This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
David S. Hobbs,
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 04048710
Lori Swanson, Attorney General, 1800
Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Linda K. Jenny, Assistant County Attorney, C-2000 Government Center, 300 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55487 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Benjamin J. Butler,
Assistant Public Defender,
Considered and decided by Minge, Presiding Judge; Toussaint, Chief Judge; and Randall, Judge.
D E C I S I O N
1. Sufficiency of Notice of Basis for Enhanced Sentence
an individual was denied due process is reviewed de novo. Plocher
v. Comm’r of Pub. Safety, 681 N.W.2d 698, 702 (
Here, the transcript reflects that, at the hearing held two days before trial, the prosecutor told the district court and appellant’s attorney that the state would seek enhancement of appellant’s sentence under “Minnesota statute [section] 1095.” The prosecutor specified that “Under the [applicable] section of the statute . . ., this conviction . . . would need to be the third or greater of a violent felony.” The prosecutor also said, “[Appellant] under [section] 1095 clearly has at least two prior convictions” and referred to “the application of [section] 1095.” Finally, the prosecutor offered to amend the complaint “to confirm what has been undisputed all along, which is that [appellant] has a great many prior convictions that I intend to try to get in through the application of [section] 1095.” Appellant’s counsel did not ask for a precise citation to the relevant portion of the statute. In fact, when he was asked for a response to the prosecutor’s offer, appellant’s counsel replied, “Nothing further.” Thus, it does not appear that there is a basis in the record for the claimed lack of notice.
Moreover, even if the prosecution did err by not providing appellant with adequate notice of the specific subdivision of the section under which it sought to enhance his sentence, that error was harmless. The transcript clearly shows that the prosecutor indicated to appellant’s counsel the ground for the proposed sentence enhancement. In this circumstance, we conclude that there is no basis for reversal.
2. Rejected Stipulation
Appellant offered to stipulate that he had “two or more prior convictions for violent crimes” required for conviction under Minn. Stat. § 609.1095, subd. 2, if the district court would refrain from instructing the jury that first-degree burglary is defined by statute as a violent crime. The district court rejected appellant’s offer, stating that, in any event, it would advise the jury that first-degree burglary is a violent crime because the jury needed this information to determine whether appellant met the “danger to public safety” requirement for conviction under Minn. Stat. § 609.1095, subd. 2. Appellant then withdrew his offer to stipulate.
This court has
reviewed alleged errors regarding a district court’s decision to accept or
reject a stipulation to an element of an offense under a harmless-error
analysis. State v. Wright, 679 N.W.2d 186, 191 (Minn. App. 2004), review denied (
generally involve not the district court’s duty to instruct the jury but rather
the state’s right to offer evidence. See, e.g., State v. Davidson, 351 N.W.2d
8, 10 (
Appellant argues that the fact that first-degree burglary is defined as a “violent crime” is not relevant to a determination of whether a person convicted of first-degree burglary would be a “danger to public safety.” However, appellant was offering to stipulate that his two prior convictions were for crimes of violence. His apparent goal was to keep any further information about those convictions and their similarity to his current offense from the jury. But Minn. Stat. § 609.1095, subd. 2(2), provides that a finding of dangerousness to public safety may be based on “the offender’s past criminal behavior.” Therefore, the jury was entitled to information that appellant’s past convictions were for burglary or attempted burglary. Appellant’s offer to stipulate did not eliminate the district court’s right to instruct the jury on information to be considered in establishing one element of appellant’s crime.
Appellant further argues that refusing to accept his offer to stipulate and instructing the jury that first-degree burglary is defined as a “violent crime” was prejudicial because the jury, having already convicted him of first-degree burglary, was more apt to find he was a danger to public safety and convict him under Minn. Stat. § 609.1095, subd. 2. This is a complex argument. We do not explore all the details in this opinion. However, we observe that if appellant’s offer to stipulate had been accepted, the jury would have known he had two prior convictions for crimes of violence. As previously noted, the prosecution was then free to introduce evidence of the details of appellant’s record on crimes of violence. See Minn. Stat. § 609.1095, subd. 2(2). The jury’s knowledge of those details would undoubtedly contribute to a jury’s finding of dangerousness to the public safety. In addition, appellant conceded on cross-examination that his burglaries would have been “a frightening or harmful experience” for the people whose homes he entered. Such a record furnished the jury with an extremely strong basis for concluding that appellant was a danger to public safety.
Appellant asserts that “The fact that the definition [of first-degree burglary as a violent crime] came not from the prosecutor . . . but from the district court judge in her instructions on the law only magnified the unfair prejudice.” However, this judge-prosecutor distinction assumes that making the definitional link was unfairly prejudicial and disregards the fact that appellant’s criminal history and the law defining first-degree burglary as a violent crime are uncontested. On this record, appellant’s argument is not persuasive.
We conclude that the district court did not err or abuse its discretion in rejecting appellant’s offer to stipulate.
3. Failure to define “danger to public safety”
The district court
instructed the jury that it was to determine if appellant was a “danger to
public safety.” Appellant argues that
the district court erred by failing to define “danger to public safety” for the
error analysis also applies to allegations of error in jury instructions. See,
e.g., State v. Lee, 683 N.W.2d 309, 316 (
Definitions are not necessary unless the key words or phrases in the instruction would confuse or mislead a jury or allow undue speculation. See, e.g., Peterson v. State, 282 N.W.2d 878, 881 (Minn. 1979) (jury instruction need not define “great bodily harm”; jury need not be given detailed definitions of elements of a crime unless instructions would mislead jury or allow it to speculate over the meaning of the elements); State v. Schmitz, 559 N.W.2d 701, 705 (Minn. App. 1997) (rejecting argument that jury instruction on pattern harassment did not include definition of “pattern” because defendant’s conduct would fit under “any reasonable definition” of the term), review denied (Minn. Apr. 15, 1997); State v. Grube, 531 N.W.2d 484, 491 n.11 (Minn. 1995) (same). Here, the jury heard that appellant had repeatedly been convicted of entering other people’s houses in order to burglarize them and that appellant himself acknowledged that his burglaries were “a frightening or harmful experience” for the victims. The jury’s task in developing its own definition of “danger to public safety” and applying it to appellant’s history was not unduly speculative. The word, “danger,” and the phrase, “public safety,” are commonly used. There is no claim that they have a special meaning in criminal law. In these circumstances, we conclude that it was not plain error for the district court to charge the jury without defining the phrase “danger to public safety.”
on State v. Ihle, 640 N.W.2d 910 (
 Appellant originally argued that the state erred by
not indicating in the complaint its intention to have him sentenced as a
habitual offender. He now concedes that,
under State v. Chauvin, 723 N.W.2d 20, 30 (
 After trial, appellant’s counsel claimed not to know which subdivision of Minn. Stat. § 609.1095 (2004) applied. This claim is unpersuasive. Only subdivision 2, pertaining to dangerous offenders committing a third violent crime, could possibly have been relevant to appellant’s situation because subdivision 3 pertains to mandatory sentences, not sentence enhancement, and subdivision 4 pertains to offenders committing a sixth felony without any need for a finding of dangerousness or violence, the key factors in this appeal.
 As a threshold matter, this argument may not be
properly before the court: appellant concedes that he did not propose this
instruction to the district court. Failure
to propose an instruction generally operates as a waiver of the right to appeal
its omission. State v. LaForge, 347 N.W.2d 247, 251 (