adopted when he was six years old. Appellant further asserted that after her first child was born healthy, she was “one hundred percent” sure that Kress is not her biological brother.
The jury rejected appellant’s claims and found her guilty of felony incest. The district court stayed imposition of her sentence and placed her on probation for five years.
considering a claim of insufficient evidence, we are limited to a “painstaking”
review of the record to determine whether the evidence, when reviewed in the
light most favorable to the conviction, is sufficient to allow the jury to
conclude that the defendant was guilty. State v. Martin, 293 N.W.2d 54, 55 (
state was required to prove that appellant had sexual intercourse with her
biological brother “with knowledge of [that] relationship.”
But the jury was not required to accept appellant’s testimony, particularly when that testimony was self-serving and of doubtful credibility. See Bauer, 598 N.W.2d at 370 (jury is presumed to have disbelieved evidence contrary to the verdict). Moreover, a defendant’s knowledge of a fact necessarily refers to the defendant’s intent or state of mind, which is generally shown through circumstantial evidence, with inferences to be drawn from that evidence. See, e.g., State v. Chuon, 596 N.W.2d 267, 271 (Minn. App. 1999), review denied (Minn. Aug. 25, 1999) (“Intent must generally be proved by inferences from the defendant’s conduct and the surrounding circumstances.”); State v. Peterson, 375 N.W.2d 93, 95 (Minn. App. 1985) (“Knowledge that the property was stolen may be proven by circumstantial evidence.”). Because the circumstantial evidence presented in this case overwhelmingly supports finding that appellant knew in February 2004, that Kress is her brother, we affirm appellant’s conviction of felony incest.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.