This opinion will be unpublished and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
State of Minnesota,
Reversed and remanded
Clay County District Court
File No. KX-03-1110
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101-2134; and
Kenneth Kohler, Clay County Attorney, Jenny Samarzja, Assistant County Attorney, Clay County Courthouse, P.O. Box 280, Moorhead, MN 56560 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Jessica Merz-Godes,
Assistant Public Defender,
Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge; Lansing, Judge; and Minge, Judge.
Appellant alleges that the district court failed to fully instruct the jury on the presumption of innocence and the state’s burden to prove the facts beyond a reasonable doubt. Because the district court’s final charge lacked such instructions, it violated appellant’s due-process rights. We reverse and remand for a new trial.
jury convicted appellant Richard Sanchez of two counts of second-degree
criminal sexual conduct, a violation of Minn. Stat. § 609.343, subd. 1(a),
(h)(iii) (2002). Prior to selecting the
jury, the district court instructed prospective jurors that appellant’s plea of
not guilty placed “upon the State of
Before starting the trial, the district court told the jury:
Our system of justice is structured on two very basic and fundamental concepts. . . . They are the presumption of innocence and proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. . . . The burden of proof rests upon the prosecution to establish the guilt of the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt. . . . Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is such proof as ordinarily prudent men and women would act upon in their most important affairs.
The district court then defined the elements of each charged offense and trial commenced.
the conclusion of the evidence, the district court instructed the jury on its
obligation as a factfinder. The district
court also stated, “To this complaint the defendant has pled not guilty. This plea denies – constitutes a denial by
the defendant of every material allegation in the complaint and places upon the
After closing arguments the district court instructed the jury on the weight and significance of notes taken during testimony and the need to elect a foreperson. The district court then identified the alternate juror and excused the jury to begin deliberations. The final instructions did not mention the presumption of innocence or the state’s burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Appellant was convicted on two counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct and sentenced. This appeal followed.
issue in this case is whether the district court’s statements to the jury on the presumption
of innocence and proof beyond a reasonable doubt met the constitutional
requirements for jury instructions.
On review, jury instructions are considered in their totality to
determine whether they adequately and fairly explain the law of the case. State
v. Flores, 418 N.W.2d 150, 155 (
the presumption of innocence is a fundamental element of a fair trial, “the Due
Process Clause requires the state to prove every element of a charged offense
beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Peterson, the supreme court
considered the district court’s failure to give oral instructions on these
principles during its final charge to the jury.
claims the same error even though appellant did not object to the instructions
at trial. Generally, failure to object
operates as a waiver. State v. Earl, 702 N.W.2d 711, 720 (
in its closing charge, the district court stated, “To this complaint the
defendant has pled not guilty. This plea
denies – constitutes a denial by the defendant of every material allegation in
the complaint and places upon the State of
Reversed and remanded.